This is great obviously, he was a pious man, and that’s a point made many times; but actually there’ssomething missing in the physical department.‘he was rather more credulous than befits a king and prone to listen to advice that was unworthy ofhim,’Wrote William of Newburgh. Louis lacked that most indefinable quality–judgement. One modernhistorian described his reign as one of energetic ineffectiveness. He was excessive in his passions–and one of his passions was his young wife; John of Salisbury would writethat ‘he loved the Queenalmost beyond reason,’with an affection that was‘almost puerile’.The suspicion is thatLezaylosthis hands from a young man’s desire to show off in front of his bride, which is quite a way to do it.And combined withthis passion and volatility was a rather over the top devotion to the church,which was essentially telling him that sex was a badidea; and thatifyou just could not get bywithout it, there were strict rules which meant, effectively, you could have sex only 54 days a year.The vast majority just ignored this and got on with it–it’s entirely possible Louison the other hand,didwhat he was told.Anyway, onwards without further incident to Poitiers, whereLouis was officially installed as Count.They thenlearnedthaton 1stAugust the older Louishad died–soEleanor’s husbandwas now KingLouis VIIof France. There was no needfor Louis to be crowned–the Capetian tradition was for theheir to be crowned king during his father’s lifetime, just to remove any possible doubts. However, itdid cause something of a problem since Louis had to leave immediately to deal with somemalcontents in Orleans, and so Eleanor proceeded separately to Paris.So, we have Eleanor now arriving at the court at Paris. Where she found a couple of things. Shefound that things were different there; gone were the troubadours of her father and grandfather’scourts; not that there was no music, but the whole flavour and emphasis was different. The life andcustoms of the northern court was dominated much more by the revived ascetism of the church.Churchmen like Suger and Bernard of Clairvaux were in positions of power and influence, and totheir eyes and to the eyes of the Parisian courtiers the south was a dangerous place, a wild place; itwas uncontrolled, licentious, unruly. There’s a mountain of disapproval, coupled with disdain–sprinkled with thefairy dust offear and envyforthe sophistication of the Aquitanian court. Thereputation that would later grow up was a story ofEleanor asthis painted Jezebel, trailing sexuallicence and immorality in her wake like perfume, irresponsible, wild, headstrong, demanding.Eleanor was just 13; this is the problem with accepting Eleanor’s birth date as 1124 rather than1122.So the reputationof a 17 year old Louis head over heels and a court horrified at sexual licenceis very difficult to square with a 13year old. Now Louis seems to have been rather immature andunsure of how to behave so I can buyhis adoration of his young wife, but it is very likely that Eleanorand Louis did not have sex straight away–not impossible as we know, but usually at such ayoungage, they waited. What’s more likely initially is that the Parisians were horrified at Eleanor’sluxurious style of dress and of the large Poitevin household she brought with her. The reputation forsexual licence would come later.Ok, so we have Eleanor installed at court. She came with some expectations that she would have asay in the running of the kingdom–but she faced rather daunting competition–intheform of twoinstitutions–the mighty church, and a mighty mother in law
While Eleanor was busily prepared by her household ladies for the big event, the union ofnot justtwo people but alsoof France and Aquitaine, the news would have been spreading rapidly round thecourts of William’s vassals. We do notknow what they thought. Ralph Turner’s view was that HughLusignan in La Marche, or Robert II in the Auvergne would have been pretty relaxed about the idea.That they would have assumed that the younger Louis would immediately become the Duke de factoandde jure, and be off back to distant Paris, leaving them even freer than normal to run affairs asthey saw fit without the heavy hand of the boss crimping their style. And in fact Ademar III intheLimousin, who seemed to have been preparing for bloody waragainst WilliamXover the marriage ofhis daughter, would have been particularly relieved, as would the groom’s family under Walgrin II.Let me remind you that if you want to see a list of these contemporary rules, go to the websitewhere you can see a regnal and comital list.Turner himself points out that the troubadours sangsongs lamenting the imposition of the foreign, crude and unsophisticated northerners over theirsouthern idyll; although the troubadours of course, had noneed to worry about anything likepractical politics.The other folks who were not so sure were Louis, Suger and his son. Because young Louis set offwiththe most massive entourage, reported to be over 500 strong. Now part of this would no doubthave been to impress the locals, the medieval equivalent of wearing a History of England T Shirt–you know, just an unarguable sign of quality. Or that is,it wouldif such a thing had existed, which isdoesn’t. I digress, so they would have been dressed to impress, but it seems that Suger and Louiswere also worried that there might be local objection or even resistance.Hence the size of theentourage and maybe also the speed-Louis raced down to Bordeaux like a rat up a drain, arriving inBordeaux by 11thJuly1137, and fora journey of 354 miles with a household that large, that’s quickgoing. Nor was this just Louis and household knights; Abbot Suger was there, and