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Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings (Harvard Paperbacks) Paperback – January 31, 1991
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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 Boston Sunday Globe 1996-09-15)
A magnificent book, thorough and complete and beautifully written. (Thomas B. Costain)
The book is based on sound scholarship and written with selective skill and with considerable style. (New Yorker)
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 Book Review)
Top Customer Reviews
If you have read any of the historical fiction concerning Eleanor, this is a great reality check. It's fun to find the actual characters upon which some of the fiction was based....for example, the troubadour Bernard, about whom so many tales of romance with Eleanor are built, is carefully followed from his arrival at Henry and Eleanor's first court through the famous lyrics in which he celebrates her beauty and charm. There are many other similar examples, all making Kelly's work well worth the time to read if you are a dedicated fan of Eleanor or this period in France or England.
Among the characters that pass through this history are St Bernard of Clairvaux, the Abbot Segur, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus, Saladin, King Philip Augustus of France, Thomas Becket, Popes Celestine III and Innocent III, and hundreds of nobles, knights, clerics, and others. This history is a pageant, but one played for keeps. Excommunications and interdicts were bandied about as frequently as harsh words; and every fight had an ecclesiastical dimension.
Is your wife getting long in the tooth? Just get the clergy to declare that the marriage should be annulled because of consanguinity (which consanguinity was of course known by the kings who married their cousins). Just as he is about to wed Ingeborg of Denmark, Philip Augustus has second thoughts; and the outraged Dane betook herself to a nunnery and began a years-long letter-writing campaign that finally got the attention of Innocent III.
After the Norman Conquest of 1066, the Normans held both England and a large part of France. The Capetian kings vainly tried to take pieces of France back from the Angevin kings Henry II and Richard, but only under John Lackland (appropriately named) did they begin to have any measure of success.
Where was Eleanor in all this? To her 83rd year, she was a player. Although the chronicles tended to follow the kings, Eleanor was never far away. While Richard was being held for ransom in Germany, it was she who held the country together while John vainly attempted to forge an alliance with the enemy of his dynasty. Although Kelly's work is scholarly, she keeps her sources in unobtrusive endnotes that do not interrupt the flow of the text. If you want to read a history that is a real page-turner, I heartily recommend this book.
One of the main things I learned from the book is that Richard the Lion-Hearted was not the great hero of the English as he has been portrayed. For one thing, he bankrupted the country twice, first with his crusade and then with his ransome, and he didn't even speak a word of English. And he preferred to spend his time in Normandy.