April Fool’s Day is soon upon us, and April 1st has been associated with pranks and pranksters since at least the l6th century.
April 1, 1204, is also generally accepted to be the date of the death of Eleanor of Aquitaine (or Aliénor, in the French fashion). Her birth is usually offered as AD 1122-ish.
Many novelists have been drawn to dramatizing the life of the queen-duchess, and historians continue to debate and re-interpret her actions, influence, and legacy.
What is certain is that our contemporary admiration of Eleanor as a “strong” or “independent” woman of her time is a reflection of our own time, not hers. Ironically some things never do change. In our times, Eleanor’s very words in signing herself in a letter to the Holy Father, ‘…by the wrath of God, queen of England,’ have been expunged from the title of the American edition of Ms. Alison Weir’s study, Eleanor of Aquitaine, by the Wrath of God, Queen of England (Random House, UK, 1999). The US title is the rather prosaic, Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life (Ballantine, 2001).
Clearly, Eleanor still continues to offend certain sensibilities some 800 years after her death. And speaking of her death, how old was Eleanor when she died on April 1, 1204?
She was 83 according to Amy Kelly, Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings (Harvard UP, 1978; original publication 1950), p. 387.
She was 82 years old according to Alison Weir, Eleanor of Aquitaine, by the Wrath of God, Queen of England (Random House, UK, 1999), p. 352
…and she was 80 years old, according to Professor Ralph V. Turner, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Yale UP, 2009), p. 295.
Whatever age Eleanor reached, she has gained immortality by the wrath, or grace, of her admirers and detractors. So here’s an anachronistic happy April Fool’s day to Her Grace.