Feminine Jealousy: Rosamund de Clifford v Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine, born in southern France around 1122, well educated by her father; William X, the Duke of Aquitaine.

Aged 15, became the Duchess of Aquitaine, and was betrothed to Louis, son and heir to the then King of France.  On the 25th December 1137, the young couple were crowned King and Queen of France.  In 1152, the new estranged couple separated, following years of public critism for the way they ran France.

Within two months of Eleanor’s annulment, Eleanor took a new husband; Henry, the Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy, and within two years Henry and Eleanor were crowned King and Queen of England, and they went on to produce eight children between 1152-1166.  Henry’s infidelities led to their break-up, and in 1167 saw her move back to France, reclaiming her Poitiers lands.

Rosamund de Clifford was born around 1140, the daughter of Walter de Clifford, a lord on the Welsh Marshes, who served with Henry II on campaign in Wales in 1160’s.  It is believed the couple met around 1165 at the Clifford residence of Bredelais during the Welsh military campaign.

King Henry II had taken a shine to Rosamund, daughter of Walter de Clifford, one of Henry’s knights.

Fair Rosamund was a beautiful English Rose, Henry was drawn to her softer form of feminity, she being less like his wife; Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine … an overbearing and vindictive woman.

Rosamund knew Henry be a womanizer, and was known to have a string of mistresses all over his kingdom.  Many a father would hide their daughter when the King came to town, not wanting him to cast eyes upon their daughter.  Yet it happened, both King Henry II and Rosamund set eyes on each other, and their fate was sealed … love was in the air.  Rosamund tried hard not to commit the mortal sin of adultery with her king, that which was classed a sin in God’s eyes.

Rosamund knew her actions were wrong, yet she knew the King and Queen’s marriage was nothing more than a business arrangement, their marriage was one of convenience, for the production of a male heir.

Perhaps the truth of Rosamund’s story matters less, than the legend and romance that surrounds it.  This is a story of unrequited love, a sordid event of a woman seduced by her king, with little to say, what direction her life would take… denied a future.

Henry built a Royal Palace at Woodstock for his Rosamund, to hide her from his Queen.

King Henry II is known to have many mistresses and just as many illegitimate children. Many historians have attributed to Rosamund two of King Henry’s favourite illegitimate sons: Geoffrey Plantagenet (1151–1212), Archbishop of York, and William Longespee (17 August before 1180–1226), Earl of Salisbury.

Henry’s liaison with Rosamund became public knowledge in 1174; it ended when she was poisoned by Queen Eleanor in 1176, and retired to the nunnery at Godstow near Oxford shortly before her death. Her death was remembered at Hereford Cathedral on 6 July.

Rosamund was also associated with the village of Frampton on Severn in Gloucestershire, another of her father Walter’s holdings. Walter granted the mill at Frampton to Godstow Abbey for the good of the souls of Rosamund and his wife Margaret. The village green at Frampton became known as Rosamund’s Green by the 17th century.

Henry and the Clifford family paid for her tomb at Godstow in the choir of the convent’s church and for an endowment that would ensure care of the tomb by the nuns. It became a popular local shrine until 1191.  Some two years after Henry’s death. Hugh of Lincoln, Bishop of Lincoln, while visiting Godstow, noticed Rosamund’s tomb right in front of the high altar. Unsurprisingly he called Rosamund a harlot, the bishop ordered her remains removed from the church and her tomb was moved to the cemetery by the nuns’ chapter house, where it would remain until its destruction during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII of England.

An English Martyr… (Sonnet)

Thomas Becket, man of God
once confidante of the King,
transferred his allegiance to God
as church opposed the King.

The King called out in despair
will no one rid me of this man,
knights hearing of King’s despair
answered the call, removing this man.

They killed him
this man of God,
they murdered him
upon his altar; to God.

Henry II and his knights paid a penance,
for the taking of Becket’s life.

Plantagenet Dynasty: Abbey of Fontevrault

Robert d’Arbrissel, Archpriest of the Rennes Diocese, carried out reforms on behalf of his bishop, until his death in 1095.  Hostility erupted following the bishop’s death, amongst the local clergy, forcing the Diocese to step in and remove Arbrissel from his position.

Arbrissel became a hermit, practicing a life of penance in Craon forest.

In 1096 he founded a monastery of Canons at LaRoe, with himself as the first Abbot.

