Eleanor of Aquitaine (about 1122 - April 1, 1204) was one of the most powerful people of the Middle Ages and the richest and most powerful woman in Europe during her lifetime. She was married first to the French King Louis VII and then to the English King Henry II, a marriage that produced the two English kings Richard the Lionheart and John. Her father was William X, Duke of Aquitaine, and her mother was Aenor Aimery. When Eleanor was born she was named after her mother and called "Alia Aenor", which in their language meant "other Aenor", but it became "Eleanor" in English.
Even before the Crusade, Eleanor and Louis were becoming estranged. She sided with her flamboyant, handsome uncle, Raymond of Toulouse, in his desire to re-capture the County of Edessa. Louis preferred an assault on Jerusalem. When Eleanor declared her intention to go with Raymond to Edessa, Louis had her brought with him by force. When they passed through Rome on the way home, the Pope himself tried to reconcile them, and Eleanor did conceive their second daughter (Alix (or Alice) Capet, the first being Marie de Champagne), but there was no saving their marriage. In 1152 the marriage to Louis was annulled on the grounds of consanguinity. Her vast estates reverted to her and were considered no longer a portion of the French royal properties.
Within a year, Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Anjou, who was shortly to become king of England. She was eleven years older than he and related in the same degree as she had been to Louis. She bore Henry five sons and three daughters -- (William, Henry the Young King, Richard I "the Lionheart, Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, John "Lackland, Matilda, Eleanor, and Joan) -- over the next thirteen years. Some time between 1168 and 1173, Eleanor instigated a separation, deciding that from then on she would mostly remain in her own territory of Poitou, while Henry concentrated on controlling his increasingly large empire elsewhere.
In 1173, Eleanor led a rebellion against Henry, in league with their three surviving sons, although his bastard sons stood by him. She may have grown weary of Henry's numerous sexual dalliances, and she was certainly fed up with his attempts to control her patrimony of Aquitaine and Poitiers. The rebellion was put down, and Eleanor was imprisoned at the age of 50 for the next fifteen years.
Upon Henry's death in 1189, her son Richard inherited the throne and released his mother from prison. She ruled England while Richard went off to Crusade. She survived him and lived long enough to see her youngest son John on the throne.
Eleanor and Henry are the main characters in the play, The Lion in Winter, by James Goldman, which was made into a film starring Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn. The depiction of her in the film Becket is totally inaccurate.