Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine was born in France of 1122, to parents William X, the Duke of Aquitaine and Aenor de Chatellerault.  In 1130, Eleanor’s mother, brother and sister died, and on Good Friday 1137, her father died at Compostela.

Eleanor became the sole heir to the duchy of Aquitaine, considered at the time, to be the largest and richest province in France.

In June 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII, and upon the death of King Louis VI on the 1st August 1137, Eleanor and Louis VII, became King and Queen of France.

Eleanor had influenced her husband Louis, in letting her accompany him on the Second Crusade to the Holy Land, to free Jerusalem for Christianity in 1141, aged nineteen.

It is said, the church was pleased to receive many warriors through Eleanor, but they had not bargained on the three-hundred ladies, who would tend to the wounded.

Their relationship, and lack of male heirs, saw the annulment of their marriage, approved by the Pope on the 21st March 1152.  Eleanor had only given Louis two children; Marie 1145-1198 who married Henry I, the Count of Champagne, and Alix 1151-1198 who married Theobald V, the Count of Blois.

On the 18th May 1152 Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry of Anjou, and on the 25th October 1154 King Stephen dies, leading to the coronation of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of England in December 1154.

On the 28th February 1155, their first child and son was born; Henry, followed by Matilda in 1156, Richard the Lionheart in 1157, Geoffrey the Duke of Brittany in 1158, Eleanor in 1162, Joanna in 1165 and finally John in 1166.

Eleanor suffered much neglect, from her husband, as he paraded his mistresses, like Rosamund Clifford, believed to be the mother of two of his many illegitimate children.

Neglect, drove Eleanor to return to Aquitaine, along with her son; Richard the Lionheart in 1173.  Eleanor even went to the point of encouraging her sons to rebel against their father.

In 1174, Henry exiles Eleanor and her royal women back to England, and she spent the next fifteen years as Henry’s prisoner.

King Henry II died on the 6th July 1189, and she witnessed her favourite son Richard the Lionheart ascend to the English throne.  His first order of business as the English King, was the release of his mother.

Richard was taken prisoner, whilst returning from the Holy Land, and on the 3rd February 1194, she delivers the ransom, which set her son free.

Eleanor saw her youngest son John, become King of England, and she worked as his envoy in France.  Eventually she retired, living the life of a nun, at Fontevrault Abbey where she was buried upon her death in 1204.

Henrietta Maria of France

Henrietta Maria of France

Henrietta Maria of France

Henrietta Maria was born on the 25th November 1609 at Palais du Louvre, to parents Henry IV of France and Marie de Medici.  Her father was assassinated in 1610, and her mother was banished from the French court in 1617.

On the 11th May 1625, Henrietta Maria married King Charles I of England by proxy, and were married in person on the 13th June at St.Augustine’s Church in Canterbury, Kent.

Children of Henrietta Maria and Charles I:

Charles II, James II & VII, Elizabeth, Anne, Henry, Duke of Gloucester, Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange.

On the 2nd February 1626, Henrietta Maria and Charles, were supposed to stand next to each other, at their coronation at Westminster Abbey.  She, a practising Roman Catholic, refused to participate in Protestant religious ceremonies.

The King and Parliament were on different sides of the fence, and the English Civil war between Royalists and Parliamentarians, was a powder keg waiting to explode.

In 1643 Henrietta Maria, actively supporting her husband, landed at Bridlington in Yorkshire, with a ship laden down with men and arms, to fight for the Royalist cause.

In 1644, she fled to the safety of France, taking with her, Henrietta Anne, her youngest child.

In January of 1649, King Charles I came to trial, accused of treason against England.  On the 26th January he had been found guilty, and executed on the 30th January.

She was shocked, that England’s Parliament had found King Charles I of England guilty, and executed him.  From that day forth, she dressed in black and mourned his passing.

With the monarchy abolished in England, she remained exiled in France.

