09 February 2015

Today's Princess: Aénor de Châllerault

Aénor's lusty father-in-law, William IX
via Wikimedia Commons
Not much is known about this French noblewoman. We know that Aénor de Châllerault was the daughter of the Viscount Châllerault, a vassal of the Duke of Aquitaine, who was in turn a vassal of the King of France. We know that she married William X Duke of Aquitaine. We know that she had three children and we know that she died at about the age of 27, around the same time that her only son died.

That we know so little about her is not unusual for a 12th century lady. What is remarkable is that we know so much more about the women around her. After all of these centuries, she still exists in the great shadows created by her infamous mother and her powerful daughter.

Aénor was one of three or four children born to the beautiful and vivacious Amauberge de l'Isle Bouchard and Aimery I de Châllerault. Better known by the nickname "Dangereuse" or "Dangerosa," Aenor's mother was renowned as a seductive beauty. She caught the eye of her husband's equally sensuous overlord, William IX of Aquitaine. With a reputation as a ladies' man and as a poetic troubador, William took the opportunity of his own wife's absence to abduct Dangerosa. This was a fairly common practice of the day. Even the highest-born ladies might be kidnapped and raped and/or ransomed by high-born lords, but Dangerosa seems to have been a willing victim.

Over the protests of William's wife (although not of Dangerosa's husband) and under excommunication by the Pope, the risqué couple set up castle together with her taking on the role although not the title of Duchess. This caused a great rift between William and his teenaged heir, the future William X. Dangerosa healed the father-son rift by offering the younger William her only daughter as his bride. Aénor left her father's court to live with her mother and her mother's lover, as the wife of her de facto stepfather's son.

It was into this environment that Aénor's own daughters Eleanor and Petronilla were born and raised. The two girls were quite young when their mother died, but Dangerosa lived until Eleanor was almost 30. In fact, it was shortly after Dangerosa's death that Eleanor escaped her first marriage to King Louis VI of France, evaded kidnappers, and eloped with the future King of England.

What would Aénor have thought of all of this? That's the most fascinating thing that we don't know about her.

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