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Eleanor, our muse!

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Did you know that the spread of the Arthurian legend throughout Europe was due to a woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was twice queen, first of France and then of England, and lived in the 12th and 13th centuries?

A still image from the intro of the videogame Legends of the Round Table, where Eleanor of Aquitaine's ghost raises from her tomb.

As an educated woman, she made significant contributions to the literary and poetic life of her time by offering patronage and support to “troubadours” (poets who used the southern medieval French dialect) and “trouvères” (poets who used the northern medieval French dialect), whom she gathered at her court.

From her grandfather, William IX of Aquitaine, the first troubadour, she inherited a love for the Occitan language, the birthplace of fin' amor, which celebrates the art of courtly love through recited or sung poetry. Eleanor, one of its early devotees, worked to spread this tradition through the French and then English courts, surrounding herself, for example, in 1153, with Bernard de Ventadour, who dedicated a song to her.

The recumbent effigies of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart at The Royal Abbey of Fontevraud.

Regarding the Arthurian legend, Eleanor commissioned the translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae to the poet Wace, who composed a version enriched by nearly 15,000 verses: Le Roman de Brut - Brut referring to Brutus, the mythic Trojan hero and founder of the kingdom of Britain. This romance narrates, among other things, the battles of King Arthur leading Normans and Bretons against his enemies: the Saxons and the Romans. Arthur, presented as the ancestor of Henry II Plantagenet - who was both the king of England, the count of Maine and Anjou, the duke of Normandy, and Eleanor's second husband - is, like the latter, ready to defend France, which, according to Wace, he has full legitimacy over.

This text, in addition to being a literary work, is also a remarkable piece of political propaganda that testifies to Eleanor of Aquitaine's involvement. It also serves as a reminder that behind the knights and the king, there is always a powerful woman, akin to Queen Guinevere, whose position Eleanor constantly recalls.

View of the inner court of the Fontevraud Abbey.

At the age of 80, Eleanor, who was the greatest woman of her time, was buried at the Fontevraud Abbey, in the royal necropolis of the Plantagenets, where her effigy still resides today. The colorful funerary statue holds a book in its hands, the title and content of which remain unknown. Perhaps Eleanor is reading the story of Arthur and his knights for eternity?

That is what we have chosen to see in it: this evocative image serves as the introduction to our game, and Eleanor of Aquitaine is the storyteller of the adventures you are about to experience.


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