Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings

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Overview

The story of that amazingly influential and still somewhat mysterious woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has the dramatic interest of a novel. She was at the very center of the rich culture and clashing politics of the twelfth century. Richest marriage prize of the Middle Ages, she was Queen of France as the wife of Louis VII, and went with him on the exciting and disastrous Second Crusade. Inspiration of troubadours and trouvères, she played a large part in rendering fashionable the Courts of Love and in establishing the whole courtly tradition of medieval times. Divorced from Louis, she married Henry Plantagenet, who became Henry II of England. Her resources and resourcefulness helped Henry win his throne, she was involved in the conflict over Thomas Becket, and, after Henry’s death, she handled the affairs of the Angevin empire with a sagacity that brought her the trust and confidence of popes and kings and emperors.
Having been first a Capet and then a Plantagenet, Queen Eleanor was the central figure in the bitter rivalry between those houses for the control of their continental domains—a rivalry that excited the whole period: after Henry’s death, her sons, Richard Coeur-de-Lion and John “Lackland” (of Magna Carta fame), fiercely pursued the feud up to and even beyond the end of the century. But the dynastic struggle of the period was accompanied by other stirrings: the intellectual revolt, the struggle between church and state, the secularization of literature and other arts, the rise of the distinctive urban culture of the great cities. Eleanor was concerned with all the movements, closely connected with all the personages; and she knew every city from London and Paris to Byzantium, Jerusalem, and Rome. Amy Kelly’s story of the queen’s long life—the first modern biography—brings together more authentic information about her than has ever been assembled before and reveals in Eleanor a greatness of vision, an intelligence, and a political sagacity that have been missed by those who have dwelt on her caprice and frivolity. It also brings to life the whole period in whose every aspect Eleanor and her four kings were so intimately and influentially involved. Miss Kelly tells Eleanor’s absorbing story as it has long waited to be told—with verve and style and a sense of the quality of life in those times, and yet with a scrupulous care for the historic facts.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times

A chronicle written with a dash and spirit… As a history of the violent, vigorous, brutal, treacherous, idealistic and generally spectacular twelfth century in Western Europe, Kelly's book is absorbing… I found every bit of it fascinating.
— Orville Prescott

Boston Sunday Globe

I recently read Eleanor of Acquitane and the Four Kings for the third time, and pray that I live long enough to read it at least twice more. A beautifully written work of impeccable scholarship, it re-creates Eleanor and her 12th-century background in meticulous, mezmerizing detail.
— Alan Helms

Thomas B. Costain
A magnificent book, thorough and complete and beautifully written.
New Yorker
The book is based on sound scholarship and written with selective skill and with considerable style.
New York Times Book Review

Amy Kelly writes truth for truth. When she does not know, she says so. When she guesses, she says she is guessing. She makes no 'attempt to fictionize.' Yet her book reads like colorful romance…rich and stimulating.
— Thomas Caldecot Chubb

New York Times - Orville Prescott
A chronicle written with a dash and spirit… As a history of the violent, vigorous, brutal, treacherous, idealistic and generally spectacular twelfth century in Western Europe, Kelly's book is absorbing… I found every bit of it fascinating.
Boston Sunday Globe - Alan Helms
I recently read Eleanor of Acquitane and the Four Kings for the third time, and pray that I live long enough to read it at least twice more. A beautifully written work of impeccable scholarship, it re-creates Eleanor and her 12th-century background in meticulous, mezmerizing detail.
New York Times Book Review - Thomas Caldecot Chubb
Amy Kelly writes truth for truth. When she does not know, she says so. When she guesses, she says she is guessing. She makes no 'attempt to fictionize.' Yet her book reads like colorful romance…rich and stimulating.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674242548
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1991
  • Series: Harvard Paperbacks Series
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 622,470
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Amy Kelly was formerly Associate Professor at Wellesley College.
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Table of Contents

  • 1. The Rich Dower
  • 2. O Paris!
  • 3. Via Crucis
  • 4. Fear the Greeks
  • 5. Antioch the Glorious
  • 6. Jerusalem
  • 7. The Queen and the Duke
  • 8. The Countess and the Poet
  • 9. The Second Crown
  • 10. Forging the Empire
  • 11. King and Archbishop
  • 12. Becket in Exile
  • 13. Montmirail and Canterbury
  • 14. The Flower of the World
  • 15. The Court of Poitiers
  • 16. Henry and His Sons
  • 17. Sedition
  • 18. Poor Prisoner
  • 19. The Christmas Court
  • 20. War Was in His Heart
  • 21. Henry Revokes His Lands
  • 22. The Fallen Elm of Gisors
  • 23. The Lion Heart Is King
  • 24. The Sicilian Interlude
  • 25. Things Done Overseas
  • 26. Shipwreck and Disguise
  • 27. Eleanor Queen of England
  • 28. The Ransom
  • 29. Captive and Betrayer
  • 30. The Treasure of Châlus
  • 31. Lackland’s Portion
  • 32. Blanche and Isabella
  • 33. Mirebeau
  • 34. The Hope of Brittany
  • 35. The Queen Goes Home
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 7, 2014

    Great read. Became interested in Eleanor ages ago after seeing '

    Great read. Became interested in Eleanor ages ago after seeing 'The Lion in Winter' - fascinating woman!! I agree that Kelly's phraseology can be awkward in areas but the overall narrative is great. Extensive bibliography. A greater admirer of Eleanor after this read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2010

    Brilliant!

    This scholarly work is beautifully written and enjoyably read. The publisher reviews are right on! Ditch the pseudo "historical" chick lit books you buy at the big box stores and nourish your mind with Ms. Kelly's captivating story of a fascinating Queen. [I am in complete awe of the author - she only wrote this one book but what a gem it is].

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2006

    For History Nuts Only!!

    Although this book was published in 1950, the author affects the writing style and awkward phraseology of the 18th or 19th centuries. That said, Eleanor's story is a fascinating one of an independent-minded woman in medieval Europe. Despite the purple prose, Kelly manages to paint a compelling portrait of Eleanor as a woman who managed to shape an era,in an era when women were political non-entities, by and large. An added gripe for students of history is the apparent lack of research (there seems to be a lot of surmise going on which leads to a general vagueness at times).

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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