great men like theCount of Blois, and Ralph, the Count of Vermandois.Ralphof Vermandoiswill re-appear in our story so I might tell you just a little about him. Ralph wasparticularly important because he had royal Capetian blood in his veins, and was another of LouisVI’s right hand men. He was well connected among the great and the good of Northern France–married toEleanor of Champagne daughter of the Count of Blois and Sister to king Stephen ofEngland. He was of an age when novelists of the medieval times might begin to use the word grizzled–he was 52 in 1137, so whether or not the grizzled word should be applied, he was certainly too oldfor the words spring chicken.Anyway enough ageism, though you’ll understandthe reason for saidageism in due course.Theglittering entourage arrived on the east side of the Garonne, the first visit to Bordeaux by themonarchof all France for 300 years. You have to think that there must have been all kinds ofspeculation in Eleanor and Louis’ heads as they prepared for the following day when at last Louiswas rowed across the river and the two of them met. Socially awkward surely, to a degreeunmanageable totheEnglish. Letters were issued to the 4 winds, summoning the lords of Aquitaineto the wedding, and over the next two weeks the city would have filled up with their entourages,and brightly coloured pavilions sprung up all around. Invitations to the wedding were for 2 reasonsof course–both to help the happy couple celebrate, but also for the more practical reason to taketheir homage, their oaths of fealty. Because young Louis was now Duke of Aquitaine as well as Kingof France, and the lords of Aquitainemust come and lay their hands in his and swear to be his man.This is a point to make most clearly; Eleanor was immediately relegated to second place as soon asshe married. It’s a curious situation because all rightsto the Duchy came from Eleanor and no onedisputed that; but as soon as she was married, Louis was Duke, and although there are plenty of later charters that bore her name alongside Louis’, there were many that did not. I can feel youbristling with the unfairness of it all, and I am sorry but that’s the medieval world for you. Secondly,as soon as he was king of France, Louis would call himself King of the French and Duke of Aquitaine–the Duchy remained separate, asper the rules laid down by William X,but boy were the Capetiansover the moon with this new wealth and power which had fallen into their laps, and they were goingto make sure nobody missed the point.Anyway, most ofWilliam’s men cameto lay their hands in Louis’-but not all. TheCount ofAngouleme was notable by his absence.Another missing face was oneWilliam de Lezay, whoheldthe castle of Talmont from the Duke of Aquitaine. Notes were taken, resolutions silently made.Otherwise, however, the wedding went off without a hitch Eleanorwore scarlet to the wedding.Inmy first cut of this episode, I wrote some tripe about being married in red until someone thankfullyreminded me that Scarlet was of course, a type of the finest and softest woollen cloth and hadnothing to do with the colour. I shudder with embarrassment.There was no need for a dowry or any of that stuff–a quarter of France was deemed sufficientwhich is you know, nice, but Eleanor did give a gift which was significant, because itsurvives–andfor other reasons we’ll get to one day. It was a vase of Rock Crystal, a rather nasty looking thing butpresumably both valuable and something of a family heirloom–it had been given to Eleanor’sgrandfather William IX by a Muslim ally duringhiswars in Spain.The niceties observed, and with a few choice rewards to the AB of Bordeaux who had done such agood job looking after Eleanor and Petronilla, the happy couple started the journey to Paris.Thejourney was also part of the investiture process–along they way they met withas many of theregions’great men as possible. On the way occurred an incident which should give you an idea ofthe sort of lawlessness of Aquitaine of the time; afterall we’ve already had a bride kidnapping.ButThis one wastargeted directlyat Eleanor and her husband.Louis and Eleanor did not feel up totaking on someone as powerful as Count Walgrin of Angouleme yetfor non attendance at thewedding, but they did feel quite up to tackling the smaller fry that was William de Lezay, and as thehappy couple set off towards Poitiers, they steereda path that would take them byhis castleTalmont. They were going to teach him a lesson.So there we are, Eleanor and Louis travelling along in the July heat when suddenly the arrows beginto fly and blood curdling screams emerge from the bushes–and the party is under attack. What’sgoing on–are these bandits or what? It turned out to be William de Lezay–he’d been warned anddecided to get hisretaliationin early; he’d capture king and use his position of strength to cut a deal.It was a close run thing, but theroyalparty in the end was too strong for him, and it was he that wastaken prisoner, not Louis. Well, kind of fine. But what happened next was a pointer to Louis’scharacter. Under the eyes of his young bride, he orderedLezay’sbroughtto himand made him layhis armsout. And then Louis personally swung his sword cut offLezay’s hands. It’s an extraordinaryaction; impetuous, wildly over the top.We might ask at this point, then, what kind of man was this Louis. Well, he gets talked up bychroniclers, to a degree–but the truth seeps out between the lines, like water through any of thegrouting jobs I have been foolish enough to attempt.ThisquotedescribesLouis as aadult‘whose entire life isa model of virtue, for when, a mere boy, he began to reign, worldly glory did notcause him sensual delight’.