I specifically left out the more major queens from my Queens of England series, because I expected to need lots of room to cover them. And Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (Queen of France from 1137-52, then Queen of England from 1154-89) is as major as they come. Well, color me shocked when I put this post together and discovered there has NOT been enough Eleanor on screen!
I was all set to rant about this fact, until I remembered that Starz (producers of The White Princess and The Spanish Princess) is developing a series about Eleanor. Hold me, this is going to be bad! It will be based on decent source material: Alison Weir’s biography Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life and its companion novel Captive Queen” However, we all know what Starz did to Elizabeth of York and Catherine of Aragon, and I’m not too hopeful about where this will go (straight to Snark Week, I’m betting).
Eleanor of Aquitaine (c. 1122-1204) had such a FASCINATING life, that I can barely capture it here. She was the heiress to the duchy of Aquitaine, in southern France, which made her a hugely important catch in the marriage market. She became duchess in 1137, then three months later married the heir to the French throne, who became King Louis VII of France literally days later! Eleanor famously accompanied her husband on crusade, something considered VERY badass in the period (oh god, if they put her armor I’m going to have a stroke). The couple had two daughters, but Louis was annoyingly pious and the marriage broke down, ending in an eventual annulment. (I always wonder what it was like for her, having to give up her daughters).
Eleanor THEN went on to marry the English King Henry II of England in 1152. They had a NUMBER of children, including the future kings Richard I aka Richard the Lionheart and John. As their children grew and started rebelling against their father, Eleanor supported them, causing a rift between her and her husband. Henry ended up imprisoning her for over a decade (something famously depicted in the two versions of The Lion in Winter, which we’ll discuss below). And even after Henry’s death, Eleanor continued to be politically active, traveling to Castile at age 77 in order to bring her granddaughter back to France to marry the French king.
The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-60)
Jill Esmond takes on the role in two episodes of this TV series about Robin Hood.
This film focuses on the relationship between Henry II and his friend/bishop Thomas Becket. Eleanor turns up to be frumpy (per Wikipedia) and have comical fights with Henry. She’s played by Pamela Brown.
The Lion in Winter (1968)
The classic, the ultimate, on so so many levels! Katharine Hepburn famously plays Eleanor, on Christmas leave from captivity to visit her family. She spars with Henry (Peter O’Toole) and deals with her sons’ rivalry. The dialogue is sparky and so, so witty. If you haven’t seen it, you literally must!
The Legend of Robin Hood (1975)
Another BBC TV series. Yvonne Mitchell plays Eleanor.
The Devil’s Crown (1978)
Siân Phillips plays Eleanor in this Sir Walter Scott adaptation.
The Lion in Winter (2003)
Robin Hood (2006-09)
Yet another Robin Hood, this one appearing to have been supremely crappy. Lynda Bellingham (All Creatures Great and Small) turns up in one episode as Eleanor.
Robin Hood (2010)
Eileen Atkins plays Eleanor in just a few scenes in Yet Another Robin Hood.
Glow & Darkness (forthcoming, unfortunately)
I almost forgot! Every Frock Flicks reader’s nightmare, Jane Seymour as possibly the world’s shittiest Eleanor of Aquitaine in this Spanish series about the crusades!
Who’s your favorite Eleanor of Aquitaine, and how scared are you of Starz’ forthcoming series?