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 Eleanor & Peter of Blois

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PostSubject: Eleanor & Peter of Blois   Eleanor & Peter of Blois EmptySun Nov 02, 2008 1:02 pm

Eleanor of Aquitaine and Peter of Blois

In 1173 Peter of Blois wrote a letter to Eleanor of Aquitaine, chastising her for creating dissent between herself and her husband, Henry II, and between her sons and their father. Peter was requested to write this letter on behalf of Archbishop Rotrou of Rouen, whom it is alleged was prompted to do so by Henry II of England.

This letter from Peter of Blois to Eleanor of Aquitaine is a misogynist piece of “it's all your fault”.The Church in the medieval period was still blaming the woes of mankind upon the sins of Eve - she who took the apple from the serpent must still be held accountable for all that follows. At no stage must Man himself take responsibility for his actions.

In this extraordinary letter, Peter lays the blame for all of Henry II’s “ills” firmly at the door of Eleanor, who dared to remove herself from Henry’s household. She alone is held to blame for the civil strife that permeated throughout Henry’s Kingdom - both in England and on the Continent.

“So the woman is at fault who leaves her husband and fails to keep the trust of this social bond.” And “We know that unless you return to your husband, you will be the cause of widespread disaster. While you alone are now the delinquent one, your actions will result in ruin for everyone in the kingdom.”

At no stage is Henry himself called upon to be held accountable for his own actions - no blame his wife. And as long as Eleanor returns to her husband - peace will be restored.

“In your reconciliation, peace will be restored from distress, and in your return, joy may return to all."

A rather interesting take on the situation. Was Peter so blind that he could not see the forest for the trees? Surely, this is an overly simplistic solution to a problem that had been brewing for years.

And then this bit:
“We are certain that he will show you every possible kindness and the surest guarantee of safety.”

So, all will be forgiven upon Eleanor's return to the marital fold. And just where did Eleanor spend the next ten years of her life - oh, that’s right - imprisoned by Henry. This is the "kindness" Henry shows all who come to seek his forgiveness.

But what of Henry - how is he coping with the absence of his rebellious wife and brood:
“He has suffered many anxieties, offenses and grievances.”

So, the disaffection of Eleanor and her sons was starting to cause Henry II to receive some “bad press”.

“…you provoke disaster for the lord king, to whom powerful kings bow the neck”

All the other rulers were laughing and calling him names behind his back! Yes, poor Henry - he suffered so much - with all this dissent,how could he be expected to rule in a calm and rational manner - how could he decide which prelate to cause to be murdered, which of his son’s fiancés to take to his bed, or how many towns to over-tax to support his military campaigns.

But Eleanor is not exhorted to merely return to Henry, so that all can return to normal. No, she must “come back to [her] senses, with sorrow and tears” - in other words, it is Eleanor who must repent, on bended knees, begging to be allowed to return to her husband - fully contrite for her sins in daring to leave him. There is no indication of Henry repenting his sins, or accepting to take some of the blame for the obvious breakdown of the marriage, nor is Henry required to show remorse. No - the blame is solely Eleanor’s to bear - and she alone must take full responsibility not only for the reconciliation but the contrition and penance.

Translation by M. Markowski of "Peter of Blois' Letter 154" (from the Latin text in Chartres Ms #208; Cf. Migne, P.L. 207:448-9). This letter can be found courtesy of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook © Paul Halsall May 1997

"For my part, I adhere to the maxim of antiquity: The throne is a glorious sepulchre."
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