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Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  768 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
Was there ever a ruler, man or woman, quite as fascinating as Eleanor of Aquitaine? The ruler of France's largest kingdom from the age of 15, Eleanor (1122- 1204) was renowned for beauty, intelligence, and the thoughtful application of power. Her marriage to her second husband, Henry Plantagenet of Normandy, brought her to the English throne; the birth of their sons John L ...more
Hardcover, 427 pages
Published 1996 by Book-of-the-Month Club (first published 1950)
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I made it about 270 pages through this 400+-page book before calling it quits, and I experienced a bit of guilt at dropping out when I did. I like this book. Published some 50 years ago, Amy Kelly's history is beautifully written, well-researched and extremely detailed. What made me put it down is not, as avid readers of history may assume, related to its age. For less-than-avid readers of history I'll here point out the modern historiographical conceit to which I refer - as so much else in toda ...more
Aug 12, 2008 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most intelligent and academically sound nonfiction books I've ever encountered, yet it reads with the movement, presence and passion of fiction. Amy Kelly's "Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings" is thoroughly engaging -- an exceptionally complete work on one of the most fascinating women in history. The story brings alive in flesh and blood the character of the fabled and notably beautiful woman whose 82+-year-life spanned the late 11th and early 12th centuries and whose i ...more
Jan 06, 2008 Zoe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was a great story. I had no idea that Eleanor of Aquitaine was not only responsible for the troubador tradition, but also that she was the mother of Richard and John. What an amazing woman and what an incredible life. Relating this to the history of the Albigensian heresy, it makes sense that a woman raised in Southern France would be independent. Very much worth reading for an understanding of medieval politics and history and at least one woman's role in creating that history.
Jun 20, 2011 Edward rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got really interested in Eleanor of Aquitaine after reading Regine Pernoud's considerably shorter ALIENOR d'Aquitaine. She mentions in her bibliography Kelly's book which she calls "absolutely remarkable in its scholarship and brilliance" That could well be, but it would take another scholar to make that claim. I do know it's an exhaustively detailed account of the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine which spanned most of the tumultuous 12th century in what is now western France and England. She die ...more
Carolyn King
Sep 07, 2013 Carolyn King rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was blessed with time to read the entire book this summer at a cabin in Vermont. I had waited over ten years to get to it, but was totally absorbed by page 270 and couldn't put it down. Although Amy Kelly's scrupulously researched work demands time and respect from the reader, I follow "Julie" in praising it and Sara Gothard in contrasting it to the array of contemporary scholarly approaches in use today. Kelly's book is not post-modern; it is not a novel; it is not romance. It is solid histor ...more
Sarah(All The Book Blog Names Are Taken)
A fantastically researched and beautifully written text. I've been fascinated by Eleanor - Alianor, in her own time - for a long while now and despite it's age, this book added more to my knowledge of this amazing woman than I'd have guessed possible. I've read nearly every book available about Queen Eleanor, yet her story never ceases to amaze me. Having outlived two husbands - both kings - and eight of her ten children, her life is simply fascinating. In a time where women did not have power, ...more
Apr 06, 2011 Dick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eleanor was a 12th century French noblewoman who inherited in her own right the duchy of the Acquitaine, a large province on the Atlantic coast. Her four kings? There was her first husband, Louis VII, King of France; then after their annulment, her second husband, Henry, Duke of Anjoy, who became King Henry II of England. Henry's mother had been Matilda ("Maude") who ruled on and off as Queen of England, interrupted sporadically by rebellions in favor of her cousin, Stephen. Then two of her four ...more
Dec 06, 2011 RJay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the other reviewers mentioned that she only made it to page 271 and discontinued reading this book because there really wasn't much about Eleanor. (The title is misleading.) And I have to agree. The title makes it sound like this book is about Eleanor but in actuality it is more about the times than it is about Eleanor. However, I did complete reading it mainly because every book I read about this time period adds more detail and more flavor to inform my understanding of this period in hi ...more
Dec 07, 2014 Kathrine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I really liked this book. Amy Kelly wrote so dramatically about Eleanor and her life. I read in tandem with Sharon Kay Penman's books on Henry II and Richard I. It was good to recap everything that happened with Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings. T^he saddest chapter was the next to the last when she covered all the things John did to lose his European empire. I was glad Eleanor died before the full realization hit her that her kingdom was gone. She was quite a lady and her life was very i ...more
Athena Ninlil
The best biography on Eleanor of Aquitaine which is descriptive and vivid with details not just about this fascinating woman, duchess, countess and twice times queen, but also of her contemporaries. Laden with facts, wonderfully researched and a myriad of details written in such a way you literally are trabsported back to the twelfth century and start of the following century. Eleabor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings is a Must-Read for everyone.
Jan 12, 2009 Lars rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval-culture
While an older book, this biography of Eleanor is both riveting and rollicking. Eleanor is not always framed in soft lighting by the author, who is well-given to point out Eleanor's shortcomings and flaws, but paints a dramatic portrait of a woman ahead of her time (a little cliche, I know) that influenced the power politics and course of two nations during the turbulent early Middle Ages. While not having the same modern prose style of Allison Weir, this is still a worthwhile read.
Jun 07, 2011 judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully researched and meticulously presented. Sadly, I found it extraordinarily difficult to read given the author's archaic phrasing and often obscure vocabulary. I finally discovered why I was having such a problem. The book was published in 1950. Still, after all these years, Kelly's book is regularly cited as a leading source on Eleanor.
Feb 01, 2008 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who knew? One of the most fascinating, gifted, powerful woman ever--wife to two kings, one of France and one of England, and mother to two of England. Again, a book of the middle ages and a whole new realm of interest for me...
Mark Singer
I forced myself to finish this book after two months of false starts. It is not an easy book to read. Kelly's writing style gets overly florid at times, and this gets in the way of narrative and comprehension.
Nov 28, 2007 Elena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
I never knew anything about Eleanor of Aquitaine or her role in the crusades. Fascinating read about the mother of Richard the Lionheart and John, signer of the Magna Carta. I really enjoyed this, but it is slow. Perfect bedtime reading.
I was directed toward this book by a professor when I was struggling to come up with a theme for a term paper. I'd never heard of Eleanor until then, but I was hooked. An excellent introduction to that era, and a remarkable woman far ahead of her time.
Dec 06, 2011 Slmcmahon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I read novels about Eleanor of Aquitaine, the person I think of is the Eleanor portrayed here.
Jun 25, 2007 Mischa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't finish this book. I was bored to death. She is one of the most fascinating women in history and I wanted to poke my eyes out. There must be a better book about her!
Mar 02, 2013 Bap rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history, france
The bones of this story is nothing short of incredible. Eleanor was one of the beauties of her time. Her father's untimely and unexpected death coincided with an equally unexpected demise of Louis the Fat, the king of France. In the 12th century dynasties needed to be knit together lest warring nobles spin off into revolt or neighboring states swoop in for conquest. Thus Eleanor, only 15 was betrothed to king Louis of France who had been raised to assume an ecclesiastical position in deference t ...more
Lora Shouse
Sep 12, 2014 Lora Shouse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You hear the occasional reference to Eleanor of Aquitane in European history and historically-related writing, but who was she really? This biography by Amy Kelly attempts to answer that question.

