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Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography (Medieval Women Boxset)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  918 ratings  ·  62 reviews
"Marion Meade has told the story of Eleanor, wild, devious, from a thoroughly historical but different point of view: a woman's point of view."—Allene Talmey, Vogue.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published November 1st 1991 by Penguin Books (first published 1977)
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Nov 24, 2009 Eric_W rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoyed Lion in Winter (the movie)
Shelves: biography-memoir
Eleanor grew up in the Dukedom of Aquitaine at a time when most of France was ruled by England. In northern Europe, and England, women had little social standing. Aquitaine, in the south, named "land of waters" by the Romans, was a rich land, filled with orchards and vineyards; life was good for those in power. Leisure was preeminent and women were more highly respected. They could inherit property and many became wealthy landowners. Such was Eleanor's case. She had inherited Aquitaine, which ma ...more
Average biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine. It does a good job of bringing together what evidence we have for Eleanor's life--her political involvements, her family disputes, her religious and cultural patronage--but it has to be admitted that what we have isn't much. Meade falls into the trap of saying that Eleanor 'must' have done such and such, or 'must' have felt something else, when she has no evidence beyond her own extrapolations and inferences. Decent introduction, but take it always with ...more
It's a pity that there's so little solid information about Eleanor of Aquitaine, leaving us to wonder about her motives, her actions, and her looks all these centuries later. Even the little we do know for sure about her makes her an extraordinary personage for any age.

While I enjoyed this easy and informative read I could never shake the knowledge that it's often speculation--what she thought, how she felt--and so must be taken with a grain of salt. Still, I'm glad to have read it and will cont
Bought this in a secondhand shop off of Rue de Severin in Paris and consumed it by the time I was back in London less than a week later. A really gorgeous, lively biography of a really gorgeous and lively woman, and it has one of the best lines about Eleanor of Aquitaine, about how she was the wife of two kings and the mother of Richard the Lionhearted, but whenever we think of her, we only ever think of her as Eleanor. Really, really wonderful.
Lorina Stephens
Eleanor of Aquitaine, by Marion Meade, is a well-written, highly informative and entertaining read about one of Europe’s most remarkable and influential women. Meade places Eleanor on the large as well as intimate and personal stages, allowing readers to understand what made Eleanor into the cultured, sometimes tempestuous, always intelligent woman who loved and lost two kings and empires. Highly recommended.
This book was thorough, but readable, and I enjoyed the unapologetically feminist approach. Meade did not hesitate to point out the number of things Eleanor did that were unique for a woman living when she did. The entire book moved along, and it would be a good start for anyone looking to learn about Eleanor of Acquitaine. It just doesn't quite live up to Alison Weir's masterpiece on the same subject.
Sep 23, 2008 Abigail rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Recommended to Abigail by: Lori Petersen
This is okay. My mom really wanted me to read this book. I enjoyed the historical references. It was a little long and sometimes boring but still a nice read. For historical buffs the book is great. For novel lovers, steer clear.
This was a hard read. I like reading historical/biographical fiction. But this one was hard. It definitely did not flow easily. But it was interesting, and kept me company between classes in college.
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
Eleanor of Aquitaine was indeed a woman worth a biography, even with the scanty details about her life as we have, as a very interesting historical figure of Medieval times between France and England. We do have plenty of information about her life but not about her the woman. Marion Meade makes this up I'm afraid with a lot of personal wishful thinking: where there's not one single physical detail to grab on to, she makes her come to live by inferences from her relationships with other people a ...more
This book has been sitting in the attic for nearly a decade. As a student I tried to read it for my studies and gave up. While very readable, you are left wondering how much of it is true as Marion Meade continually over-stretches her sources and tells you how characters "must" have been feeling. Ultimately, the work feels like it could be fiction.

While the author, writing in 1977, can perhaps not be expected to have overthrown the then-prevalant views of some topics where research has uncovered
While a long book and Marion Meade clearly has a strong bias in favor of Eleanor, the book is fascinating both from its amazing history of world/European geography as well as feminism's roots.

I was either never taught in my history classes or failed to comprehend just how tangled up the boundry lines of all of modern European countries have been during the last millineum. The feuding between such "stable" nations as France and England as late as the 12th century and even the fighting between ro
An insightful biography of a highly interesting woman. I have never read anything about Eleanor of Aquitaine before and I found this book was very well researched and a delight to read. I recognised a few of the key players in her life (especially Thomas of Beckett, Peter Abelard and Richard III) and it was great to find out more about the times they existed and the main powers in Europe at the time.
Victoria Johnston
I am undecided about this book. It was hard going for a start - and I know a reasonable amount about Eleanor and the period of time covered by the book. The writing style just wasn't massively accessible sadly. The main issue I had was that it was filled with conjecture "Eleanor MUST have felt like this", "Eleanor WILL have felt that". That bothers me because we do not know what she felt only what she did. I don;t particularly like this kind of assumption in biographies because we do not know fe ...more
Paula Hartman-Carlo
Eleanor of Aquitaine didn't leave any diaries and none of her contemporaries even described her appearance except to say she was beautiful. The author took what information she did have and really made Eleanor come alive for the reader. Her writing isn't as "fun" as that of Alison Weir but it was still enjoyable.
This was a great reconstruction of a famed medieval figure, of whom, unfortunately, little primary source material was written or remains. However, Meade fills in the holes with very convincing characterization, and I have no doubt that her portrayal is reasonably close to Eleanor's true personality.

