ROBIN HOOD (2010)
Played by: Eileen Atkins
Starring Russell Crowe in the title role, Robin Hood tells the classic legend of Robin Longstride with a twist. One part of the story that is surely not based on fable, but on fact, is the reign of King John, son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. In the movie (and true to history), Eleanor disapproves of John’s actions and favors her son Richard the Lionheart. I didn’t love this film overall, and Eleanor’s role is a small one, but Eileen Atkins is simply fabulous in her portrayal of the woman who had been married to two kings, and mother to three more.
THE LION IN WINTER (1968)
Played by: Katharine Hepburn
No summation of Eleanor films would be complete without The Lion in Winter. When I am reading historical fiction about Eleanor in her later years, I cannot help but envision Katharine Hepburn in the role that won her an Oscar for Best Actress. The Lion in Winter is set in 1183 AD, and Henry II is holding Christmas court. He invites his mistress Alais (a Princess of France), Alais’s brother Phillip (the King of France), his imprisoned wife Eleanor, and their three sons John, Richard, and Geoffrey. Here he hopes to announce his heir – and each of his invited guests hopes to have some claim to the throne. The film was adapted to a TV Miniseries with Glenn Close as Eleanor (she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television).
Played by: Pamela Brown
As Lord Chancellor of England, Thomas Becket was Henry II’s friend and confidante. Henry thought to widen his range of power in both Church and State when he appointed Becket Archbishop of Cantebury in 1162, but a rift is created between the two when Becket decides to obey God before his King. It is not known what Eleanor’s real role was in this conflict historically and Becket takes many liberties. But it’s a great movie and I enjoyed Pamela Brown’s performance as Eleanor. There was also a silent film version of Becket from the early 1920s, with Mary Clare cast as Eleanor.