Friday, May 30

Joen and Eleanor

I went through a phase in middle school/early high school where I was totally obsessed with Joan of Arc and Eleanor of Aquitaine. I read several books about each, and made my grandfather tape the 6 hour mini-series about Joan of Arc (with Leelee Sobieski)! As today is the anniversary of Joan's death, I thought it would be fun to post about my 2 favorite women from history. Most people know about Joan, but Eleanor is (sadly!) not nearly as well known. Eleanor lived in the 12th and 13th century, and during her 80+ years managed to marry two kings, Louis VII of France and Henry II of England, and produce several famous children such as Richard the Lionheart and King John (of Robin Hood!). She also led her sons into a rebellion against Henry, participated on a crusade with Louis and served as the regent of England after her husband's death.

I'm not sure why I was so interested in both Joan and Eleanor, but I think I liked that they were both women and such iconoclasts. It is very possible that Joan of Arc was schizophrenic or simply delusional, yet she managed to convince the French army to put her in charge of a unit and led them through many successful battles. She was burned at the stake by the English for refusing to confess to being a witch and idolater. We also know a lot about her life because they recorded all of the information from her trial (which lasted several months), during which they asked her many many questions about her family, childhood, etc.

In a strange way, I think Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc would have liked one another. Despite the fact that they lived several hundred years
apart, and Joan was ultimately killed by Eleanor's adopted country, they were both strong women, who earned respect in mostly male dominated positions. Both women also suffered greatly due to their gender; Eleanor was imprisoned for over a decade by Henry for daring to lead a revolt, and Joan's charge of witchery or sorcery was strongly tied to her being a woman. It may be weird to consider both a saint (oops, I'm Jewish!) and a long-dead Queen two of your favorite historical characters.. but it could be worse!