Week 9

The 12th century and Eleanor of Aquitaine
The world of feudalism, the Crusades, and Courtly Love
"In democracy your vote counts, in feudalism your Count votes."

PART TWO: Vezelay one of the most extraordinary French cities of Eleanor's era.



Amy Kelly,

Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings,

Harvard University Press,

ISBN 0674242548

Amy Kelly, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings, (originally published in 1957, still in print from Harvard University Press, ISBN: 0674242548.) & Alison Weir, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1999).

Amy Kelly wrote her great biography of Eleanor more than fifty years ago and I still think it is the best. It is one of the greatest biographies I know and I have read it many times. So if you want to start out with one book about Eleanor read Kelly first. You will enjoy every page. The new biography by Alison Weir is full of new material and a fine work of history and I have benefited from her updating of the Eleanor story. But it is not the sweeping saga that you find in Kelly and I doubt anyone will ever write a better biography of Eleanor.

Alison Weir,

Eleanor of Aquitaine,

Ballantine Books,

ISBN 0345434870

MOVIES: If you want to enjoy the best motion picture version of Eleanor ever made, rent Lion in Winter with Katherine Hepburn at her Academy-Award-winning best, Peter O'Toole as Henry, Anthony Hopkins as Richard, and a young Timothy Dalton as King Philip of France. The cast is spectacular. Katharine and Peter maneuver and shout as Eleanor and Henry did in real life; it is all so good you can't believe it. When you watch it, remember that it deals with a moment in Eleanor's long life during which Henry has locked her up so that he won't have to share power with her. The movie portrays Eleanor as a woman without power, languishing in Henry's luxurious jail. But that situation was just one in her long life. After Henry dies in 1189, Eleanor is back in the driver's seat as her son Richard goes off to a Crusade and leaves England in her hands.


This week we begin studying the period that is known as the "Middle Ages" and I know many of you will want to have some general history of the Middle Ages to give you background beyond that which we have time to study in class. There is such a book and I am happy to tell you that it is available in a nice paperback edition. The chapters on Eleanor and Courtly Love are excellent.

Friedrich Heer, The Medieval World, first published in 1961 and still the best one-volume history of the Middle Ages that I know. Paperback - 384 pages (October 1998, ISBN: 1566491975, $18.95).

Friedrich Heer,

The Medieval World,

Welcome Rain,

ISBN 1566491975