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.

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.

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