Thursday, 28 November 2013

Eleanor, England's most romantic queen

Eleanor of Castile was loathed by many of her English subjects in her lifetime.  The wife of Edward I, who died on November 28th 1290, was seen as a dangerous influence at court.  Following her marriage to Edward, heir to the throne of England, in 1254 there were many in her new country who feared all she would bring with her when she arrived to take up her royal role were greedy relatives and friends.  That image never really altered.  But in death, Eleanor was transformed from grasping to ultimate romantic heroine. 

Eleanor of Castile, Queen of England, became one of the most romantic figures in medieval Europe after her death and that legacy has endured for over 700 years
Her legend began through the deep grief her husband showed on her death.  So devastated was Edward on the loss of his wife that he ordered a series of crosses to be erected at each of the twelve places where Eleanor's coffin rested on the long journey to Westminster Abbey for her funeral.  The princess born in Spain, who had ruled a court that took her from London to the Holy Land, had died at a house in Harby, Northamptonshire. The route her husband took back from the nearby city of Lincoln to their capital would be marked with signs of love that have lasted over seven centuries.
The Eleanor Cross at Northampton is one of just three still surviving in its original form
The king remained devoted to his wife's memory and kept her anniversaries faithfully.  He did marry again but, in a move that surprised contemporaries, he and his second wife called their only daughter Eleanor in honour of his first consort.  And that romantic reputation meant that Eleanor of Castile's reputation changed as time went on.  After her death, another legend arose - that she had sucked poison from a wound her husband suffered while on crusade on the Holy Land.  It is almost certainly apocryphal but it added to the image of a queen of romance.  And that image remains today.  The rows of her lifetime are forgotten.  What lingers is the love with which her husband remembered her. 

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