When Oliver Cromwell died in September 1658, his position as Lord Protector fell to his son; Richard, who continued his father’s work until his resignation in May 1659.

Parliament and Monarchy were restored, under King Charles II, and at this time Henrietta Maria returned to England, and Parliament granted the Dowager Queen, an income of £30,000 per year.

Her son James, the Duke of York married Anne Hyde the Earl of clarendon and Lord Chancellor to Charles I.  She considered her son had married far beneath him… she was a commoner, not of Royal blood.

On the 31st March 1661, Henrietta Anne married Phillip, the Duke of Orleans.  Both were grandchildren of Henry IV of France and Mary de Medici.

In 1665 Henrietta Maria founded the convent at Chaillot in France.

On the 10th September 1669, Henrietta Maria died at Chateau de Colombes, and was buried in the royal tombs of the Cathedral of Saint Denis.  Her heart was interred separately at Chaillot Convent, in a silver Casket.

Isabella of Angouleme

Isabelle of Angouleme

Isabella of Angouleme

Isabella of Angouleme was born in 1188 to parents Aymer Taillefer, Count of Angouleme and Alice of Courtenay, sister of Peter II of Courtenay, Emperor of Constantinople and grand-daughter of King Louis VI of France.

Isabella was betrothed to Hugh de Lusignan, Count of LaMarche, but King John of England snatched the twelve year old Isabella, from under his nose.  They were married on the 24th August 1200 at Bordeaux, and on the 9th October she was crowned Queen of England, at Westminster Abbey.

King Philip II of France confiscated John’s lands in France, for such an unprincipled act, and the de Lusigan family rebelled against him.

There were political reasons, which led John to marry Isabella of Angouleme, it stopped a union between the houses of Angouleme and Lusignan, for it posed a serious threat to his dominance in the region.  John’s actions offended Hugh de Lusignan, who appealed for justice through Philip Augustus, who declared he had forfeited all his territories, except Gascony.

John had no choice, but to invade Normandy.  Following a long siege in 1203, the Chateau Gaillard, Richard the Lionheart’s castle fell to the French.  By 1204, Normandy, Maine, Anjou, Touraine, plus parts of Poitou, were also in French hands.  John was forced to flee France and the lands of his father.

Isabella became the Countess of Angouleme on the 16th June 1202.  On the 1st October 1207, she gave birth to a son and heir; Henry at Winchester Castle.  Richard was born on the 5th January 1209, Joan on the 22nd July 1210, Isabel in 1214 and Eleanor in 1215.

King John died on the 18th October 1216 at Newark, and was succeeded by his son Henry, aged nine.

King Henry III was crowned King of England at his Coronation on the 28th October 1216 at the Abbey Church of Gloucester.

King John’s will, did not allow Isabella to become one of Henry’s executors, and she found herself excluded from the Regency council and England’s politics.

In 1217, Isabella escorted her daughter Joan, to her bridegroom in Angouleme, but in an extraordinary turn of events, Isabella became the bride to Hugh de Lusignan, to whom Isabella had been betrothed to in her youth, but snatched by King John and they were married in 1220.

Joan was kept in France, until Henry’s government acknowledged her claim to certain Poitevin estates as part of her original dower settlement from John.  In the latter part of 1220, Joan was returned to England, without her claim being settled.

By September of 1221, Isabella’s English dower lands had been confiscated by England’s government, later returned and re-confiscated, when she supported the French invasion of Poitou.

Isabella had nine children by Hugh de Lusignan.  In 1241 Isabella was summoned to appear before the French court with her husband, to swear allegiance to Alphonse, brother of King Louis IX, who had been invested as Count of Poitou.

Hugh de Lusignan and Isabella played off England and France’s King’s against each other, offering support to one, then the other.

In 1244, two French royal cooks attempted to poison the King of France, and confessed of being in the pay of Isabella.  Isabella fled to Fontevrault Abbey, a refuge from trials, where she remained until her death on the 31st May 1246, and was buried in the Abbey’s churchyard, as an act of repentance for her sins.

