Eleanor of Aquitaine is the most famous woman of the Middle Ages: queen of France and England, crusader, mother of kings — ‘lionhearted’ Richard and ‘bad’ John — and ancestress to the royal dynasties of Europe. Yet more nonsense has been written about her than almost any other woman. Much of what we think we know is falsehood or half-truth, and many respected historians fall foul of her myth, endlessly repeating misinformation as fact. For someone so renowned, the written record is astonishingly thin.
Even her birth date (1122 or 1124) is uncertain, as is her place of birth. We know nothing of her looks, personality, education or early familial attachments. In fact we know very little until the death of her second husband, Henry II, in 1189, when Eleanor was 65 (or 67).