Saturday, January 17, 2009
Eleanor of Aquitaine
I finished Eleanor. Yay me.
This book really should have been titled Eleanor, who lived in the Middle Ages and who was wife of Louis, King of France, and then wife of Henry II, king of England, and mom to lots of kids, but especially Henry, the Young King who never got to be king, and Richard the Lion-hearted, and King John. Because let's face it. She may have been an important woman, but there's not a whole lot in the historical record about her (other than she endowed this abbey and she begatted that kid and she bought some tapestries). So her story could have been told in oh, about 50 pages. The rest is just filler, in the form of men. Most especially men named Henry and Geoffrey and John. I kid you not. There were so many Geoffrey's running around it was incestuous.
So big disappointment. I was all excited to read about a strong female historical figure. Unfortunately, I mostly got dead white men. And much as George W. would prolly disagree, dead white men do not good history make. Oh...excuse me...my politics are showing.
To further confuse matters and make the story even more stultifying, most of the characters seemed to be distantly related. An example:
- Eleanor married Louis, king of France. Louis already had two daughters from a prior marriage. Eleanor gave him two more.
- They got divorced, for many possible reasons. The official version was that they were 4th cousins. A fact they conveniently forgot when they got married.
- So then Eleanor married Henry, future king of England. And also her cousin. Third, I think. And Louis remarried, too. I forget who. I don't think they were cousins, although there's a good chance they were. There seemed to be a lot of that going on.
- They all had more kids.
- And then one of Louis' daughters gets engaged to one of Eleanor's sons.
- They would have gotten married, except King Henry had an affair with her and she had a kid. Or two.
There's a whole lot of ick going on there. Oh, and I almost forgot! There's a rumor that Eleanor had an affair with Geoffrey (Henry's dad Geoffrey. Not to be confused with Henry's brother Geoffrey. Or Henry and Eleanor's son Henry. Or Henry's illegitimate son, also named Geoffrey.) before they were married. She did her future father-in-law. As I said, a whole lot of ick going on. Although I think Henry bonking (and impregnating) his son's fiancee takes the cake.
However, according to the book, they did all celebrate Christmas happily together on many an occasion. Details of the celebration were not provided. I shudder to imagine.
I read this for the World Citizen Challenge. And boy do I feel wordly. If anyone has a less incestuous recommendation for my next history selection, I am open to suggestions.
Seriously. Because I can be serious, you know. Well, almost. This is one of those typically staid and serious history books that I try to avoid. The kind that give history a bad rap and make people dread the subject. If you like your history served up with a side of ivory tower seriousness, then this is the book for you. If you're more of a historical fiction, Maus taught me more than I ever learned in high school type of learner, than skip this baby.