I read somebody else’s review shortly after I started reading this that complained that it didn’t really give you much of a sense of who Eleanor was as a person, and after having read the whole thing, I have to agree that is true. However, I am convinced that this is not the author’s fault. She has exha
Aug 05, 2008 Pequete rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing
What can I say? I loved this book, even though it took me several months to finish it. I read several others in between, because this is not a book you can read anytime or anywhere. It is dense with information, it requires concentration and unfortunately, my reading time these days has been scarce and mostly made up of small lapses spent in waiting rooms, travels or a few minutes before falling asleep at night... So I found myself craving for those special moments where I had no distractions an ...more
Heather Propes
Jan 29, 2016 Heather Propes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Let me say it again - I loved this book. My mom sent it to me just as I was finishing the Game of Thrones series. At first I dismissed it. I mean, the cover was dorky and it was written in 1950. But I came back to it and noticed it was published by Harvard. And there is a NY Times review on the back saying "I found every bit of it fascinating" so I decided to try....

I'm so glad I did. Every moment of this book IS fascinating. And scholarly. You will begin to wonder if you are
Jul 28, 2012 Sharla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book for free at a used book store in Winnipeg earlier this year. I figured that Eleanor of Aquitaine is one of those historical figures that I seem to hear about often enough but I didn't really know much about her. This book is very dense, filled with much historical fact, and yet it's better than any soap opera, I am sure! Eleanor was 83 when she died -- very old considering she lived in the 1100s. She was Queen of France and of England. She went on crusade. She was the mothe ...more
This is probably the best written of the Eleanor biographies, dating from the fifties and published by Harvard. It is Amy Kelly's life work: she toiled at it for ages and never wrote another book. The current fashion in medieval studies would frown on the emphasis on Eleanor and her daughter's supposed participation in Courts of Love. But this book gives a taste of what the twelfth century must have been like, and will perhaps make readers want to know more. My book group is reading Alison Weir' ...more
Mar 01, 2012 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very informative biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who ruled in France and England during the 12th Century, thanks to two marriages. She also bore two kings of England, Richard-the-Lionhearted, and King John.

I don't believe I've ever read the facts behind these two legendary kings, nor had I ever read anything of Eleanor.

I appreciated the research that so obviously went into this book, and I also appreciated the readable style.

This book has caused me to become more interested in th
Feb 20, 2013 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-read
Good Book! Rich in backgorund of the players, the times and as to why Eleanor was the bright, adventurious, power player she was. Also insightful into the Crusades and a myth breaker of the Holy Quest and good Richard. Truly an pre-read for Lion in the Winter. Recommended for those into the middle ages and powerful people.
Apr 09, 2013 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
an excellent history, but the writing style is somewhat florid and hard to read. A stronger editor might have helped her clean up the styele.
I knew nothing about this queen and her husbands & sons other than what I saw in the movies "Lion in Winter" and "Becket." Their lives were certainly more interesting and complicated than the movies had lead me to believe.
Aug 30, 2009 MaryTank marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
It is amazing what you can find at a great used bookstore. In this case "The Book House" This appears to be a wonderfully researched history, from the Harvard University Press, of a remarkable 12th century queen. Crusades, Thomas Becket, Henry the II, Richard the Lion Heart and Magna Carta famed John are all a part of this amazing woman's life.
Kathy  Petersen
This story about Eleanor and her kings can be a bit rough going at times. Packed with details and wandering hither and yon - as Eleanor did - I occasionally had to re-read a page or two to remember where I was. But what a stunning cast of people, what a fascinating and complicated time, and what a fine work by Kelly.
I was glad that I had read Sharon Kay Penman's books prior to reading Kelly's Eleanor of Aquitaine.... Penman's novels fleshed out the characters and locations. With Penman's background info I found Kelly's non-fiction interesting and well worth reading although it required a bit of tenacity. A suggestion when reading this book...keep a dictionary handy.
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