Book Review: Eleanor of Aquitaine

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

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Marco Polo

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• Eleanor of Aquitaine

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Fair warning: This book has an abundance of dates and possibly unfamiliar names. The story is a fascinating one, though, and one well worth reading.

Eleanor of Aquitaine was the prototype of the modern powerful woman. Not content to live in the shadow of her husband, she eclipsed him (all of them, actually) in deeds and fame. Married to a French king, she rode with into battle, leading an army on a Crusade. Married to an English king, she was the power behind the throne, supporting him as he built up his power and then scheming to replace him as his sons became more powerful and ambitious than he was.

This is the Middle Ages, a time of confusing boundaries and loyalties. Eleanor was princess and then ruler of Aquitaine, the largest area in what is now France. When she married Henry of England and he became king, the two of them together ruled a vast amount of territory. Eleanor was very much her own woman, however, and this book, by Ann Kramer, does a good job of bringing that out.

Part of the National Geographic Biographies of World History series, the book—Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Queen Who Rode Off to Battle—does an excellent job of not only telling Eleanor's story but also placing her and it in context. Sidebars about the Crusades and medieval women's lives and courtly love all serve to highlight the revolutionary role that Eleanor played in those times. The illustrations, as always, are remarkable and fitting. The accompanying timeline (on every single page, no less) further serves to put the reader in the historical mood.

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