This book is a novel, fiction, fantasy even. But everything in it about Eleanor and her family and her times is true.
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DURING HER LIFETIME Eleanor of Aquitaine had not been a patient woman. While she had lived, she had learned to bide her time, but biding one's time is a very different thing from patience. After she had died, and before she had arrived in Heaven, it had been necessary for Eleanor to learn some patience. Heaven wouldn't allow her Up until she had. But there were times, like today, when she wasn't sure whether she had really learned any patience at all or whether she had simply become too tired to be quarrelsome.
Today she was restless. She paced back and forth so rapidly that the swish of her robes ruffled the treetops below. For today was the day when her husband, King Henry II of England, was to be judged. Today she would at last know whether or not after centuries of waiting he would join her in Heaven.
Henry had died even before she had. He had died in the year 1189, in July of that year, and Eleanor had spent fifteen years on Earth beyond that. But Eleanor's life had not been perfect; she had done things on Earth for which there had been some Hell to pay, so she had not arrived in Heaven immediately. Finally, the world's poets had pleaded and won her case. Eleanor had been a friend of music and poetry while she had lived, and musicians, artists and poets play an important role in the admissions policies of Heaven; with their pull Eleanor had moved Up. Even so, she had not arrived in Heaven until two centuries after she had died and long after her first husband and some of her best friends had made it. Now it was late in the twentieth century, and Henry still had not moved Up.
Eleanor began drumming her fingers on a nearby cloud.
"You keep that up, and you'll have the Angels to answer to for it," said a voice, one cloud removed.
"Oh, Mother Matilda, I swear you could nag a person to a second death."
A man sitting beside Mother Matilda pleaded, "Your mother-in-law is only reminding you that we have all been requested to stop drumming our fingers and to stop racing back and forth. The Angels don't appreciate having to answer hundreds of requests for better television reception."
"I know, William, I know," Eleanor answered.
"After all," Mother Matilda added, "we are every bit as anxious as you are to know the outcome of today's Judgment."
"You ought to be patient, my lady," William said.
"Yes," Eleanor answered. "I know. I know what I ought to be. I have always known what I ought to be."
But the truth was that Eleanor actually enjoyed not being patient. When she felt impatient, she felt something close to being alive again. Even after more than five hundred years in Heaven, Eleanor of Aquitaine still missed quarreling and dressing up. Eleanor missed strong, sweet smells. Eleanor missed feeling hot and being cold. Eleanor missed Henry. She missed life.
She sighed. She wanted to be there the minute Henry arrived if he would; there was a great deal to tell him. It had taken Eleanor almost five hundred years to catch up on the two hundred she had missed. She often thought that the worst thing about time spent in Hell is that a person has no way of knowing what is happening on Earth. In Heaven at least, one could watch, even if one could not participate. Only Saints and Angels were allowed to interfere in Earthly affairs. Everyone in Heaven had periods of Earth time about which they knew nothing. Everyone except the Saints; they always came Up immediately following death, and, of course, Heaven had always been home to the Angels. But Saints were hardly the people to contact when you wanted to catch up on the news. Most of them had been more concerned with Heaven than with Earth even during their lifetimes, and now it was almost impossible to move them even a whisper away from the Angels.