Such a nasty woman – on Eleanor of Aquitaine, femininity, reputation, and power

As the world collectively crawls, gibbering and raving toward the end of the American presidential election, the medieval roots of society’s expectations of women are once again very firmly on display.

Case in point – the life and times of one of the three medieval women you have heard of – Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Eleanor was, by all accounts, an absolute bad ass.  She lead armies both in Europe and on the Second Crusade. She was a highly skilled ruler who reigned in her husband’s absence from the country. She was also a total babe.

For all these reasons, the modern imagination loves Eleanor.  She won Katherine Hepburn an Oscar, and pops up in most Robin Hood movies. (Yes, even that really bad Russel Crowe one.)  This is why you know her name.

Whilst we appreciate Eleanor, her mind, influence, and general kick-arsery now, everything we love about her now meant she was often reviled in her own time, and for decades after her death.

Eleanor managed to run herself into trouble because she was intent on exercising power in the public sphere.

Continue reading “Such a nasty woman – on Eleanor of Aquitaine, femininity, reputation, and power”

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