Pope Urban II summoned Arbrissel to Angers, appointing him as apostolic missionary, and granted him the right to preach anywhere.  His preaching drew crowds of devoted followers.

In 1099, Robert d’Arbrissel, settled in the Fons Ebraldi Valley, where he established his monastic community.

The foundation flourished, attracting more followers to his dream , a new monastic order; the Order of Fontevrault, consisting of a monastery and nunnery, within a single complex, governed by an Abbess.  As such nuns and monks lived by the Rule of St.Benedict.

Aristocratic ladies often retreated or retired to the Abbey of Fontevrault, banished from court, discarded mistresses of Kings.  Robert d’Arbrissel ruled that the Abbess would never be one from within, but drawn in from outside, one with worldly experience.  In 1201, Pope Innocent III removed this rule.

The Abbey of Fontevrault is located in the Pays de la Loire region, a monastic city of Europe, and royal necropolis cemetery of the Plantagenet dynasty.

In 1804, it was saved from destruction when Napoleon transformed it, into a prison, and it remained so until 1985.

The Plantagenet Dynasty and Fontevrault Abbey

Founded in 1101 by Robert d’Arbrissel, known as the Royal Abbey of Fontevrault, characterised by its two orders, and governed by women.

Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) was Queen to Louis VII, King of France and King Henry II of England.

In 1137, her father died and she became heiress of the duchy of Aquitaine, the richest province of Southern France.

In 1173, Eleanor backed her sons, when they revolted against their father; King Henry II.

Her actions came at a price, Henry defeated his sons and imprisoned Eleanor until his death in 1189.

Richard I (The Lionheart) became King, and appointed his mother, Eleanor as his regent when he was in the Holy Land.

Richard died in 1199, in her arms, and was succeeded by his brother Prince John (John Lackland).

Eleanor retired to the Abbey of Fontevrault where she died in 1204.

In the early years the Plantagenets became major benefactors of the Abbey, and during Isabella d’Anjou time as Abbess, Eleanor of Aquitaine, made the Abbey her home.

With the passing of the Plantagenet dynasty, Fontevrault fell on hard times, and Abbess Matilda of Flanders (1189-1194) complained of extreme poverty.

In 1247, during the time of Abbess Mabile of La Ferte, nuns were permitted to receive inheritances to provide income for their daily needs, which was contrary to monastic custom.

Abbess Louise de Bourbon left her crest on many of the alterations she made, during her term of office (1534-1575).

The Holy Order at Fontevrault Abbey was dispersed during the French Revolution, and in November 1789, all Catholic Church property, became the property of the nation.

On the 17th August 1792, by revolutionary decree, the evacuation of all monasteries was so ordered, and completed by the 1st October 1792.

The Holy Order’s last Abbess, Julie Sophie Charlotte de Pardaillan d’Antin (1765-1792) died of poverty in Paris of 1797.

List of Abbesses:

Petronille de Chemille (1115-1149)

Matilda of Anjou (1149-1155)

Audeburge of Hautes-Bruyeres (1155-1180) 

Gilles (1180-1189)

Adelaide (1189-1189)

Matilda of Flanders (1189-1194)

Matilda of Bohemia (1194-1207)

Marie of Burgundy (1207-1208)

Alice of Bourbon (1208-1209)

Alice of Champagne (1209-1218)

Bertha (1218-1228)

Adele of Brittany (1228-1244)

Mabile of La Ferte (1244-1265)

Jeanne de Dreux (1265-1276)

Isabeau Davoir (1276-1284)

Marguerite de Pocey (1284-1304)

Eleanor of Brittany (1304-1342)

Isabel of Valois (1342-?)

Marie of Brittany (1457-1477)

Anne of Orleans (1477-1491)

Renee de Bourbon (1491-1534)

Louise de Bourbon (1534-1575)

Eleonore de Bourbon (1575-1611)

Louise de Bourbon de Lavedan (1611-1637)

Jeanne-Baptiste de Bourbon (1637-1670)

Gabrielle de Rochechouart de Mortemart (1670-1704)

Louise-Francoise de Rochechouart de Mortemart (1704-1742)

Marie-Louise de Timbrone (1753-1765)

Julie-Gillette de Pardaillan d’Antin (1765-1792)

Fontevrault Abbey during the Plantagenet dynasty became a mausoleum for King Henry II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, King Richard I of England, Joan their daughter, grandson Raymond VII of Toulouse and Isabella of Angouleme.  Their remains possibly destroyed during the French Revolution, or during change of use to a prison.  Today, the Abbey house figures represent Plantagenet sovereigns… Counts of Anjou and benefactors of the Abbey.

