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Eleanor of Aquitaine: An Annotated Bibliography

Compiled by Stephanie Tarbin*
Australian National University, Canberra

This bibliography offers an introduction to some of the more recent studies of Eleanor of Aquitaine. It is by no means exhaustive and there is an extensive corpus of work available in French which may be accessed through the notes and bibliographies of many of the articles listed below.

I have chosen not to include a listing of printed primary works since this bibliography is not intended to be comprehensive and because of the fragmentary nature of the evidence. Contemporary references to Eleanor tend to be dispersed among a range of sources, including chronicles and administrative records. Fortunately, an impressive range of twelfth-century material is available in print and evidence for Eleanor's life may be gleaned from the more accessible editions. The bibliographies and notes of authors such as Kelly, Brown, Labande, Martindale and Richardson would be useful places to begin a search.


  • Kelly, Amy, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1959.
    A seamless and imaginative narrative of Eleanor's life and cultural context woven together from fragmentary and scattered twelfth-century sources. Subsequent research and debate has discredited elements of Kelly's interpretation, such as her vision of the 'courts of love' or Eleanor's supposed dalliance with the troubadour Bernard de Ventadour. Justifiable criticisms aside, Kelly's work remains one of the most readable and even lyrical biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
  • Meade, Marion, Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Biography, New York, Hawthorn, 1977.
    A standard biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine that is both accessable and informed but which unaccountably fails to captivate the imagination.
  • Owen, D.D.R., Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen and Legend, Oxford, Blackwell, 1993.
    Images of Eleanor of Aquitaine are refracted through the lenses of 'history, legend and literature' in Owen's novel approach to his subject. Perfectly willing to speculate about Eleanor's personality on the merest shreds of evidence, Owen is nonetheless scrupulously honest about his methods and careful with his sources. This account is most convincing when tracing the development of Eleanor as a figure of legend.
  • Pernoud, Regine, Eleanor of Aquitaine, (1965), Peter Wiles (trans), London, Collins, 1967.
    An English translation of the popular French biography, Pernoud's account combines a creatively embroidered narrative of Eleanor's life with comments on interpretive issues debated by historians. Although Pernoud drew on highly regarded scholarly works and a range of documentary as well as literary sources, her decision to omit references to her sources suggest that the text should be used with some caution. Nonetheless, this is an eminently readable introduction to studies of Eleanor of Aquitaine. MKU
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Mother Queen, Newton Abbot, David and Charles, 1978.
    In spite of the author's professed sympathy for his subject, the acceptance of hackneyed and questionable stereotypes to explain character and motive produce an ahistorical and lacklustre biography.


  • Cahiers de Civilisation Medievale XXIX (1986)
    An issue devoted to studies of the Plantagenets. Six of the articles discuss issues relating to Eleanor of Aquitaine or aspects of medieval culture during her lifetime.
  • Kibler, W.W. (ed.), Eleanor of Aquitaine: Patron and Politician, Austin, Texas, University of Texas Press, 1976.
    A collection of essays from a symposium held in 1973, some rather loosely connected to Eleanor and with an emphasis on her role as patron.


    • Brown, Elizabeth A.R., 'Eleanor of Aquitaine, Parent, Queen and Duchess' in W.W. Kibler (ed.), Eleanor of Aquitaine: Patron and Politician, Austin, Texas, University of Texas Press, 1976, pp. 9-34.
      A considered outline of the major events of Eleanor's life which provides a useful corrective to some of the more imaginative biographical treatments of Eleanor.
    • Cheney, Christopher, 'A Monastic Letter of Fraternity to Eleanor of Aquitaine', English Historical Review 51 (1936): pp. 488-93.
      A brief discussion of a little-known document connecting Eleanor with Reading Abbey, perhaps most interesting as an oblique comment on Eleanor's reputation after her death. [Re-printed in C.R. Cheney, The English Church and Its Laws, 12th-14th Centuries, London, Variorum Imprint, 1982, Ch. II.]
    • Labande, Edmond-Rene, 'Pour une image veridique d'Alienor d'Aquitaine', Bulletin de la Societe des Antiquaires de l'Ouest 2 (1952): 174-234.
      A highly regarded and widely cited discussion of sources.
    • Martindale, Jane, 'Eleanor of Aquitaine' in Janet L. Nelson (ed.), Richard Coeur de Lion in History and Myth, London, Kings College London Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies, 1992.
      This is an invaluable essay firmly grounded in a discriminating evaluation of modern studies and documentary sources. Martindale offers a clear account of Eleanor's political significance and the implications for a new understanding of her personality and actions.
    • Richardson, H.G., 'The Charters and Letters of Eleanor of Aquitaine', English Historical Review LXXIV (1959): 193-213.
      An early critic of Kelly's reliance on narrative sources, Richardson advocated the exploration of administrative documents for a fuller understanding of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Although the article's main concern was to determine whether office of chancellor was a formalised position in the queen's household, this study sheds much light on Eleanor's official activities and itinerary of travel.
  • The late-twelfth century treatise De Amore et amoris remedio, by Andreas Capellanus, has been readily viewed as a description of existing 'courts of love'. Although this reading did not originate with Amy Kelly, it was most imaginatively developed by her and has been the target of roundest criticism.

