After the marriage between Eleanor and Louis VII, Eleanor traveled to Poitiers, two lords —Theobald V, Count of Blois, and Geoffrey, Count of Nantes, brother of Henry Curtmantle, now called, Henry II, Duke of Normandy — tried to kidnap and marry her to claim her lands. Despite the annulment with Louis VII, Eleanor remained Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right making her a very wealthy, powerful and desirable woman.
Henry II, King of the English, Duke of Normandy
As soon as she arrived in Poitiers, Eleanor sent envoys to Henry II, Duke of Normandy and future King of the English, asking him to come at once to marry her. On May 18, 1152 (Whit Sunday), eight weeks after her annulment, Eleanor married Henry “without the pomp and ceremony that befitted their rank.”
Eleanor was related to Henry even more closely than she had been to Louis VII: they were cousins to the third degree through their common ancestor Ermengarde of Anjou, wife of Robert I, Duke of Burgundy and Geoffrey, Count of Gâtinais, and they were also descended from King Robert II of the Franks. A marriage between Henry and Eleanor’s daughter Marie had earlier been declared impossible due to their status as third cousins once removed. It was rumored by some that Eleanor had had an affair with Henry’s own father, Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, who had advised his son to avoid any involvement with her.
The marriage instantly reignited Henry’s tensions with Louis VII: it was considered an insult, it ran counter to feudal practice and it threatened the inheritance of Louis and Eleanor’s two daughters, Marie and Alix, who might otherwise have had claims to Aquitaine on Eleanor’s death. With his new lands, Aquitaine and Normandy combined, Henry now possessed a much larger proportion of France than Louis. Louis organised a coalition against Henry.
Fighting immediately broke out again along the Normandy borders, where Henry of Champagne and Robert captured the town of Neufmarché-sur-Epte. Louis’s forces moved to attack Aquitaine. King Stephen of the English responded by placing Wallingford Castle, a key fortress loyal to Henry along the Thames Valley, under siege, possibly in an attempt to force a successful end to the English conflict while Henry was still fighting for his territories in France. Henry moved quickly in response, avoiding an open battle with Louis in Aquitaine and stabilising the Norman border, pillaging the Vexin and then striking south into Anjou against Geoffrey, capturing one of his main castles (Montsoreau). Louis fell ill and withdrew from the campaign, and Geoffrey was forced to come to terms with Henry.
Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine
In November 1152 the King Stephen and Duke Henry II of Normandy ratified the terms of a permanent peace. Stephen announced the Treaty of Winchester in Winchester Cathedral: he recognised Henry as his adopted son and successor, in return for Henry paying homage to him; Stephen promised to listen to Henry’s advice, but retained all his royal powers; Stephen’s son William would pay homage to Henry and renounce his claim to the throne, in exchange for promises of the security of his lands; key royal castles would be held on Henry’s behalf by guarantors whilst Stephen would have access to Henry’s castles; and the numerous foreign mercenaries would be demobilised and sent home. Henry and Stephen sealed the treaty with a kiss of peace in the cathedral. The peace remained precarious, and Stephen’s son William remained a possible future rival to Henry. Rumors of a plot to kill Henry were circulating and, possibly as a consequence, Henry decided to return to Normandy for a period.
On October 25, 1154, King Stephen died and Henry became king of the English. Eleanor was crowned queen by the archbishop of Canterbury on December 19, 1154. She may not have been anointed on this occasion, however, because she had already been anointed in 1137. Over the next 13 years, she bore Henry five sons and three daughters: William, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey, John, Matilda, Eleanor, and Joan. John Speed, in his 1611 work History of Great Britain, mentions the possibility that Eleanor had a son named Philip, who died young. His sources no longer exist, and he alone mentions this birth.
Eleanor’s marriage to Henry was reputed to be tumultuous and argumentative, although sufficiently cooperative to produce at least eight pregnancies. Henry was by no means faithful to his wife and had a reputation for philandering. Henry fathered other, illegitimate children throughout the marriage. Eleanor appears to have taken an ambivalent attitude towards these affairs. Geoffrey of York, for example, was an illegitimate son of Henry, but acknowledged by Henry as his child and raised at Westminster in the care of the queen.