When I was about ten years old, I read about Eleanor of Aquitaine in the book De Gouden Dolk [The Golden Dagger] by Thea Beckman. Eleanor is a minor character in the book; the employer of a servant that the main character, a young crusader, fell in love with.
Learning about Eleanor
Queen Eleanor fascinated me. I found out that she was born about 1124 and died at age 80 in 1204. She was the Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right, and the only woman ever to be Queen of both France and England, by virtue of her marriages to Louis VII of France and Henry II of England. She joined her first husband on crusade and was rumored to have had an improper relationship with her uncle Raymond of Antioch. Her children include the famous King Richard Lionheart and King John (Lackland), who signed Magna Carta. Eleanor was controversial, a strong woman in a man’s world.
I have to admit I’ve become somewhat of an Eleanor-groupie. I have a whole bookshelf with publications about her.
I’ve visited the castle at Poitou where she was grew up and later stayed to govern Aquitaine.
I’ve visited the castle at Chinon where she lived with her first husband, King Louis VII.
I’ve visited the Tower of London, her main residence when she was in England.
I’ve visited the Fontevraud Abbey where she spent her final years and where she’s buried.
My husband is no longer surprised if our seemingly random holiday destination turns out to have a link to Eleanor. When I am interested in a topic, I mean it!
Link to Eleanor
Can you imagine my delight when, after doing genealogy for several years, I found documentation that one of my ancestors was a descendant of the Dukes of Brabant, and that they in turn were descendants of Eleanor of Aquitaine? Eleanor is supposedly my 26th great-grandmother, in generation 29, with the impressive Kekule number 445,479,215. How cool is that?
There is just one problem. As my genealogical skills grew, I realized that the documentation just isn’t up to par. Some links are completely undocumented, and the few citations for the early lines refer to publications and not to original records.
I have to face the truth: my line of descent from Eleanor of Aquitaine does not meet the Genealogical Proof Standard. It doesn’t even meet the first criteria: Reasonably Exhaustive Research. I haven’t done any research beyond studying some of the available published literature. I don’t have one shred of reliable evidence for several of the early links between me and her. This doesn’t mean that the links are incorrect, however. They could be correct. PLEASE let them be correct!
Blogging about my journey to verify the line
So it’s back to square one. Starting with myself, I am going back one generation at a time, finding reliable documentation, analyzing it, and proving the parents before moving on to the next generation. If I can do that twenty-eight times, I will have proven my line of descent.
I invite you to come along on this journey, which I will write about in a series of blog posts. Each blog post will document one link between me and Eleanor and provide you with real-life examples of research possibilities and challenges in the Netherlands in different periods.
It’s probably going to be a long trip, since I don’t have much time to work on personal projects, so don’t expect a quick resolution. For the early period, sources are scarce and will require on-site research in the Netherlands, France, England, or Belgium. On the other hand, the series could end quickly if I discover that one of the reported ancestors is incorrect.
You can follow the blog posts via this website or by signing up for the free Dutch Genealogy Newsletter. The blog posts will be filed under the Eleanor of Aquitaine tag. I will kick off the blog posts for each link next month, starting with myself.