Powerful Women in History 1 of 10 - Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor was one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Europe and the world during the High Middle Ages. Eleanor inherited the Duchy of Aquitaine and Poitiers after her father’s death when she was only 15. As a result, Eleanor became an independent ruler in her own right receiving the titles of Duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitiers. Aquitaine was the largest and wealthiest province of France during the 12th century. Unlike many other monarchs and women of the Middle Ages, Eleanor and her family were very well educated. Eleanor is credited for having transformed Aquitaine into one of the largest intellectual and cultural centers in Medieval Western Europe.
Eleanor became Queen Consort to Louis VII of France in 1137. During her marriage to Louis, she participated in the Second Crusade in 1147 and even traveled with her husband to the Byzantine Empire. Eleanor became a key figure in developing trade agreements between Western Europe, Constantinople, and the Holy Land. She eventually had the marriage to Louis annulled in 1152 and in 1154, Eleanor became Queen Consort to Henry II of England.
In 1170, Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was assassinated for going against King Henry II. Eleanor, among many others, strongly opposed the assassination. This eventually led to the Revolt of 1173-1174 in which Eleanor, three of her sons, and rebel supporters sided against Henry. The revolt failed, however, and Eleanor was imprisoned for sixteen years.