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Queen Eleanor Dumped Louis VII for Lusty Henry: Lewis Lapham

Alison Weir
Author and historian Alison Weir. "The Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine" is the latest book by Weir. Photographer: Miklos Csepely-Knorr/Randon House via Bloomberg

Powerful enough to do as she pleased, Eleanor of Aquitaine was notorious in her own time.

Eager to wed the sexy, red-haired Henry of Anjou, 12 years her junior, she persuaded her husband, the pious King Louis VII of France, to annul their marriage, but didn’t tell him why.

Henry meanwhile, desiring her and her lands, ignored his father, who forbade “him in any wise to touch her, both because she was the wife of his lord and because he had known her himself.” On May 18, 1152, the pair took vows in furtive haste.

When the French king heard about the union, he declared war. It took six weeks for Henry to triumph, establishing him as the most powerful ruler on the continent. In two years, he also ascended the throne of England and set Europe’s path for centuries to come.

In their long and turbulent union, the royal pair produced a brood of Plantagenets, two of whom became kings. Eleanor’s blood still flows in the veins of Queen Elizabeth II. (Their senior years infuse “The Lion in Winter” with Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole.)

I spoke with Alison Weir, biographer of Eleanor and author of a new novel about her, “Captive Queen,” on the following topics:

1. “Married to a Monk, Not a King”

2. Lust at First Sight: Henry of Anjou

3. Sex and Power

4. Fiction vs. Chronicle

5. Scandalous Queen

To listen to the podcast, click here. To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

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