Introduced by Richard Barber
A revealing portrait of one of the most powerful women in history, who remained the subject of scandalous rumour throughout her life and beyond.
Alison Weir has crafted an entertaining account full of violence and character, using Eleanor’s life to tell the wider story of a changing Europe. An enlightening introduction by the respected historian Richard Barber emphasises the blossoming of literature and poetry in the time of Eleanor, who was an enthusiastic patron of the arts. This edition also features newly researched colour photographs that cast fresh light on the story: the painting of Thomas Becket’s gruesome murder leaves little doubt of the impact of his death, while the stained-glass window of Eleanor and Henry at Poitiers Cathedral stands as an example of the flourishing art of the period.
There can be few figures as significant to the Middle Ages as Eleanor of Aquitaine; over her 82 years she was the queen of two countries and the mother of two kings. She was undoubtedly one of the most powerful women in history, yet the reality of her life is obscured, even now, by rumours of adultery, eroticism and murder.
In her meticulous biography, Weir cuts away at the speculation and the legend to reveal a woman who ruled with wisdom and lived with passion. Famously beautiful and the subject of admiring verse from the troubadours of the time, Eleanor was also fiercely intelligent and forthright, holding her own with powerful men when women were often forced into the background. Her life is a catalogue of extraordinary events: she rode off to the Crusades dressed as an Amazon warrior; was variously kidnapped and imprisoned; and even lost at sea. She helped plan a rebellion against her former husband Henry II, one of England’s most powerful kings, and ruled the country while her beloved son Richard the Lionheart was fighting the Third Crusade.
Alison Weir is a British historian and novelist. She has written widely on the British monarchy and researched the lives of all the medieval queens of England. Her first published work was Britain’s Royal Families (1989), and subsequently she has written a number of biographies including The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991); The Princes in the Tower (1992); Elizabeth the Queen (1998); Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England (2005); Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess (2007) and Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen (2013). Her first historical novel was Innocent Traitor (2006), and since then she has published four more novels, including The Lady Elizabeth (2008) and The Captive Queen (2010). Her latest novel is The Marriage Game (2014). Weir was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and has been made an honourary life patron of the Historic Royal Palaces.
Richard Barber is a British historian who has published extensively on medieval history and literature. He began his career as a writer in 1961 with Arthur of Albion, the first of a number of books on Arthurian legend, the most recent being The Holy Grail: The History of a Legend (2004). His second book was on English medieval history, a biography of Henry Plantagenet (1964); subsequent biographies were Edward, Prince of Wales and Aquitaine: A Biography of the Black Prince (1978) and Edward III and the Triumph of England: The Battle of Crécy and the Order of the Garter (2013). He combined history and literature in The Knight and Chivalry (1971) for which he won a Somerset Maugham award. Barber has edited nine titles for The Folio Society, including British Myths and Legends (1998) and Epics of the Middle Ages (2005). Barber is currently Honorary Visiting Professor in the department of history at the University of York.
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Review by experi-ate on 25th Sep 2015
"Walking in to the room to see me with Eleanor of Aquitaine in my hands my fiancé exclaimed "It looks like you're reading a medieval epic!" He was right in two senses: the look of this book truly is s..." [read more]