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Aquitaine (Latin: 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. Aquitaine logo 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.

John B. Henneman
Source: The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Release #8, ©1996



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Blue Guide: Southwest France
(Aquitaine, Dordogne to the Pyrenees)
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Frank Woodman
Paperback / Published 1994
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A House in the Sunflowers: Summer in Aquitaine
(Thorndike Large Print General Series)
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Ruth Silvestre, Michael Grater (Illustrator)
Paperback / Published 1996
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France Regional Aquitaine: Michelin Map #234
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Map / Published 1990
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Practical Travel A-to-Z : Aquitaine (France)
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Paperback / Published 1992
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Women of the Twelfth Century: Eleanor of Aquitaine and Six Others, Vol 1
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Georges Duby, Jean Birrell (Translator) / Paperback / Published 1997
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