During the early years of the 1980’s Fontevrault Abbey, a former Plantagenet Mausoleum underwent restoration, turning it from a prison back to that of an abbey.  Much was based on the Abbey’s writings and how a Cistercian Abbey should look.

The Chapter House, would be located around the cloists, and used for ceremonies.  Fontevrault was built in the 16th century and its walls painted, covering up monastic images and texts, when it became a prison.

The Warming Room, as it became known, was the only area to have heating.

Three Dormitories are located on the first floor, access by way of a Renaissance staircase, and date back to the 16th century.

The Infirmaries were built in the 12th century, then rebuilt in the early part of the 17th century and originally formed the main courtyard of the Abbey.  This is where Nuns would end their days.

The Romanesque Kitchens were built in the 12th century.

Fontevrault, is no different to other Abbey’s, surrounded by gardens; Utilitarian kitchen garden, Cemetery orchard and a medicinal herb garden.

King Henry II Mistress: Rosamund de Clifford

King Henry II was smitten by Rosamund de Clifford, a beauty to behold, also known as Fair Rosamund.  She was born around 1140 to parents Walter de Clifford a Welsh Lord and one of Henry’s knights and Margaret de Tosny.

Rosamund claimed the heart of Henry, as she took him from his wife and Queen, one Eleanor of Aquitaine.

A crime of passion was taking place between Henry II the unfaithful King and his mistress; one Rosamund de Clifford.  Both England and France knew of the affair, and Eleanor was growing angrier by the day.

Eleanor could take no more, this woman a thorn in her side had to go.  Henry and Eleanor had grown apart, she had given him what he so desired male heirs, and moved back to Poitiers to run her kingdom.  However, news reached her ears that her husband and king, was openly taking his mistress on his travels, he was openly flaunting her, across his lands.

Eleanor and her knights, secretly landed on British shores, and headed for Woodstock Palace, where Henry’s mistress was hidden.  Only a single brave knight protected Rosamund, and was no match for battle hardened knights.  Eleanor was to confront her nemesis… Rosamund was given a choice; death by dagger or poison, she chose poison and her life was slowly taken from her.

Henry mourned Rosamund’s death.  She died in 1176 at Godstow Nunnery, becoming a Nun on her deathbed, and buried in Godstow Abbey Convent Church.  In 1190 Bishop Hugh of Lincoln was horrified to discover Henry’s mistresses tomb had a place of honour, and was duly removed to the Nun’s Chapter House.

This is a historical act… What we have here is a situation, one consisting of a Queen and a King’s mistress, fighting to the death for the love of King Henry II.

Wife of Henry II: Eleanor of Aquitaine…

Eleanor of Aquitaine was born in France of 1122, to parents William X, the Duke of Aquitaine and Aenor de Chatellerault.  In 1130, Eleanor’s mother, brother and sister died, and on Good Friday 1137, her father died at Compostela.

Eleanor became the sole heir to the duchy of Aquitaine, considered at the time, to be the largest and richest province in France.

In June 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII, and upon the death of King Louis VI on the 1st August 1137, Eleanor and Louis VII, became King and Queen of France.

Eleanor had influenced her husband Louis, in letting her accompany him on the Second Crusade to the Holy Land, to free Jerusalem for Christianity in 1141, aged nineteen.

It is said, the church was pleased to receive many warriors through Eleanor, but they had not bargained on the three-hundred ladies, who would tend to the wounded.

Their relationship, and lack of male heirs, saw the annulment of their marriage, approved by the Pope on the 21st March 1152.  Eleanor had only given Louis two children; Marie 1145-1198 who married Henry I, the Count of Champagne, and Alix 1151-1198 who married Theobald V, the Count of Blois.

On the 18th May 1152 Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry of Anjou, and on the 25th October 1154 King Stephen dies, leading to the coronation of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of England in December 1154.

On the 28th February 1155, their first child and son was born; Henry, followed by Matilda in 1156, Richard the Lionheart in 1157, Geoffrey the Duke of Brittany in 1158, Eleanor in 1162, Joanna in 1165 and finally John in 1166.

