Born of noble parents in France in 1122, Eleanor of Aquitaine was an attractive and charming child. She was born into a heritage of promiscuity; a family notorious for its wanton ways. Eleanor’s father, Duke William X of Aquitaine, was one of the wealthiest men in France and even owned more land than the king.
On his deathbed, Duke William X left orders to arrange the marriage of his fifteen year-old Eleanor to Louis Florus, son of the King of France, Louis VI, to prevent chaos in Aquitaine and to protect the duchy. Five months after they were married, Louis VI(her husband’s father) died and Louis VII became King and Eleanor was Queen of France. She was an enchanting queen, pleasure loving, vivacious, and very well versed in love from the lore of the troubadours, “friends” of her father’s.
It was one of Eleanor’s duties to instruct the young males of her court in the “refinements of courtly love” and the “order of chivalry.” The purpose of this schooling was too make the men acceptable company to the young ladies, who were also required to attend these sessions to learn their parts in society.
There were four cardinal virtues of chivalry:
- prowess in arms,
- courtesy and obedience to the ladies,
- generosity to the poor, and
- veneration of the Virgin Mary (Mary being a lady of love, pity, and gentleness).
The worthy knight was required to be a raging lion on the battlefield, but a purring lion of affection and obedience to the gentle ladies. The Church was the primary influence in all the rituals.
Eleanor had a strong influence over her husband, the King, and, therefore, had a great power in her kingdom. She was always eager of excitement and entertainment and her very nature demanded change. On occasion she would even go so far as to inspire her husband into waging small wars or crusades to alleviate her own boredom. She even accompanied her husband in the ranks of the crusading army (sometimes other noblewomen followed).
When the crusade arrived in Constantinople, Eleanor delighted in every aspect of city life from attending lavish parties, dinners, and festivities to coquetting with the handsome noblemen. This android the bishops, so to help stop the adulterous gossip, the King took Eleanor and the troops back to France.
Due to these scandalous gossips, it was recollected that these uninvited women on the Crusades and their “orgy indulged” troubadours brought about the failure of the Crusades. Eleanor was furious with her husband for not defending her in this scandal and this brought about a series of events: The Pope denied her demand for a divorce; but later the marriage was nullified. She married Henry, Duke of Normandy, who later became King of England.
Chivalry had no place in Eleanor’s “real world” except in the verses of sweet songs of the troubadours. Love and her courts of love were her only laws.
Troubadours believed that “God was Love” and, thereby, worshipping love was paying homage to God. There were four definite and fixed stages of love:
- fegnedor: the aspirant worshiped from a distance,
- precador: during which time he summoned the requisite courage to declare his love
- entenedor: when the lady permitted him to pay court and dedicate his songs to her,
- drut: the accepted lover, which was the ultimate.
The steps must be followed accordingly; no one should skip any of the previous steps.
Discussions at Eleanor’s court were all involved in love experiences and problems, with Eleanor’s decisions as always final. Her court was a servant of Love above all else.
Eleanor refused to regard love as an uncontrollable, undefinable feeling. Love was … an exact science with fixed causes. Life was lived for love, and the necessities of life such as food and bodily care were considered mainly as they affected love. Love, according to Queen Eleanor, had to be more systematized.
Her Courts of Love spread as law throughout many other domains besides her own. There were different types of love and each fit into a particular category according to the situation, etc.
Topics for further discussion:
- Love between wives and husbands
- Love between wives and lovers
- Poverty vs. Nobility of birth
- Court of Love (decision maker in lover’s quarrel)
- Lover’s ring
- Laws of Love