Eleanor of Aquitaine, the “mother-in-law from hell”….?

Eleanor of Aquitaine’s tomb at Fontevraud Abbey

There are two King Richards of England whose marriages are always called into question: Richard I and Berengaria of Navarre, and Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. Richard II’s sexuality is cited as the reason he and Anne had no children. Either he was sexless…or his interests went to the male of the species. Therefore Anne was treated like a sister, not a wife. I don’t agree. He and Anne did share a marriage bed, Anne suffered miscarriages, and Richard was beside himself with grief when she died. So he is definitely wronged as sexless. Did he swing both ways? I don’t believe this is so either, but his intense friendships with favourites do invite suspicion. I think they were just intense friendships, without any sexual aspect, but that’s just my opinion. As far as I’m concerned he and Anne were young when they married, and they fell deeply in love. So please stop having goes at him.

Berengaria of Navarre, buried at the abbey of L’Épau in Le Mans

However, if we consider Richard I and Berengaria…well, I do believe his sexuality was at fault. She stayed away from England because she was constantly humiliated by her husband and his family. Well…certainly by Richard, who was seldom around anyway. He was too busy with crusades and sucking England dry to finance them. I don’t like him, as you’ll have gathered.

But this article is concerned with his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor’s reputation down the centuries is of a very strong woman who went after what she wanted, including Henry II of England. But was she the “mother-in-law from hell” to her daughters-in-law (the other being Isabel of Angoulême, wife of King John)? I don’t know. Being a very strong women doesn’t necessarily mean grinding other women into the ground with a royal heel.

But maybe she didn’t want to crush Berengaria, because she didn’t have to. Berengaria showed no interest whatsoever in her marriage (nor did Richard I, to be fair) and I think the only concern for Eleanor was Berengaria’s lands in Navarre. Maybe I’m wrong, but as long as Berengaria remained quiet and on the sidelines, I doubt she raised Eleanor’s interest at all, let alone brought out the horrible beast in her. Eleanor was always assured of being number one in Richard’s eyes, and I think Eleanor knew that no other woman would challenge her. He was definitely too intensely interested in crusades….and, I feel, the wrong sex.

OK, OK, I’m guessing again, but I feel that Richard I was far more suspect in that way than poor Richard II. I await protests….

Sites about Eleanor of Aquitaine are plentiful, but Berengaria isn’t that well-known. You can read one article about her here


  1. It proves nothing either way, but Richard I had an illegitimate son by an unknown mother, Philip of Cognac, who lived long enough to be married to one of Richard’s wards, Amelia of Cognac (no known children). There’s a record in the Pipe Rolls of John making a gift to Philip, son of King Richard, of 1 mark, in 1201.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with the comment above. Also Sharon Penman did lots of research into Richard I when she wrote Lionheart and she came to the conclusion that he was not homosexual and that Berengaria and his sister Joanna accompanied Richard on a Crusade. If I remember correctly they were travelling separately from Richard and were held hostage in Cyprus..

      Liked by 1 person

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