If only I could see into the future to know what will really happen — Astrology by John William Waterhouse. Lauded by the nobility and the lyric poets, music became the language of lady love, from the eleventh to the thirteen century, in the courts of England and Europe. Expressing personal feelings became the province of troubadours; composers and performers of lyrical poetry set to romantic music. They roved about the countryside visiting castles and their communities to deliver the latest ditties going about in song. Sweet noble heart, pretty lady, I am wounded by love, so that I am sad and pensive, and have no joy or mirth for to you, my sweet companion, I have thus given my heart. During the twelfth century in Europe, advances in philosophy and science began to impose themselves, and the nature of the individual was held up to scrutiny.
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As the sun shone brightly through the windows of the great hall of the Maubergeonne Tower, Eleanor, Queen of England and Duchess of Aquitaine settled to hear the case brought before her. With her daughter and other prominent ladies of the court at her side, the very embodiment of courtly poise and authority, Eleanor listened as two knights — one young and of bad character, the other old but of good — petitioned for her decision on a matter of great importance.
Both men desired the love of the same woman. The younger argued that if the object of their affections chose him, then he might be inspired to be a better man and, due to his youth, might change his character. The queen, however, was not convinced. That may indeed be true, but even if he did, with time, change his character, it was not a wise decision for the young woman to love someone with so bad a reputation, especially when one more deserving also vied for her affections. No, Eleanor decided, his current character was bad and there was nothing to promise that he would change: so saying, she pronounced for the older, more suitable suitor, settling yet another matter brought before the renowned Courts of Love.
Eleanor of Aquitaine, the duchess who was queen to two separate monarchs during her lifetime, has long been regarded as the epitome of a 12th century era of romance and chivalry. As the popular story goes, Eleanor, upon her separation from second husband Henry II of England, returned to her ancestral lands of Aquitaine in what is now south-west France.
The area was in great ferment, the nobles rebellious, the people disordered and unmannered, and in desperate need of guidance and control. The more than competent Eleanor rose to the challenge, and set about bringing peace and harmony to her troubled realm.
The Maubergeonne Tower in Poitiers where she established her court was luxurious, spacious and grand. It was from there that Eleanor saw to the calming of her disordered province, turning a land of barbarity and bad manners into a revived social and economic centre.
It was to this haven of civilisation that many came to witness the miracle that had been wrought: knights, troubadours and poets, all came to pay Eleanor homage and to sample the sophistication and virtue of her court. Not only that, Eleanor and her graceful companions were said to have presided over a set of actual courts: the Courts of Love.
During the sittings of these courts, knights brought their disputes over romance and love, whereupon the women would pronounce judgement, their decision final. In short, while stories of Arthur and his gallant knights flourished throughout Christendom, Eleanor and her ladies were living the reality — Poitiers little short of a real life Camelot.
That is, at least, the most popular conception of the woman who is so often labelled as the queen of courtly love. Indeed, they were part and parcel of the general move towards a more mannered, less chaotic society that was taking hold throughout the 12th century, with an overall stress placed on virtue and nobility. There had also been talk of Courts of Love before her time — the idea of noble women pronouncing over affairs of the heart, while matters of state were dealt with by their husbands.
Therefore it seems that Eleanor cannot be credited with being the first to promote such ideas. In fact there is little evidence for her having personally advanced the concept during her time at Poitiers at all.
Likewise, the idea that Eleanor brought her civilised and cultured southern ideas to the barbarous north with her marriage to Louis VII of France, and again to the less-mannered English court in a precursor to the transformation effected in Poitiers is on shaky ground. What, then, of the Courts of Love themselves? Another part of the legend of Eleanor states that among those who came to stay with her at Poitiers were the daughters of prosperous families, seeking to finish their education.
Marie came readily, bringing with her a man by the name of Andreas Capellanus, who may have been a chaplain within her household. Finding that the young people in her care were not receptive to her teachings however, Marie was left with a dilemma. The premise of the work is that of the author informing his pupil, Walter, of the dangers of love that await him.
De Amore consisted of three books: the first discussed the origins of the concept of love and how it should be defined, while the second consisted of a series of dialogues or conversations, showing how the process of romance should take place. Eleanor is specifically referenced in several places throughout the text, including the case of a woman who refused to take back a former lover. He had previously asked for, and been granted, her permission to show his affections to another, but returned to his original mistress, having remained faithful during his absence, begging to be reinstated.
