by Ralph V. Turner
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. Pp. xviii, 395.
Illus., maps, diagr., notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN:0300119119
Eleanor of Aquitaine
is a comprehensive and insightful biography of the most notable woman of the Twelfth and early Thirteenth centuries, which also provides a look into the complexities of class, gender, and authority during the Middle Ages.
Prof. Turner (Florida State) helps dispel many of the myths associated with Eleanor, whose popular image is rather like a cross between the equally fictional reputations of the Empress Livia and Lucrezia Borgia, to reveal a woman who acted very much within the frame-work of her class and society.
Although her reputation was shaped largely by a hostile tradition, Eleanor was the not merely a high ranking noble-woman, but in her own right a powerful "Lord," with vast territories. Thus, her actions were usually very similar to those of her peers, who were, of course, almost all men. Along the way, Prof. Turner gives the reader many interesting peeks at some of the period's most notable individuals, among them her successive royal husbands, Louis
of France and Henry II of England, her sons, Richard, Geoffrey, and John, and a number of others, while taking us on a great tour of through the labyrinths of social and political life in the high middle ages.