They were 3rd cousins and therefore related within the seventh degree since consanguinity was determined by counting up to the nearest common ancestor. I read sources that said that they did not bother with a Papal dispensation or "ecclesiastical approval". However this source says otherwise. I am not sure how accurate it is.

“According to Meade [@ 150], Eleanor and the Duke of Normandy sought and received a Church dispensation so that this new marriage could not be voided on the grounds of consanguinity, because -- like most of the royals of the 12th century -- Eleanor and her new husband also shared ancestors within seven degrees.”

This is important because if a dispensation was not granted it means that the marriage was null and void, and Henry II’s children were illegitimate.

  • 2
    Whichever was the case, note that no one seems to have claimed the children were illegitimate.
    – user31561
    Aug 21, 2018 at 11:05
  • Unfortunately, Meade doesn't footnote the claim in your question. However, if a bishop's dispensation sufficed, I imagine it wouldn't have been difficult for two very powerful people to get that fairly quickly. Aug 22, 2018 at 12:39
  • I am not an expert on the many ways that power hungry churchmen tried to dominate people's lives in the Middle Ages. So I don't know whether the marriage would be considered void or the children illegitimate if Henry II and Eleanor failed to get a dispensation before marriage. What were the rules in the 12th century and did Henry and Eleanor ask for a dispensation later? I note I have read that men often omitted getting dispensations for consanguinity, so that they would have a reason handy to get an annulment in the future if they wanted one.
    – MAGolding
    Aug 22, 2018 at 20:10

2 Answers 2


One source says the marriage between Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine was annulled by the Catholic Church on the ground of consanguinity: Eleanor and Louis were too closely related for the church to tolerate. Other sources say they were officially divorced:

When [Henry] was sixteen he was knighted at Carlisle by King David of Scotland, when he was eighteen he succeeded to Normandy and Anjou, when nineteen he married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the divorced wife of Louis VII of France, and secured her inheritance. Source: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07220b.htm

The eldest daughter of the William, Duke of Aquitaine, she was married to Louis VII, King of France. During the Second Crusade, her relationship with her husband soured, and in 1152, they officially divorced. Shortly afterward, she married Henry of Anjou, who in two years would become King of England...

Though at one time Louis had adored his wife, after 15 years of marriage he was willing to let her go for the sake of the Capetian royal line. She had not borne him a son and heir, only two daughters. Eleanor, on cue, illuminated her predicament, explaining that her husband’s infrequent visits to her bed accounted for the fruitlessness of their union. In the end, the marriage was annulled on the convenient grounds of consanguinity: Eleanor and Louis were too closely related for the church to tolerate. Following the dissolution of her marriage, Eleanor regained possession of Aquitaine and Poitou.

[Historian Simon] Schama writes, “Barely eight weeks after Eleanor’s divorce in May 1152, Henry stood at the altar beside this considerably older woman...” Source: https://britishheritage.com/eleanor-of-aquitaine/

When Louis VII, King of France, married Eleanor of Aquitaine. because she was heiress to the vast territories of Poitou and the Aquitaine, no one was greatly surprised. There was more surprise when the royal couple sought an annulment in 1152, since the King thereby lost control of the Aquitaine, a territory much larger than medieval France. The mistake, which must have been glaring enough anyway, was exacerbated when just two months later Eleanor married the Count of Anjou, better known to us as Henry II, King of England, and claimant to the French throne. Henry and Eleanor had seven children. Source: http://www.midi-france.info/190202_england.htm

Edit - additional information to provide clarity:

Louis VII married Eleanor of Aquitaine then their marriage was annulled by the Catholic Church on the ground of consanguinity, thereby allowing Eleanor to marry Henry II in May 1152. Since the Church allowed Henry II (who was also the Duke of Normandy and Count of Anjou) to marry Eleanor then their children were legitimate in the eyes of the Church.

Although Henry II had Eleanor imprisoned after a failed revolt (in 1173) her imprisonment ended after the death of Henry II in 1189. She retired to the monastery at Fontevrault in Anjou, where she died in 1204 at the age of 82. There is no suggestion that the children of Henry II and Eleanor were illegitimate, nor did they seek a divorce/annulment.

Henry II (5 March 1133-6 July 1189), King of England (25 October 1154-6 July 1189), Duke of Normandy, Count of Anjou

Richard I, Coeur de Lion, Richard the Lionheart, (8 September 1157 – 6 April 1199) King of England (6 July 1189 – 6 April 1199), Duke of Aquitaine, Duke of Normandy, Count of the Anjou

John (24 December c. 1166 – 18 October 1216) , King of England (6 April 1199 — 18 October 1216), Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and Count of Anjou

Henry III (1 October 1207 – 16 November 1272), King of England (18 October 1216 - 16 November 1272), Lord of Ireland and Duke of Aquitaine

  • 1
    How does that help vis a vis the marriage with Henry?
    – user31561
    Aug 21, 2018 at 21:14
  • If the marriage between King Louis VII and Eleanor had not been annulled by the Church, then any offspring from Henry II and Eleanor would have been illegitimate. Henry II was also the Duke of Normandy and my understanding is that the issue here was getting the marriage of Louis VII and Eleanor annulled thereby allowing Henry II and Eleanor to marry. I will add some additional information in my answer.
    – Lesley
    Aug 22, 2018 at 10:21
  • 1
    "If the marriage between King Louis VII and Eleanor had not been annulled by the Church, then any offspring from Henry II and Eleanor would have been illegitimate." Yes, but unless I'm misreading the question, it's asking if the Henry Elenour marriage had an official 'go ahead' or not.
    – user31561
    Aug 22, 2018 at 10:37
  • Well, if I have misunderstood what's being asked here, then it would be good if the person asking this question could make that clear.
    – Lesley
    Aug 22, 2018 at 10:43

Perhaps Henry did not seek a dispensation because the delay might have been an opportunity for someone to raise the (in this instance) rather more fraught issue of affinity, based on (presumably not widely known at the time) rumors that Eleanor had had an illicit liaison with Henry's father. Presumably there were far fewer people who might have known about that potential problem, and they probably had little incentive to raise it once the amazingly speedy (two months after the annulment) marriage had already occurred.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.