Her husband Hugh de Lusignan died in 1249 on crusade in the Holy Land, and many of their children left France, undertaking positions in the court of Henry III.

By order of King Henry III of England, Isabella was moved inside the Abbey, and interred beside Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Saint Pierre le Jeune~

If you are like me and adore church interiors, you will love this French Church.

The ‘Young’ Church of St Peter, is an old and unusual church in Strasbourg, France.


The oldest, and lowest part of the church is the burial crypt, which was built-in the 7th century.


The church itself was consecrated in 1053, and three of the remaining columns supporting the arched interior galleries in the church date from the 11th century.

The bulk of the church as it stands now was built between 1250-1320 and many of the frescoes you see are originals from the 14th century. In 1682, the church was divided into two sections, half for catholics and the other half for protestants, which seems quite forward thinking and civilized, doesn’t it! The pipe organ is a relative newbie, built-in 1780.


Strasbourg is full of old and amazing churches, but the old, ‘Young Church of St. Peter’, is off the beaten path, less visited, and remarkable in terms of history…

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The Legend of St.George

Saint George and Dragon

Saint George and the Dragon

The difference between a legend and a fairy story is that a legend is a traditional account handed down from father to son, through the generations, whilst a fairy story is fictional in all senses of the word.

So which one of these was Saint George, and what do we know of the man, who rose to become a Saint.

Georgios was born in the latter part of the 3rd century, between AD275 and AD285.  His father was Anastasius Gerontios Governor of Cappadocia, and his mother Theobaste Polychronia from Lydda, Palestine.

Anastasius and Theobaste were Greek descendants from the noble families of Anici, so young Georgios was raised as a Christian, and taught Christian beliefs.

His world was to fall apart, and at the age of fourteen, his father Anastasius died, and he and his mother returned to her home of Lydda, Palestine.  Tragedy was to strike yet again, within a few short years, when his mother Theobaste, was taken from him; when she died.

Georgios having lost both his parents, went to Nicomedia and presented himself to Emperor Diocletian, for he knew his father well.  He offered up his services, asking to be accepted for a career as a soldier in the Roman Army, and he was welcomed with open arms.

He rose to the rank of Tribune by his late twenties, and was to become part of the imperial guard of Emperor Diocletian.  Possibly chosen for the post by the Emperor himself, being the son of his best official and friend; Anastasius Gerontios.

The year AD302, and Diocletian issued an order which shocked Georgios that every Christian soldier in the Roman Army was to be arrested.  His beliefs in the Christian faith, he had carried with him since he was a young boy … it was a way of life to him.

The thought of turning his back on his Christian faith, and offering a sacrifice to the Roman Gods, more than likely brought out the rebel in him, he being a Christian like his parents before him, and proud of it.

Georgios refused to carry out the order, declaring that he be a Christian in the presence of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes, declaring that he worshipped the one true God … Jesus Christ.

Out of respect for Georgios, Emperor Diocletian attempted without success to convert him, but no amount of lands, money or slaves would get him to make a public sacrifice to the Roman Gods.

In the year AD303, Georgios resigned his post as a Tribune in the Roman Army.  For he knew the fate that lay before him, and gave his wealth to the poor, as he prepared himself for the inevitable.

He was imprisoned and tortured to near death, but never would he deny his faith.  The Emperor had him dragged through the streets.  Promising him, his life would be spared, if he would offer a sacrifice to the Roman Gods, and yet again he would not deny his faith.

The people witnessed this martyr prepared to die for his faith, praying to his God, which outraged the Emperor so much that he had Georgios beheaded for his contempt before the city walls of Nicomedia, on 23rd April AD303.

Emperor Diocletian’s wife, the Empress Alexandra had witnessed such suffering dealt out to this one man, in belief of his faith.  She turned her back on the Roman Gods, and accepted Christianity into her life, and was duly executed along with a pagan priest Athanasius, who had also turned.