    • Benton, J.F., 'The Court of Champagne as Literary Centre', Speculum 36 (1961): 551-91.
      Benton undertook a detailed survey of authors associated with the court of Count Henry and Marie of Champagne. Benton questioned assumptions about the identity of Andreas Capellanus, his association with Marie of Champagne and the literal interpretation of the 'courts of love' in his work.
    • Bourgain, Pascale, 'Alienor d'Aquitaine et Marie de Champagne mises en cause par Andre le Chapelain', XXIX (1986): 30-6.
      Locates Andreas Capellanus in the Capetian court and suggests that the judgements on fins amour, attributed to Marie of Champagne and Eleanor of Aquitaine, were a device to deflect potential criticism of a 'new' literary mode from the author.
    • Dronke, Peter, 'Andreas Capellanus', Journal of Medieval Latin 4 (1994): 51-63
      Another recent look at De Amore which questions its relationship with courtly love poetry.
    • Kelly, Amy, 'Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Courts of Love', Speculum XII (1937): 3-19.
      Her first exposition on the existence of a female literary academy at Poitiers, derived from an uncritical reading of De Amore, which recurs in her subsequent monograph.
    • McCash, Julie Hall Martin, 'Marie de Champagne and Eleanor of Aquitaine: A relationship re-examined', Speculum 54:4 (1979): 698-711.
      While recognising Benton's view that evidence for contact between Eleanor and her daughter is lacking, McCash re-opens the question and argues for the likelihood of some form of literary exchange within the cultural spheres of the two women
    • Bachrach, B., 'Henry II and the Angevin Tradition of Family Hostility', Albion 16:2 (1984): 111-30.
      Bachrach dispels the myth of recurrent dynastic conflict in earlier generations of Angevins and postulates that the bitter relations between Henry and his sons should be understood in the context of their Norman ancestry.
    • Brooke, Christopher, 'The Marriage of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine', The Historian 20 (1988):3-8.
      A feature article which provides a useful introduction to issues of inheritance and marriage in twelfth-century Europe and an overview of the marriages and children of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
    • Labande, Edmond-Rene, 'Les filles d'Alienor d'Aquitaine: etude comparative', Cahiers de Civilisation Medievale XXIX (1986): 101-112.
      A discussion of the marital careers of Eleanor's daughters from her first and second marriages.
    • Turner, Ralph V., 'Eleanor of Aquitaine and her children: an inquiry into medieval family attachment', Journal of Medieval History 14 (1988): 321-35
      A provocative consideration of Eleanor's maternal responsibilities toward her children. Perhaps fruitfully read in conjunction with Bachrach's article for some insight into her husband's fulfilment of his familial obligations.
    • Bienvenu, Jean-Marc, 'Alienor D'Aquitaine et Fontevraud, Cahiers de Civilisation Medievale XXIX (1986): 15-27.
      Explores Eleanor's relationship with the abbey through evidence of gifts and patronage to her retirement, death and burial.
    • Greenhill, Eleanor S., 'Eleanor, Abbot Suger and Saint-Denis', in W.W. Kibler (ed.),Eleanor of Aquitaine: Patron and Politician, Austin, Texas, University of Texas Press, 1976, pp. 81-114.
      A daring re-interpretation of the re-building of Saint-Denis cathedral which assigns a major role to Eleanor's patronage and influence, despite lack of evidence.
    • Jeffreys, Elizabeth M., 'The Comnenian Background to the Romans d'antiquite', Byzantion 50:2 (1980): 455-86.
      An argument for Eleanor's importance as a patron of vernacular romance which is based largely on the hypothetical influence of narrative literature at the court of Constantinople, visited by Eleanor during the Second Crusade.
    • Kibler, W.W., (ed.), Eleanor of Aquitaine: Patron and Politician, Austin, Texas, University of Texas Press, 1976.
      See the articles by Larry M. Ayres, (pp. 115-146), and Rebecca A. Baltzer, (61-80), for discussions of painting and music during Eleanor's lifetime.
    • Lazar, Moshe, 'Cupid, the Lady and the Poet', in W.W. Kibler (ed.), Eleanor of Aquitaine: Patron and Politician, Austin, Texas, University of Texas Press, 1976, pp. 35-59.
      The roles of Eleanor and Marie in fostering literary expression is assumed rather than explored in this article, which is concerned to elucidate the various registers of 'courtly love' in the twelfth century.
    • Lejeune, Rita, 'Role litteraire de la famille d'Alienor d'Aquitaine', Cahiers de Civilisation Medievale1:3 (1958): 319-37.
      Surveys the literary patronage of Eleanor's children and considers the influence of Eleanor on contemporary writings. See also her 'Role litteraire d'Alienor d'Aquitaine et de sa famille, Cultura Neo-Latina 14 (1954): 6-54.
    • Lozinski, Jean Louise, 'Henri II, Alienor d'Aquitaine et la cathedrale de Poitiers', Cahiers de Civilisation Medievale,37 (1994): 91-100.
      Self-explanatory title.
  • The most recent and comprehensive study of legends about Eleanor and their development is to be found in D.D.R. Owen but the following represent some earlier forays into the topic.
    • Carney, Elizabeth, 'Fact and Fiction in "Queen Eleanor's Confession"', Folklore 95: (1984): 167-70.
      Argues that the depiction of Eleanor's adultery with William Marshal in this Elizabethan ballad represents an older tradition dating from the early thirteenth-century.
    • Chambers, Frank McMinn, 'Some legends concerning Eleanor of Aquitaine', Speculum16 (1941): 459-68.
      Tackles the range of myths associated with Eleanor and discusses their possible origins and development.
    • Chapman, Robert L., 'Notes on the Demon Queen Eleanor', Modern Language Notes, (June 1995): 393-6.
      A brief discussion of the romance of Richard Coeur de Lion which substitutes the wicked Cassiodorien for Eleanor.

