Well, given the floods–nay, avalanches–of fan mail that poured in begging me to continue my history posts, I will oblige with another installment of Medieval herstory today. Also given general consensus, I will continue to deliver varied and irrelevant rambling directionless content on future days JUST TO PLEASE YOU.
I’m glad that’s all settled. And huge thank you to those who took the time to comment!!!!
Now, on to Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany
or Damsel of Brittany or Pearl of Brittany or Beauty of Brittany
Sure, whatever you say.
But no, with all these appellations I’m going to choose to believe that Eleanor was gorgeous and picture her as Helena Bonham-Carter’s Ophelia.
So, thanks to King John (again) this Eleanor was a lifelong prisoner. Remember how I told you about ol’ Matilda who couldn’t stop going on about John being a nephew murderer? Well, that murdered nephew was Eleanor’s brother, Arthur. You see, Eleanor and Arthur were the children of John’s elder brother Geoffrey II Duke of Brittany. Awwwww so Eleanor must have been named after her loving grandma Eleanor of Aquitaine!… or her aunt. Are you confused?
You can see (maybe) from my excellent family tree that Eleanor and Arthur had a claim to the throne and that it was therefore necessary/reasonable for John to murder/imprison them. Uncle John came for heir-presumptive-Arthur first despite the fact that he was younger than Eleanor. Technically, Arthur just…. ‘disappeared’ during his imprisonment in Rouen in 1203, but it is (and was) widely believed that John was responsible for murdering the kid. Nobody really knows for sure what happened, but Matilda’s hubby William de Braose was supposedly in charge of Arthur’s confinement, so Matilda must have had her murder suspicions on pretty good authority! I wonder if this spurred any marital spats?
So then (to be specific) a bunch of stuff happened and Eleanor was held captive and moved around from one castle to the next, yada yada yada, and eventually the powers that be (rude uncles) settled her in at Corfe Castle (for awhile, we think) as a prisoner of the crown.
Eleanor remained a prisoner for nearly 40 years.
However, it seems to me like she got sort of a sweet deal. Sure she couldn’t like marry anyone or have kids or stray too far from the castle walls or become Queen of England, but she appears to have been kept pretty well fed (from a surviving weekly shopping list — Saturday: bread, ale, sole, almonds, butter, eggs. Sunday: mutton, pork, chicken and eggs. Monday: beef, pork, honey, vinegar. Tuesday. pork, eggs, egret. Wednesday: herring, conger, sole, eels, almonds and eggs. Thursday: pork, eggs, pepper, honey. Friday: conger, sole, eels, herring and almonds.), outfitted in the latest fashions, and free to ride her horse around the castle grounds in a gilded saddle. I mean, YES, I’m a BIT agoraphobic, but that seems alright to me!
Additionally, by exerting pretty much no effort, Eleanor somehow managed to build up a reputation as brave, relentless, cunning, and unyielding. I haven’t really read anything in my extensive online research (ie perusal of Google) to suggest that she tried very hard to alter her circumstances. I have a sneaking suspicion that she was living it up, sending out shopping lists and receiving treats and gifties from Uncle John in the comfort of various castles! There’s like one mention of an escape attempt in 40 years!
Personally, I’d be happy as a lark roaming the castle grounds without a financial worry in the world, reading my books, doing my embroidery, writing my novel, eating, drinking, watching Netflix, working on my music (she probably even had her own lute player to accompany her) (a sexy, sexy lutist), Instagramming pictures of my almonds and herring… nonstop fun with zero responsibility!!!
Sigh. Lucky, lucky Eleanor.
Eleanor died in her 50s. She was still a ‘prisoner’ and, embracing the fashionable career path of Medieval Christian women everywhere (except for Ophelia who fell in the river en route), had become a nun.
This week’s Weekes Word is a sensation I rarely experience… as my soul slowly atrophies and the walls of my office building close in around me and my creative aspirations and youth slip through my fingers.
Insouciance: English-borrowed from the French (derived from the Old French in + soucier) and meaning lighthearted unconcern. Ex: With a sigh of pure insouciance, Weekes leaned upon the silken pillow propped against the turret wall and happily resumed reading Hangover Square.
xWG // #dazeandweekes