His body was taken to Lydda in Palestine, where he was buried.  Soon the site was honoured by Christians visiting the grave of this martyr who sacrificed his life for his faith.

In AD494 Pope Gelasius stated: George was numbered among those saints whose names are justly revered among men, but whose deeds are only known to God, and so it was on the 23rd April 1222 he became Saint George.

When one thinks of Saint George, the first thing that comes to mind is “George and the Dragon” it has become a distinguishing emblem we have grown up with through our childhood days.

The story refers to a dragon, demanding one human and one sheep as a sacrifice from the city.  According to the story Saint George as he is now known, intervened for the fair maiden, and defeated the dragon by slicing the sign of the cross upon him.  The princess then led the defeated dragon into the city, with her girdle about his neck.

George told the people, be not afraid, believe in God and Jesus Christ.  The King and all his people were baptised, and George slew the dragon.

Eastern Orthodox depicts Saint George slaying the dragon, with a fair maiden watching from a distance, and that the dragon represents Satan.  The young maiden is the Empress Alexandra wife of Emperor Diocletian, who had George executed.

So how did this story arise?

Jacques de Voragine, the Dominican Archbishop of Genoa, wrote Latin readings of a mythical legend entitled “Legenda Sanctorum” better known as the “Golden Legend.”  However, the title gave off the wrong meaning, it had meant to describe the lives of Saints.  It was aimed at the heart and soul of Christian readers, rather than their minds.

Jacques de Voragine, created a legend out of a martyr, who would become Saint George in 1222, and he was adopted by the English, mainly due to the “Golden Legend” collection of fanciful stories.  It was not a historical account, for it held no accuracy in the true sense of the word.

It is believed Saint George was adopted by the English, based upon the “Golden Legend” story, which was incorporated into plays performed up and down the country.

The earliest known British reference to Saint George occurs in an account by a 7th century Abbot: St.Adamnan (628-704) born in Drumhome, Donegal, Ireland, and in 679 he became the 9th Abbot of Iona.  During his life he went on to write a description of the East, an account told to him by a French Bishop: Arculf, whose ship was blown aground near Iona on his way back to Jerusalem in Palestine.

George’s reputation grew, as warriors returning home from the Crusades between 1095-1291 wars, spoke of Saint George leading them into battle, giving them confidence.

The earliest known church to be dedicated to Saint George stands in Fordington, which is part of Dorchester, in Dorset.  Taking its name from the River Frome, growing up around Saint George’s Church, where a stone over the south door is dedicated to Saint George telling how he led the crusaders into battle.

For it was in 1348, during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377), the “order of the Garter” was established, a premier order of Knighthood in all England, with Saint George as its patronage.

During the reign of Henry V (1413-1422) many soldiers believed they witnessed Saint George fighting at the “Battle of Agincourt” for the English in 1415, and going on to achieve victory.

In 1483, Caxton published the writings by Jacques de Voragine creator of the “Golden Legend” and it was not until the early years of the English Reformation, that this collection of stories attracted the attention of English scholars.

George rose in stature to that of “Patron Saint” of all England during the 14th century.  It was not until 1552, when all saints’ banners were abolished during the English Reformation, except his, that his position in England was truly accepted, and he was regarded as a special protector of the English.

What had been one man’s book of fanciful stories had been changed into the legends of Saint George, when in 1892 William Morris published a limited edition of these works, bringing it back into the limelight.

In 1940 King George VI inaugurated the George Cross for acts of heroism and courage in times of extreme danger.

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Flag of Saint George

The flag of saint George is a red cross on a white background, incorporated into the Union Jack, and also the ensign of the Royal Navy.

Saint George is displayed on horseback slaying a dragon, in St.Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle, built by Edward IV and Henry VII.

