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Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography

(Medieval Women Boxset)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,203 ratings  ·  77 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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4.06  · 
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 ·  1,203 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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Michelle Miller (True Book Addict)
This was hands down one of the best biographies I have ever read. I have long admired Eleanor, the woman who was a queen twice, first in France, and the second being the queen to the formidable Henry II of England. Together they sired eight children, two of them becoming future kings of England in their own right. Boy, what she went through and achieved for her children is truly astounding. She was a formidable woman who knew to pick her battles. She most certainly made some mistakes along the w ...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
Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1000-1300ca
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Marion Meade
Read it in disintegrating mass market oversized paperback at 416 pages including tiny biblio and appendix.

In a century almost exclusively dominated by men Eleanor stands apart and above her contemporaries. Over the course of her life she married two kings and mothered three (two of which actually sat on the Plantagenet throne.) She traveled with her husband to the distant lands of the near east as an active Crusader and came from a court that espoused the virtues
Sep 07, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 18, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
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
Dec 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Recommended to Abbie 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.
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Looking at my worn copy from 30 years ago, I am reminded of how much I enjoyed this book.
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: medieval
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
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Paula Hartman
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.
Ellen Ekstrom
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
A balanced history of Eleanor; I would liked more quotations from sources.
Debbie Woodruffe
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had a very interesting life, I enjoyed the book but the chapters were too long. Difficult to find a convenient place to stop.
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: england, biography
It flows well and moves along, but I wouldn't say it was an unbiased biography.
Katie Taylor
Jan 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a formidable woman born 800 years too early to be truly appreciated
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
If your motivation to read this book is to read about the real Eleanor of Aquitaine you’ve got the wrong book.

As I’ve come to understand this book is one of the first examples which called on the retelling of Eleanor’s story. But I guess this book is a bit dated now. Becoming a student of Eleanor’s life I realized reading this one was something I had to do though.

The text has a good flow and as far as storytelling goes Meade does a great job. Her many assumptions written as truths bother me a
Jun 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Eleanor of Aquitaine is a fascinating woman and unfortunately, overall, there is not a lot of information available about her. Margaret Meade certainly put all that was available in her book, and she added quite a bit of conjecture, which I have no issue with, but the book then vacillated between being a slog of a text book and travelogue, to sections of fanciful guesses at feelings. It needed a stronger editor to make it entertaining as well as informative. It was incredibly researched and thor ...more
Melanie Williams
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marion Meade makes some assumptions in this book, but I could forgive her in that I suspected that she was making the best out of the information she had. She does give us a flavour of life for Europeans in twelfth century Europe and a lively insight into the life of Eleanor of Aquitane, a woman whose actions were (and remain) controversial, yet feisty.

This is an engaging biography. Credit is due, as I found this a page-turner, which is rare in a non-fiction her/history book!
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who love history
Recommended to Sydney by: Required reading for History
Shelves: history
This book was good. Very, very informative for the little we seem to know about Eleanor. It was quite funny as well. It was a requirement to read this for my Western Civilization class (had a quiz on the book as well). I just did not find this book to appealing, though that might be because it was a "forced" read instead of my personal choice to read.
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This woman was phenomenal and accomplished more in the 12th century than I ever thought possible.
Nicola Peard
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a beautifully written book. Unfortunately it veered away from Eleanor from time to time to focus on the misdeeds of her husbands and her children, but that can really be blamed on what little was recorded of her and her actions at the time rather than on any part of the author. Gripping read and definite recommendation.
Oct 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Eight centuries on, records still remain to prove that Eleanor of Aquitaine was a remarkable woman: beautiful, robust, energetic, courageous, resilient, intelligent, cultured and a shrewd negotiator when given the chance. In a world where the status and security of feudal lords depended on the possession of lands, her inheritance of the extensive and prosperous French Duchy of Aquitaine made her an attractive marriage partner for two rival kings: firstly, the indecisive and monkish Capetin Louis ...more
Sep 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
There is no accounting for one's passion. And mine happens to be Eleanor of Aquitaine and her times.

This biography outlines the significant events of this medieval feminist, but, as with all histories, one cannot help but wonder how much is speculation, and what is factual according to the known records and documents of that time.

This book is very easy reading despite the number of characters, places, palaces, and intrigues. Eleanor's life is one that I could aspire to, but doubt I would have
MaryKay Keller
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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

Other books in the series

Medieval Women Boxset (6 books)
  • The Warrior Queens
  • Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500
  • Elizabeth I
  • Mary Queen of Scots
  • The Weaker Vessel