Constance H. Berman

title.none: Bull and Leglu, eds., The World of Eleanor of Aquitaine (Constance H. Berman)

identifier.other: baj9928.0605.019 06.05.19

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Constance H. Berman, University of Iowa,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Bull, Marcus, and Catherine Leglu, eds. The World of Eleanor of Aquitaine: Literature and Society in Southern France between the Eleventh and Thirteenth Centuries. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2005. Pp. ix, 189. $75.00 (hb) $90.00 1843831147. ISBN: $45.001-84383-114-7.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.05.19

Bull, Marcus, and Catherine Leglu, eds. The World of Eleanor of Aquitaine: Literature and Society in Southern France between the Eleventh and Thirteenth Centuries. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2005. Pp. ix, 189. $75.00 (hb) $90.00 1843831147. ISBN: $45.001-84383-114-7.

Reviewed by:

Constance H. Berman
University of Iowa

This collection of nine articles based on presentations by distinguished historians (from Britain, France, and the US) at a conference held at the University of Bristol's Centre for Medieval Studies brings to the attention of English and North American readers new angles from which to view both Eleanor of Aquitaine and southern France. Five of the articles have direct bearing on Eleanor, three on troubadour literature, others consider Eleanor, her family, or southern France from the viewpoint of chronicles or monastic sources, and one concerns her grandson, Raymond VII of Toulouse. Contents are up-to-date and made coherent, with some of the major issues of controversy and definition (and additional studies), by the editors' introduction, pp. 1-11. The volume is comfortable to use, with notes at the foot of pages and furnished with two maps and index. Each article considers the matter of Eleanor of the world of southern France from a different angle: troubadour literature, chronicle sources, and other monastic materials.

Linda Paterson in "Occitan Literature and the Holy Land," pp. 83-99, considers to what extent troubadours and their work were influenced by the Crusades, testing the hypothesis that there might be an "Antioch connection", with Occitan literature. There are some tabulations about such references and she refers to more on a website. Paterson concludes that there were considerable connections between troubadours and the Crusades, but not only to Antioch itself and the first Crusade's victory there. In "Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Troubadours," pp. 101-14, Ruth Harvey questions contentions about Eleanor and troubadours that have been pervasive in the literature, noting the limited evidence for any troubadours being closely tied to Eleanor and suggesting that troubadours did not follow the queen or her sons as their court moved around, but would rather tend to "show up" when the court was nearby. Which if any came from Eleanor's lands, however may be elucidated by some of the tables in William Paden's "Troubadours and History," pp. 157-82, a work intended to give a "history" to the troubadours, by asserting "change over time" in the types of work they did. Paden traces a series of terms, what might be called "troubadour occupational vocabulary" over time through the literature using Richetts' Concordance to show that there were stages in troubadour history, that troubadours "were not all the same".

Another series of articles concerns what we might call the chronicle media, to borrow the term used by Richard Barber in "Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Media," pp. 13-27. The author considers then the "media event" of Eleanor's life, the scandal about her conduct in Antioch during the second Crusade. His conclusion on p. 26 about this "media scandal" is worth quoting:

At the simplest level, Eleanor is part of the royal genealogy,wife in turn of the kings of France and England, a pawn in a maleworld, whose duty is to provide heirs. Her failure to produce amale heir for Louis is probably the real reason behind herdivorce. . . . At the next level, she is a focal point of thegossip and intrigues at court, renowned for her beauty, variouslyjudged as frivolous, light-headed and wanton. Here we have totread with caution; there is a very good case to be made thatmost, if not all, of the gossip about her stems from the Frenchcourt after her divorce, an attempt by those loyal to Louis tojustify the incredible political folly of his actions. At astroke, Louis handed half his domains to his most powerfulvassal, soon to become a king in his own right. The stories abouther affairs with the prince of Antoich or the count of Anjou, oreven her future husband Henry Plantagentet, are thereforeprobably to be discounted.

