16. Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122?-1204)
A rare educated woman in the Middle Ages, Eleanor made Aquitaine a destination for intellectual and philosophical pursuits and one of the richest regions of France. Upon her father’s death when she was just 15, she became the Duchess of Aquitaine and Countess of Poitiers. Her beauty and leadership skills caught the eye of Louis VII of France, who she married in 1137.
During her marriage to Louis, she helped broker trade agreements with the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Her marriage to the King of France was annulled in 1152 and two years later, Eleanor became the Queen of England upon her marriage to Henry II. The two had 8 children together, but later became estranged when Henry II imprisoned her for colluding with their son Henry to take over the throne. But 16 years later, she was released when Henry II died and became Queen mother to their second son Richard the Lionheart. She remained Queen mother until her death when her youngest son, King John, was still in power.