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Eleanor of Aquitaine and the four kings di…
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Eleanor of Aquitaine and the four kings (originale 1950; edizione 1950)

di Amy Ruth Kelly

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9901016,410 (3.89)25
The story of that amazingly influential and still somewhat mysterious woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has the dramatic interest of a novel. She was at the very center of the rich culture and clashing politics of the twelfth century. Richest marriage prize of the Middle Ages, she was Queen of France as the wife of Louis VII, and went with him on the exciting and disastrous Second Crusade. Inspiration of troubadours and trouvères, she played a large part in rendering fashionable the Courts of Love and in establishing the whole courtly tradition of medieval times. Divorced from Louis, she married Henry Plantagenet, who became Henry II of England. Her resources and resourcefulness helped Henry win his throne, she was involved in the conflict over Thomas Becket, and, after Henry's death, she handled the affairs of the Angevin empire with a sagacity that brought her the trust and confidence of popes and kings and emperors. Having been first a Capet and then a Plantagenet, Queen Eleanor was the central figure in the bitter rivalry between those houses for the control of their continental domains--a rivalry that excited the whole period: after Henry's death, her sons, Richard Coeur-de-Lion and John "Lackland" (of Magna Carta fame), fiercely pursued the feud up to and even beyond the end of the century. But the dynastic struggle of the period was accompanied by other stirrings: the intellectual revolt, the struggle between church and state, the secularization of literature and other arts, the rise of the distinctive urban culture of the great cities. Eleanor was concerned with all the movements, closely connected with all the personages; and she knew every city from London and Paris to Byzantium, Jerusalem, and Rome. Amy Kelly's story of the queen's long life--the first modern biography--brings together more authentic information about her than has ever been assembled before and reveals in Eleanor a greatness of vision, an intelligence, and a political sagacity that have been missed by those who have dwelt on her caprice and frivolity. It also brings to life the whole period in whose every aspect Eleanor and her four kings were so intimately and influentially involved. Miss Kelly tells Eleanor's absorbing story as it has long waited to be told--with verve and style and a sense of the quality of life in those times, and yet with a scrupulous care for the historic facts.… (altro)
Utente:LoisSusan
Titolo:Eleanor of Aquitaine and the four kings
Autori:Amy Ruth Kelly
Info:Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1950.
Collezioni:La tua biblioteca
Voto:
Etichette:to-read, all-things-british-history, all-things-french-history, biography, books-i-own-digital-copy, historical, historical-interest-to-read, non-fiction, non-fiction-to-read

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Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings di Amy R. Kelly (1950)

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  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
For somebody from the 12th century, Eleanor of Aquitaine turns up in the movies a lot. Pamela Brown in Becket and Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter played her on the big screen, and a number of actresses have done her on TV, usually in various versions of the Robin Hood legends.

Eleanor, due to the premature death of her father Guillaume while on pilgrimage to Compostella, became Countess of Poitou and Duchess of Aquitaine at age 15 in 1137. Women in the 12th century didn’t have much say in who they married; heiresses even less; and duchesses less still. Eleanor was quickly married off by her feudal overlord, Louis the Fat, to his own son (also Louis). The Dauphin Louis had come into his position unexpectedly too; his elder brother Philip had been riding through the fetid streets of Paris when his horse somehow became entangled with a rooting sow. Philip was pitched off, landed on his head, and Louis (who had been training for a career in the Church, like many second sons) was suddenly heir to the throne of France; when his father died, Eleanor became queen to King #1.


Louis and Eleanor seem to have been poorly matched, with Louis fond of the Church and monks and cathedrals while Eleanor enjoyed poetry and troubadours and witty conversation. They got along well enough to have two daughters, but the clergy disliked Eleanor’s behavior, which was thought to be indecorous. Matters came to a head when Louis went on the Second Crusade, accompanied by Eleanor and a number of other noble ladies. There was some sort of mixup involving Eleanor setting up camp ahead of the main body, which resulted in an ambush in the mountains of Anatolia; and there are hints of less than proper behavior with Raymond of Antioch. At any rate, Louis (or more likely his clerical advisors) suddenly discovered that his marriage with Eleanor was consanguineous. (Since relatives up to the eight degree were considered consanguineous, it was pretty difficult for European royalty to find anybody to marry that wasn’t a relative; the Church used this to control who married who, since any noble couple required some sort of dispensation to marry; similarly although divorce was prohibited it was not terribly difficult to get an annulment as long as you kept good relations with the Vatican).


