Beautiful, ambitious and powerful, both revered and reviled throughout history, Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most controversial and colourful personalities of the Middle Ages.
Heir to the grand duchy of Aquitaine, Queen of France - as the wife of Louis VII - and then married to Henry II, she became the most prominent woman in England. Many saw her as a ruthless virago, governed by a lust for power, who schemed against her husband and dominated the lives of her sons, Richard the Lionheart and King John. Shakespeare portrayed her as a "monstrous injurer of heaven and earth".
Yet there was another side to this powerful queen consort. Worshipped by men and idealised in the songs of the troubadors, she was the sex symbol of her age. She also became renowned as a generous and strong ruler, throwing off the constraints that shackled twelfth-century women. Among her achievements was her patronage of the abbey at Fontevrault, a refuge for battered wives.