Queenship and Power: some suggested readings

  • Erler, Mary and Kowaleski, Maryanne, (eds),Women and Power in the Middle Ages, Athens, Georgia, University of Georgia Press, 1988.
    An invaluable anthology of papers which consider the question of women's power in a range of contexts. See especially the groundbreaking article by Jo Ann McNamara and Suzanne Wemple, 'The Power of Women Through the Family in Medieval Europe, 500-1100', pp. 83-101, for their highly influential interpretive framework.
  • Parsons, John C., (ed.), Medieval Queenship, New York, St Martin's Press, 1993.
    Another excellent and wide-ranging collection. For analysis of representations of powerful women, see the articles by Pauline Stafford and Lois Huneycutt. Also recommended is the article by John Parsons, 'Mothers, Daughters, Marriage, Power : Some Plantagenet Evidence, 1150-1500'.
  • Derek Baker (ed.), Medieval Women: Dedicated and Presented to Professor Rosalind M.T. Hill on the occasion of her seventieth birthday, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1978.
    An early anthology featuring several studies of medieval queens. See the articles by Janet L. Nelson, Pauline Stafford and Bernard Hamilton in particular.

Useful Reference Works

  • Echols, Anne and Williams, Marty (eds), Women in the Middle Ages: Index and Bibliography, Oxford, Berg Publishers, 1992.
    short biographical entries for a multitude of medieval women with extensive cross-referencing by subject and useful suggestions for further reading.
  • Sweeney, Patricia E., Biographies of British Women: An annotated Bibliography London, Cassell Academic, 1993
    succinct assessments of the biographies of over 700 women featuring in Britain's history.

This bibliography owes a great deal to the researches of students in the 'What were the Middle Ages?' course at Australian National University. In particular I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Ida Birrell, Jean Drummond, Sarah Hemmingson, Jeldai King, Lois Kruk, Sylvia Marchant, Meg Osmond and Elizabeth Williamson.

Copyright © 1997, Stephanie Tarbin, Stephanie.Tarbin@anu.edu.au. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

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