Eleanor suffered much neglect, from her husband, as he paraded his mistresses, like Rosamund Clifford, believed to be the mother of two of his many illegitimate children.

Neglect, drove Eleanor to return to Aquitaine, along with her son; Richard the Lionheart in 1173.  Eleanor even went to the point of encouraging her sons to rebel against their father.

In 1174, Henry exiles Eleanor and her royal women back to England, and she spent the next fifteen years as Henry’s prisoner.

King Henry II died on the 6th July 1189, and she witnessed her favourite son Richard the Lionheart ascend to the English throne.  His first order of business as the English King, was the release of his mother.

Richard was taken prisoner, whilst returning from the Holy Land, and on the 3rd February 1194, she delivers the ransom, which set her son free.

Eleanor saw her youngest son John, become King of England, and she worked as his envoy in France.  Eventually she retired, living the life of a nun, at Fontevrault Abbey where she was buried upon her death in 1204.

English Martyr: Thomas Becket

Man of God and King
friends to the end,
became bitter enemies
as church, opposed the King.

Loyal warriors of Henry II
carried out, the King’s wishes,
to rid him of this man
one; Thomas Becket.

They killed him
this man of God,
they murdered him
upon his altar.

Penance was demanded
from King and knights,
for the life of Thomas Becket
a true martyr, to his faith.

Plantagenet King: Henry II

1133  Henry, was born to Geoffrey, the Count of Anjou and Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I.

1151  Henry becomes the Duke of Normandy and Anjou, upon the death of his father, Geoffrey, the Count of Anjou.

1152  Henry marries Eleanor of Aquitaine, acquiring her duchy, giving him a powerful position in France.

1153  The Treaty of Westminster, agrees that Stephen would remain King of England until his death, upon which Henry the Duke of Normandy would be his successor.

1154  Stephen dies, and Henry accedes to the English throne; King Henry II of England.

1155  Henry appoints Thomas Becket as his Chancellor of England.

Pope Adrian IV issues the papal bull Laudabiliter, which gives Henry dispensation to invade Ireland and bring the Irish church under the Control of Rome.

1157  Queen Eleanor bore Henry a son, who was christened Richard.

1158  Queen Eleanor bore Henry a son, who was christened Geoffrey.

Following the death of his brother Geoffrey, Henry crosses to France and seizes the lands of Nantes.

1161  Theobald, the Archbishop of Canterbury dies.

1162  Queen Eleanor bore Henry a daughter, who was christened with her own name; Eleanor.

King Henry II appoints Thomas Becket as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, in the hope he will aid in the introduction of new Church reforms.

Henry showed his hand, accusing the clergy of leniency of crimes amongst their own.  He informed them, that appeals to Rome as granted by Stephen would cease.

1163  Henry put forward that those of the church who had committed crimes, should be handed over to secular authorities for punishment.

1164  Henry introduced the written “Constitution of Clarendon” which placed limitations on the Church’s jurisdiction over crimes committed by their own:

Henry passed a law which stated that any person found guilty in a Church court would be punished by a Royal court.

With no approval by the pop, Thomas Becket refused to sign the Constitution on the grounds these clerics have already been degraded by the Bishop’s Court.

In the autumn, following a stormy confrontation between Henry and Becket, Thomas Becket was forced into exile at the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny in France.

1166  The Assizes of Clarendon establishes trial by jury for the first time, for serious crimes.

Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster in Ireland, appeals to Henry for help in opposing a confederation of other Irish Kings.  In response to the appeal, Henry sends a force led by Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, thereby beginning the English settlement of Ireland.

Queen Eleanor bore Henry a son, who was christened John.

1167  Henry, enraged at Becket’s exile in France, decrees that all English students were to return home.

Becket remained in Exile over the King’s demand to have limitless control over the church.

1168  English scholars expelled from Paris settle in Oxford, where they found a university.

The quarrel between King Henry II and Thomas Becket assisted in the creation of Oxford University.

1170  Thomas Becket and King Henry II meet in Normandy, where they reconcile their differences.

On Christmas day, Becket returned to England, and at Canterbury Cathedral publicly excommunicates his enemies.

Thomas Becket is killed in Canterbury Cathedral on the 29th December by four of Henry’s knights; Reginald FitzUrse, William de Tracy, Hugh Mauclerk and Richard le Breton, who took the king’s words literally; “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest.”