That left Eleanor still the Countess and Duchess of two of the most valuable properties in Europe and thus a winning ticket in the marriage lottery. There were a couple of kidnapping attempts by miscellaneous Peers of France, but Eleanor ended up with Henry, Duke of Normandy. In what must have given contemporary historians a sense of déjà vu, a series of convenient deaths in England left the Duke of Normandy as King Henry II (and King #2 for Eleanor). The French were not pleased, since Henry now controlled more of France than Louis did. There were a number of confrontations between Henry and Louis, ranging from hostile negotiations to out-and-out warfare; Eleanor was involved to some extent in most of these. She and Henry obviously had time in between campaigns, however, as they had eight children – and this is where things began to break down between them. All of Henry and Eleanor’s male children were ambitious and wanted power on their own; their father was indulgent. Thus the second son (the first son had died in infancy) was crowned during his father’s lifetime as Henry, king of England (although he was formally king, he doesn’t get a number and thus is usually known as Henry the Young King). Third son Richard became Duke of Aquitaine; fourth son Geoffrey was Duke of Brittany, and fifth son John was Lord of Ireland (the epithet “John Lackland” indicates what contemporaries thought of the value of Ireland; Henry II apparently undertook the conquest of Ireland in 1171 just so John, who seems to have been his favorite son, would have somewhere to rule. This has had, of course, interesting historical ramifications).


Henry’s sons all turned against him – supported by their mother and by her ex-, Louis VII of France. Even the Young King wanted power and dominion now, rather than some future promise as King of England. Richard seems to have been far and away the most competent, and the most ruthless, inflicting pretty horrible damage (“getting medieval”, as it were) on towns and individuals who revolted against him (because he, in turn, had revolted against his own father). Henry and Eleanor tried to patch things up but he eventually lost patience and put her under house arrest in Sarum Castle until his death in 1189.


With Henry the Young King already dead (from a fever, and begging forgiveness from his father) Richard I was King of England (King #3). Despite the many portrayals of him as a bluff, hearty English monarch in numerous Robin Hood films, he actually hated England and couldn’t speak English (although, admittedly, I couldn’t speak what passed for English at the time either). He promptly headed off on the Third Crusade; although he had some success he eventually abandoned recapturing Jerusalem and ended up getting captured himself (by Leopold of Austria) on the way back home. This resulted in an immense ransom demand; 150000 marks of silver (about three trillion dollars in modern purchasing power, and around three times the entire revenue of England of the time). The resulting taxes, collected by Eleanor, didn’t do much to improve Richard’s popularity (and his brother John took advantage of that; again, the image of John as a unpopular king as presented by many Robin Hood stories appears to be incorrect. John was certainly hated by the nobility and clergy, who were being taxed to the limit, but seems to have been reasonably well like by the rest of the populace).


Richard eventually got out of Austria, and promptly got himself killed besieging a small castle in Limousin over the rumor that a great treasure had been found. He died in Eleanor’s arms from a gangrenous arrow wound. That left John King of England (King #4), disputed only by the claim of Arthur of Brittany, son of John’s older brother Geoffrey (who had died some time earlier). While in John’s custody, Arthur went swimming in the Seine with a large rock fastened to his neck (alternative histories report he carelessly fell off a castle battlement while walking with his guards) and John was uncontested King of England. The Plantagents were nothing if not brutally efficient.