In "The Stripping of a Queen: Eleanor of Aquitaine in Thirteenth- century Norman Tradition," pp. 115-35, Daniel Power continues the after-life of the media events of Eleanor's life, considering a little-known incident recounted in two mid thirteenth-century Norman accounts of the events following the divorce of Eleanor from Louis VII. These two texts recount the divorce by Louis VII and his remarriages, Power reads the word "desfubler," as "Eleanor's disrobing" or "stripping" (p. 126). Desfubler can mean "disrobe", or simply "take off a garment", but can also mean something stronger, on the lines of "to skin", and from there "to deprive (of rights, of property)", and then on to "despoil". She is then proclaimed in the texts as a most beautiful woman and she responds that it can be seen now that she is not the "devil" Louis accused her of being. Power plays on these ideas to investigate the possibility that the Norman writers' references are to a diabolical ancestry for the Queen--to Eleanor as Melusine. Power's possible "overinterpretion" of the Old French term "desfubler" allows him thus to play with images of all powerful women as diabolical. Jouissance, indeed!

What did monastic and clerical historians writing in the mid twelfth- century Anglo-Norman world in the decades after Eleanor's marriage to Henry II know about the territory from which she came? "Events and Opinions: Norman and English View of Aquitaine, c. 1152-c. 1204," John Gillingham, pp. 57-81, discusses definitions of who are Gascons, Aquitanians, etc., and what their relationship to royal power was. How did Robert of Torigny know what he said he knew about Aquitaine, etc. Was Aquitaine particularly lawless? Gillingham is at his most interesting when he turns to the attribution not of lawlessness alone, but of heresy, to Aquitaine, heresy reported not by local sources, but by Anglo-Norman ones only. He suggests strong ties between Henry, abbot of Clairvaux and Henry II king of England that would lead to preaching missions and a mini-Crusade to Toulouse in the late 1170s and early 1180s. He concludes that Henry II's concerns with heresy were usually limited to areas where he had political concerns, such as the Toulousain, but that given the fluid boundaries between Toulouse and Gascony, those concerns were also attached by English writers to Eleanor's realm. "People writing in England and Normandy evidently knew about heresy in the south only when publicizing it suited Henry II's political interests." (77)

Daniel Callahan in "Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Coronation Rite of the Dukes of Aquitaine and the Cult of Saint Martial of Limoges," pp. 29- 36, turns to a later period in her life and on her role in the 1172 coronation of her son Richard at Poitiers and Limoges, and the potential for her presence to add lustre to local cults.

English readers are introduced to the work of Laurent Mace in a study that plays on the name of his subject, "Raymond VII of Toulouse: The Son of Queen Joanne, 'Young Count' and Light of the World," pp. 137- 56; evidence is mustered for this son of Eleanor and Henry's daughter Joanna to propose a date of 1219 rather than 1228 for the Chanson de la croisade albigeoise--the second part of which is closely tied to the life of Raymond VII, the last legitimate Raymondine heir, and his knightly exploits.

Not last in the volume or in value (the contributions are remarkably even in that sense), Malcolm Barber turns a masterly eye to the charter evidence in "The Templar Preceptory of Douzens (Aude) in the Twelfth century," pp. 37-55, describing the agricultural holdings and other assets of a Templar house and showing that this group's preceptories in southern France resembled other new religious communities of the time in terms of its assets and economic practices. Barber's work reminds us that in thinking about the Crusades that the military Orders which were increasingly in charge of peace-keeping in the Holy Land were supported in their efforts in large part by a strong basis of Templar and Hospitallar properties in western Europe, which provided funds to the Crusade effort in the east. Whereas in modern-day colonialism, resources tend to flow from frontier outpost to the metropole, it was somewhat the reverse with regard to the Crusades.

Overall a stimulating and interesting contribution to Eleanor, southern-French, and troubadour studies.