1171-2  Henry invades Ireland and receives homage from the King of Leinster and the other Kings.  Henry is accepted as Lord of Ireland.

At Cashel Henry makes the Irish clergy submit to the authority of Rome, following the papal bull issued by the pope in 1155, giving him permission to invade Ireland.

Henry makes an agreement with Rhys ap Gruffyd, that he be the ruler of Wales in return for their loyalty.

1173  Henry’s sons; Henry, Richard and Geoffrey lead an unsuccessful rebellion against their father in Normandy.

Thomas Becket is canonized.

1176  Henry forgave his sons for turning against him… 

Henry set out what each son would receive upon his death.  Henry would rule England, Normandy and Anjou.  Richard would rule Aquitaine, Geoffrey would rule Brittany and John would rule Ireland.

Henry creates a framework of justice, creating judges and dividing England into six counties.

1179  Henry changes the law concerning the right of property.  A defendant had the right to opt for trial by jury or trial by combat.

1183  Henry’s young son; Henry dies on the 11th June.

1186  On the 19th August Henry’s son Geoffrey dies.

1189  King Henry II dies at Chinon Castle, in Anjou and is buried at Fontevraud in France.

Angevin Empire: Angevin Kings

The lands of the Angevin Empire extend from Scotland to the Pyrenees, and ruled by King Henry II and his sons; Richard I (the Lionheart) and John.  They were known as the Angevin Kings because Henry’s father was the Count of Anjou.  Henry acquired much of his continental lands before becoming King of England, by way of inheritance through his mother; Matilda daughter of King Henry I.  In 1150 the Duke of Normandy, and in 1151 succeeded his father as Count of Anjou, Maine, and Touraine, and in 1152 married Eleanor of Aquitaine, thus acquiring the duchy of Aquitaine along with Gascony, Poitou and Auvergne.

In 1113 Henry I conquered Brittany, and it became part of the Angevin Empire, when Geoffrey, son of Henry II, who had married the heiress of Duke Conan IV, succeeded as Duke of Brittany in 1171.  Although these lands were fiefs, held of the King of France, yet their concentration in one man’s hands was seen as a serious threat upon the French Monarchy, which itself had control of a smaller area of land.

As King of England from 1154, Henry had direct rule over England and South Wales, along with the principality of Gwynedd in northern Wales.  In 1171 Henry annexed Ireland, and took direct control of eastern lands of Ireland, retaining minimal land across Ireland.  From 1174-1189, William I, the Lion King of Scotland was captured in 1174, and was left with no choice but to accept Henry as his overlord.

Henry planned to divide the Angevin Empire amongst his sons, but this led to many quarrels and wars, whilst the French King stood back, watching and waiting.  Only Richard and John survived Henry’s death in 1189, John was confirmed as Lord of Ireland, a post that had been granted to him back in 1177.

John was subjected to Richard’s rules, as he took the title; King Richard I of England (Richard the Lionheart).  In the early part of John’s reign as King John of England, the French King, Philip II Augustus, took from him the lands of Normandy, Anjou, Maine and Touraine, and in 1259 by order of the “Treaty of Paris” the English would only retain the duchy of Guyenne (parts of Aquitaine with Gascony).

With its confiscation in 1337, and an English claim of the French throne, which duly led to the outbreak of the “Hundred Years War,” and by the end England found itself holding on to Calais in France, which it finally lost in 1558.


King Henry II:

Born:          5th March 1133 at Le Mans – France

Died:          6th July 1189 at Chinon Castle and buried at Fontevrault Abbey –

Reigned:   1154-1189

Parents:    Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and Empress Matilda

Married:   Eleanor of Aquitaine

King Richard I (The Lion Heart):

Born:          6th September 1157 at Beaumont Place, Oxford

Died:          Wounded on the 26th March at Chalus-Chabrol Castle and died on
the 7th April 1199 at Limousin and buried at Fontevrault Abbey

Reigned:   1189-1199

Parents:    King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine

Married:    Berengaria, daughter of Sancho V of Navarre

King John:

Born:          24th December 1166 at Beaumont Place, Oxford

Died:          18th October 1216 at Newark Castle and buried at Worcester Cathedral

Reigned:   1199-1216

Parents:     King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine

Married:    (1) Isabella of Gloucester

                   (2) Isabella, daughter of Count Angouleme

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