By now, Eleanor was in her eighties and retired to the abbey at Fontevrault, where she died in 1204, having seen rather more history than she probably cared to. This is obviously more of a history of her times, rather than of her life proper; there just isn’t that much documentation and there are whole years when she isn’t mentioned at all. Author Amy Ruth Kelly is almost as interesting as Eleanor; as near as I can tell this was the only book she wrote during her long career as an English professor at Wellesley. Published in 1950, it is still cited as the definitive biography of Eleanor. Kelly’s prose is ornate and entrancing; they don’t write histories like this anymore.
( )
  setnahkt | Dec 7, 2017 |
This is a competent biography of a long and important life. I'd call it a classic of the genre. She was a major pillar of the Plantagenet dynasty and empire. Endlessly mined by historical novelists, this book has charms of its own, and repays a careful reading. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 23, 2016 |
The story of that amazingly influential and still somewhat mysterious woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has the dramatic interest of a novel. She was at the very center of the rich culture and clashing politics of the twelfth century. Richest marriage prize of the Middle Ages, she was Queen of France as the wife of Louis VII, and went with him on the exciting and disastrous Second Crusade. Inspiration of troubadours and trouvères, she played a large part... ( )
Questa recensione è stata segnalata da più utenti come violazione delle condizioni d'uso e non è più visibile (mostra).
  Tutter | Feb 20, 2015 |
755. Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings, by Amy Kelly (read 16 Nov 1963) This is a good book. I well remember how I came to hear of this book. I was at the Seattle World's Fair in 1962 and there was a sort of computer-like way to learn of books on subjects of interest and I was told of this book by that device. Months later I found the book at our library and read it with appreciation. ( )
2 vota Schmerguls | Jun 8, 2013 |
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Nome dell'autoreRuoloTipo di autoreOpera?Stato
Amy R. Kellyautore primariotutte le edizionicalcolato
Allard, EdithProgetto della copertinaautore secondarioalcune edizioniconfermato
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This account of Queen Eleanor and her century is offered as a study of individuals who set their stamp upon the events of their time, rather than as a study of developing systems of politics, economics, or jurisprudence.
Chapter 1
Louis the Sixth of France, Louis the Fat, lay sick in his hunting lodge at Bethizy, whither his bearers had brought him from the unprecedented heat and the fetid odors of the summer in Paris.
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The Duchess Eleanor was a prize to draw the covetous attention of ambitious nobles, for the patrimony she inherited from her forebears was one of the goodliest of the feudal world.
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The story of that amazingly influential and still somewhat mysterious woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has the dramatic interest of a novel. She was at the very center of the rich culture and clashing politics of the twelfth century. Richest marriage prize of the Middle Ages, she was Queen of France as the wife of Louis VII, and went with him on the exciting and disastrous Second Crusade. Inspiration of troubadours and trouvères, she played a large part in rendering fashionable the Courts of Love and in establishing the whole courtly tradition of medieval times. Divorced from Louis, she married Henry Plantagenet, who became Henry II of England. Her resources and resourcefulness helped Henry win his throne, she was involved in the conflict over Thomas Becket, and, after Henry's death, she handled the affairs of the Angevin empire with a sagacity that brought her the trust and confidence of popes and kings and emperors. Having been first a Capet and then a Plantagenet, Queen Eleanor was the central figure in the bitter rivalry between those houses for the control of their continental domains--a rivalry that excited the whole period: after Henry's death, her sons, Richard Coeur-de-Lion and John "Lackland" (of Magna Carta fame), fiercely pursued the feud up to and even beyond the end of the century. But the dynastic struggle of the period was accompanied by other stirrings: the intellectual revolt, the struggle between church and state, the secularization of literature and other arts, the rise of the distinctive urban culture of the great cities. Eleanor was concerned with all the movements, closely connected with all the personages; and she knew every city from London and Paris to Byzantium, Jerusalem, and Rome. Amy Kelly's story of the queen's long life--the first modern biography--brings together more authentic information about her than has ever been assembled before and reveals in Eleanor a greatness of vision, an intelligence, and a political sagacity that have been missed by those who have dwelt on her caprice and frivolity. It also brings to life the whole period in whose every aspect Eleanor and her four kings were so intimately and influentially involved. Miss Kelly tells Eleanor's absorbing story as it has long waited to be told--with verve and style and a sense of the quality of life in those times, and yet with a scrupulous care for the historic facts.

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