The Reciprocal Loyalty of Eleanor of Aquitaine and William Marshal
One source that gives an unequivocally positive image of Eleanor of Aquitaine is the Anglo-Norman verse biography of William Marshal, composed ca. 1226 and edited a century ago as the Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal.1 Tantalizingly brief as are the Histoires episodes concerning Eleanor, they are our only source for certain events in her life that, though mentioned in every biography of her, have never been studied in their full context. William Marshal had an extraordinary life, from his relatively obscure birth ca. 1147 as the younger son of a minor knight to his final eminence as regent of England from 1216 to his death in 1219. One of the most fascinating and enjoyable narratives of Eleanors day, the Histoire recounts an amazing number of adventures and reversals of fortune, culminating in William’s detailed and uplifting death scene. As well as being a primary source for the history of the Plantagenets, the text is a mine of information on aspects of social history, such as tournaments and family relationships, though unfortunately for our purposes, its insights are entirely from a masculine point of view (as is, of course, the case with virtually all narrative sources of the time).
KeywordsTwelfth Century Full Context Reciprocal Loyalty Narrative Source Literary Allusion
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