How deeply the legend of St.George goes, as a Knight has entered the English consciousness.  He is judged by the repeated mention of his name in the “Works of Henry V” by William Shakespeare.  He has become known, as a knightly figure of our past, one recognised the world over…

On the 23rd April each year, we celebrate the anniversary of Saint George’s death when he was executed in AD303 in Nicomedia.

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Isabella Capet

Isabella-of-FranceWho was Isabella Capet, and what role did she play in the British Monarchy?

Isabella Capet, was the daughter of King Phillip IV of France, and of Jeanne of Navarre.  She had been described, as a little on the wild side, always getting her own way, no matter the cost.

On the 25th January 1308, in Boulogne, France.  Isabella Capet married King Edward II of England, in an arranged marriage between England and France.  These types of marriages, were very common in those days, it was more about politics, and keeping the peace with each country.

She bore Edward II a son in 1312, the future King Edward III.  Later she bore Edward a second son and two daughters.

By the 1320’s, Isabella and Edward’s dislike for each other, had scaled to new heights.  For Edward would spend more time with Pier Gaveston in what was referred to, as having a homosexual affair, than he would with his own wife.

Edward gave much support to the LeDespenser’s group of nobles, and listened to their advice.  As for Charles IV of France, Isabella’s brother, who was part of a group, who were against the rule he imposed on England; they were exiled from this land, which would have infuriated Isabella.

King Edward’s II’s, reign was not an easy one, as many barons were known to rebel against his authority, in an effort to gain power, and control the King.

Isabella, secretly gathered round her a group of conspiritators, who thought as she did, including Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, who became her lover.

Isabella went to Paris in 1325, on a mission to see her exiled brother, Charles IV of France, and craftily succeeded in getting her eldest son, Prince Edward, sent to join her in France.  The stage was now set for a successful coup, in which Edward II would be deposed and be replaced by his son, Prince Edward … and later murdered at Berkeley Castle.

This was the first time that an anointed King of England had been dethroned since Ethelred in 1013.

In 1326, Edward’s wife, Isabella of France, led an invasion against her husband, and had him imprisoned in Berkeley Castle, and in 1327 he was murdered.

Prince Edward, now King Edward III was crowned king of England in 1327, with his mother Isabella and Roger Mortimer her lover as his regents.

In 1330, Edward III took full control of his duties as King of England, and had Roger Mortimer executed, and allowed his mother to live out the rest of her life at Castle Rising.  She was not permitted to leave the grounds.  She haunts this castle her final resting place, and her screams and manic laughter can still be heard to this day.

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Eleanor of Provence

Queen Eleanor of Provence

Eleanor of Provence

Eleanor of Provence was born in 1223, at Aix-en-Provence to parents Raymond Berenguer IV, Count of Provence and Beatrice of Savoy.

On the 14th January 1236, Eleanor aged twelve; married King Henry III aged twenty-eight at Canterbury Cathedral.

Eleanor was accompanied by her relatives, and Henry gave them influential positions in his government, which made her unpopular with England’s barons, its people, who didn’t trust foreigners.

On the 17th June 1239, her son Edward the future Edward I was born.

Henry an ambitious but ineffective King, lacked willpower.  Eleanor made up for it, showing herself to be self-confident in exercising her power.

When Henry was captured by his own barons, and forced into agreeing terms of reforms, she called upon France for assistance, raising an army to free him … it may have been a failure, but proved her heart was in the right place.

Her son came to the rescue, fought off the rebels and released his father from captivity.

In 1272, Henry died, and her son Edward became King Edward I of England, and she became Queen Dowager.  She assisted in the raising of her grandchildren, but when Henry her grandson died in her care in 1274, she founded Guildford Priory in his name.

In 1286, Eleanor took of her crown and donned the veil of a nun, living a quiet life, until she died on the 24th June 1291 at Amesbury Convent.

Queen Eleanor of Provence was buried in the Abbey of St.Mary and St.Melor in Amesbury on the 9th December 1291.  Her heart was buried at a Franciscan Priory in London.

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