|King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine|
Two days ago, I started clicking on leaves on Ancestry.com. Within a couple of hours, I discovered that I am a direct descendant of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. No one in my immediate family had prior knowledge of this – not even my mother, who has been doing our genealogy for as long as I can remember.
It’s an incredible discovery – one that has astonished me, my mother, a few of my nerdy friends and a cousin – but also very appropriate. I’ll explain why later.
I could type out all the greats, but I’d rather write other words, so just put 19 greats together and put a granddaughter at the end. That’s the lineage, and it runs through my father’s side of the family. I kept clicking leaves, verifying sources, checking records – and after going through a huge number of Allens who colonized and settled early on, I eventually started finding titles – such as Lord, Count, Baroness – and once I hit the name Plantagenet, I ran with my laptop back to my mother’s office and told her my discovery. She said, “I named you appropriately.” Here’s why:
My mother, a devout feminist, an avid reader and history buff, named me after two of the most influential women in her life: Eleanor Roosevelt and Eleanor of Acquitaine.
While Roosevelt embodied much of the independent spirit and ideals I have and share today, Eleanor of Acquitaine is the only woman to have ever been the Queen of France and England – both by marriage. She joined her first husband, Louis the VII, on the Second Crusade. During her marriage to Henry the II, Eleanor tried to overthrow him, and provided military support for her sons in a revolt against him. The revolt failed, and Eleanor was placed under house arrest for 16 years. She is still looked upon today as one of the most powerful women in Medieval history.
I was named after two women who defied stereotypes and became heroines and idols for future generations of women. To know that I’m a direct descendant of one of them makes me smirk just a little.