I got the impression this was a feminist work, due to the neutral-positive portrayal of homosexuality (written in the 70s!), a reasonable treatment of Muslims, and what I am afraid may be slight exa
It flows well and moves along, but I wouldn't say it was an unbiased biography.
Ellen Ekstrom
A balanced history of Eleanor; I would liked more quotations from sources.
Very readable, but mainly because it is written as though Meade was there and privy to the personal thoughts and feelings of those about whom she has written. Not a paragraph is without supposition and conjecture, what xyz person would have felt, understood, why they decided on a certain course of action. While this makes it a more engaging read, and perhaps more interesting, it is maddening from researcher's perspective.

Though Meade does list sources for quote, her speculative writings are lef
Mary Keller
What an amazing person Eleanor was and not much has changed since she lived here on earth.

The land of Aquitaine was very progressive and of course the rest of Europe saw this as a threat to their religious beliefs. Aquaitane treated women as equals and they were educated, owned land and were participating in life.

Eleanor knew when her father died that she was vulnerable to the world's politics in that Kings could come in and physically take her and her land. So she did what women have done sin
One of the most famous women in history, Eleanor of Aquitaine would have been right at home in today's celebrity driven world. Married at an early age to Louis VII, she tired of him, got wicked (supposedly) with her uncle during the Second Crusade, then left the French King and married Henry II, King of England. Kinda like Princess Diana/Grace Kelly/Madonna all rolled into one.

By leaving one King and marrying another, Eleanor brought hundreds of years of warfare to Europe because her hereditary
This was a fairly fast read for a medieval biography. A queen of both France and England, she carved out her own history in a time when women had little personal power.

I was happy to see both a genealogy chart and a map of Medieval France and England in this book. That made it a lot easier to keep track of who was who and how they were related and to keep track of what happened where. However, maps of the Crusades that occurred in Eleanor's lifetime would have added a lot to my own understandin
I didn't select this biography specifically, just sent my husband out to buy "a biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine", to try to undo some of the damage done by a bad piece of historical fiction. There are many out there, and I may be tempted to pick up another just to see another angle, or different details, or something. This version was reasonably well-written and seemed to rely on primary sources, was very educational, and was an engaging read from beginning to end. However, there were some ham ...more
In a time when a woman's only job was to birth children comes Eleanor of Aquitaine, future Queen of France and England. Id heard of her in passing, as the mother of King Richard the Lionheart, but knew nothing about her. In this biography I have found a female medieval heroine, a woman who refused to accept her limitations as a woman in a patriarchal society. A woman who helped rule and govern two of Europe's major kingdoms, who refused to be left in fruitless marriages and who battled on to liv ...more
Kate Stedman
I confess to being a little obsessed by Eleanor of Aquitaine - infact all medieval history. She was a fascinating individual who managed to live to the remarkable old age of 82 in the 12th century when most women died very young indeed - even Queens. She was Queen of 2 different countries, she travelled for 2 years from France overland to the Holy Land on a crusade with her husband the King of France, she gave birth to 10 children and her next husband (the King of England)incarcerated her for 15 ...more
Reality TV has nothing on Royal England. I'm convinced that any King named Henry is destined for an amazingly scandalous tenure on the throne.

When I started reading it I felt the material was a little dry and academic. As it got into the meat of the drama I forgot that I could not hear Eleanor's voice at all (she left no letters, poetry, etc. so the author does not try to recreate her tone as she has no proof of what it was). By the end I appreciated the succinct and very meticulously researched
Jul 29, 2011 Laurie added it
Marion Meade is a lively writer, and this biography from the seventies is a viable introduction to the life of the great queen, albeit to be taken with a grain of salt. It is in this period that Richard the Lion Heart was believed to be gay, and the summer of love made us believe that the troubadours and Eleanor's family instituted an enlightened court where poetry and love ruled. Now these views are not fashionable, and it may be impossible to elucidate the mysteries of Eleanor's existence. Non ...more
Marsali Taylor
It's taken me a good while to work my way through this, and it was reading a fictional account of Elinor's marriage to Henry Plantagenet that gave me the impetus to return to it, because I wanted to find out how accurate the fiction was. She had an amazing life, Eleanor - Queen of France, engaged on one crusade, divorced, married Henry II of England, continued to help rule her own duchy of Aquitaine, was mother of Richard the Lionheart and John, went on another crusade in her 70s and ended up Ab ...more
Very readable. Turbulent times.
Very readable history with some speculation and occasional flights of fancy in novelistic style prose. But I enjoyed learning about this queen who offered a number of surprises. For example, according to this biography, the annulment of her marriage to the king of France was really her idea, one she had even before she met Henry. There are also revelations about Richard the Lionheart who seemed not so very dedicated to England in spite of his portrayals as the ultimate leader in works of fiction ...more
Charles Giguère
The life of Eleanor of Aquitaine is so extraordinary that reading this book provides much pleasure to the history lover. This is undoubtly a page turner, with account of the second and third crusades through the life of this Queen and the Kings she loved and despised (husbands and sons!). This books shows how much the history of England and France are so intermingled and connected, something I was almost unaware...
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Marion Meade is an American biographer and novelist, whose subjects stretch from 12th century French royalty to 20th century stand-up comedians. She is best known for her portraits of literary figures and iconic filmmakers.

Her new book, Lonelyhearts: The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney, is a joint biography of a husband and wife whose lives provide a vivid picture of the art
More about Marion Meade...

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