Harlequin, there was usually a sweet heroine matched against a scheming, not-very-nice rival who always knew just how to put a spanner in the works. Now our stories have more complexities to the characters of both the protagonist and the rival. Good and bad are not nearly as well defined.
In the case of Henry II we have Rosamund playing the role
of the sweet heroine and Eleanor being the witchy rival. Some stories have Eleanor poisoning Rosamund, but that's what those are, just stories. Eleanor probably felt jealous of Rosamund- after all she was the mistress of Eleanor's
husband but then in the course of their marriage both Henry and Eleanor had affairs. None of Henry's seemed to have significance until he met Rosamund Clifford.
When Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine she was nine
years older than he was but she was the best catch in Europe. She had already been married to Louis King of
France but the marriage had been annulled, with Eleanor retaining her vast holdings and wealth. Henry and Eleanor made a matching pair. Both were single minded in pursuit of what they felt to be their rightful heritages, both were
strong willed individuals who let nothing stand in their way, slow to accept the consequences of their actions. Indeed their marriage seemed to be a great success, uniting the Norman and English holdings with the wealth of Aquitaine.
They had four surviving sons together, two of them to succeed Henry as kings of England,(Richard I and John) as well as three daughters.
But by the time their youngest son John was born, they were starting to drift apart. Their strong personalities meant clashes of the will and their hate became as strong as their love Their love hate relationship was portrayed by Katherine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole in the movie The Lion In
Winter. Both had taken lovers during their marriage, but Henry chose one mistress who appeared to capture his heart and was the antithesis of Eleanor. Her name was Rosamund Clifford. Henry set her up in a private castle surrounded by gardens and as legend would have it a labyrinth to keep the
jealous Eleanor from finding her. It was said that Henry actually considered divorcing Eleanor so that he could marry Rosmund but he was unable to get Eleanor's cooperation to get an annulment. By this time, Eleanor had left England for the south of France to look after her own holdings there. She seemed more suited to the court of love climate than to the chilly England.
One legend had it that Rosamund had been given as a gift from Henry a case to hold her embroidery, and a silk thread led Eleanor through the twists and turns of the labyrinth to find Rosamund's bower. In fact Rosamund, guilt ridden and always with religious leanings, was not poisoned at all and
eventually joined a nunnery and died there. Eleanor may have been jealous but there is no evidence she made any attempt on Rosamund's life. For most of the duration of the affair she was busy in France looking after her own affairs.
Henry's sons revolted against him, with their mother's support. When the revolt was unsuccessful Eleanor was imprisoned by Henry. It wasn't until after his death that she was released. During this period of imprisonment she still travelled often with Henry but never without a custodian.
Eleanor was to outlive both Rosamund and Henry by many
years. She lived to the age of 82. During the years of Richard's reign she acted as regent while he was away at the crusades. She was buried beside her husband and son Richard.