The woman, however, was having none of it, and the man went before the courts to plead his case. Eleanor is said to have declared in favour of the knight, as he had indeed remained faithful. Her daughter Marie is also referenced, on one occasion asked to settle whether true love can exist between man and wife, ruling in the end with the rather galling verdict that it is actually impossible.
However, all is again not as it seems. Marie, one of two daughters to Eleanor and Louis VII, was seven when her parents separated, and there is no hard evidence that Eleanor and Marie ever saw each other again after that. During these gatherings, matters of love and nobility would have been discussed as a matter of course, and Eleanor and her ladies would therefore have given their opinions.
Although it may seem the idea of the queen of courtly love lies in tatters, there is still hope to be had. For although factually inaccurate, the legend of Eleanor and her patronage of courtly love has proved most tenacious for a number of reasons, and the falsehoods are as illuminating as the truths.
For whatever scholars reveal, the link between Eleanor and the romantic legend endures, and it is not hard to see why. Eleanor was in fact a most fitting choice for the role legend has bestowed upon her. She was, by all accounts, greatly attractive.
Looks aside, there is no doubt Eleanor was an all-round outstanding woman. In an age where women were woefully lacking in political power, Eleanor governed her own lands and those of her husband, both in conjunction with her spouse and, at times, in his stead.
In fact, it can be seen that she did not allow herself to be relegated to the traditional place of women — submissive, not dominant. She was also considered more than capable of governing by her second husband, Henry II of England.
It is generally believed that Eleanor moving to Aquitaine was due to the breakup of their marriage. At that point, however, such a separation was not entirely out of the norm, as they had lived apart at various points during their marriage already, and it was at some point after her move that they decide to end the marriage.
He expected that she would soothe the rift by her presence and good judgement, and it seemed she did just that. Although the women credited with presiding over the Courts of Love were now generally believed not to have been there, their names would, as Capellanus knew full well, carry with them an authority and prestige when he evoked them in his work.
That he chose Eleanor among them reflects her influence, and the great weight it carried within the context of the work made it easy for readers to imagine Eleanor in the position he placed her. There is, however, a fascinating and verifiable story surrounding Eleanor that puts her in the very centre of a case worthy of the legends themselves. A man with a sketchy reputation — he was rumoured to have attempted to seduce the wife of his patron before leaving his Limousin home — he was deeply enamoured with Eleanor.
In his verses, he declares her the most beautiful of all women, his feelings for her stronger than any that ever existed, and his poems written to her are the embodiment of the movement later to be attributed to the object of his affections. It is generally held that Eleanor did not return his feelings: the foray was brought to an end when Henry summoned the hapless troubadour to England, on the pretext of needing his expertise.
She has been identified by many in works of the time, including that of Marie de France, the idea of Eleanor in the guise of Guinevere or Iseult compelling enough to overcome the rationalising that any number of women from the time could fit those roles and nothing stands out to link them to Eleanor.
Along with Capellanus and Paris, more recent works from current authors has done much to keep the image of Eleanor as the courtly queen alive and flourishing, the misconceptions within repeated to this day despite scholarly attempts to the contrary. In the popular imagination at least, Eleanor remains the queen of courtly love. Queen Eleanor by Frederick Sandys — , from the National Museum Wales Not only that, Eleanor and her graceful companions were said to have presided over a set of actual courts: the Courts of Love.
Eleanor of Aquitaine – Harmony and Happiness of Courtly Love
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Eleanor of Aquitaine, courtly love, and the troubadours
Medieval literature is filled with examples of knights setting out on adventures and performing various deeds or services for ladies because of their "courtly love". This kind of love is originally a literary fiction created for the entertainment of the nobility, but as time passed, these ideas about love changed and attracted a larger audience. In the high Middle Ages, a "game of love" developed around these ideas as a set of social practices. Courtly love began in the ducal and princely courts of Aquitaine , Provence , Champagne , ducal Burgundy and the Norman Kingdom of Sicily  at the end of the eleventh century.
As the sun shone brightly through the windows of the great hall of the Maubergeonne Tower, Eleanor, Queen of England and Duchess of Aquitaine settled to hear the case brought before her. With her daughter and other prominent ladies of the court at her side, the very embodiment of courtly poise and authority, Eleanor listened as two knights — one young and of bad character, the other old but of good — petitioned for her decision on a matter of great importance. Both men desired the love of the same woman. The younger argued that if the object of their affections chose him, then he might be inspired to be a better man and, due to his youth, might change his character. The queen, however, was not convinced. That may indeed be true, but even if he did, with time, change his character, it was not a wise decision for the young woman to love someone with so bad a reputation, especially when one more deserving also vied for her affections.