Aquitania), an area roughly corresponding to the southwestern third
of France, was one of the three divisions of ancient GAUL. After 500
years of Roman rule, it fell to the Visigoths in the 5th century and
then to the Franks when they defeated the Visigoths in 507. The
Franks rarely maintained strong control over Aquitaine, and in about
725 it was raided by the Muslim conquerors of Spain. The
Frankish leader CHARLES MARTEL crushed these invaders in 733, and
Aquitaine became part of the Carolingian empire.
In the 9th century
the leading counts and other nobility gradually freed themselves of
royal control. Bernard Plantevelue (r. 868-86) and his son, William I
(r. 886-918), whose power was based in Auvergne, called themselves
dukes of Aquitaine, but their state disintegrated. William V (r.
995-1030) founded a new duchy of Aquitaine based in Poitou. It
reached its zenith under William VIII (r. 1058-86). When William X
died (1137), his daughter ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE married Louis VII of
France, whom she divorced in 1152 to marry Henry II of England. She
maintained an elegant chivalric court at Poitiers. Her sons, Richard
I and John, and their successors as kings of England were dukes of
Aquitaine (later known as GUIENNE).
The French conquered
Poitou in 1224 and other parts of Aquitaine in the next century.
English victories during the HUNDRED YEARS' WAR enabled Edward III to
reconstruct the old duchy in the 1360s, but France finally conquered
the remainder of it in 1453.