Eleanor Of Castile.

Wife And Queen To King Edward I.

Edward I and Eleanor of Castile. Photograph: Peter Fairweather.
Edward I and Eleanor, Lincoln Cathedral

Eleanor of Castile (whose Spanish title originally was Infanta of Castile) was married at the age of ten to Edward of Westminster at Las Huelgas in October 1254 when he was just 15 years old. Child marriages were the custom of the time and she was then sent to London to live with her husbands family for further education into their customs and language.

It was a marriage of convenience to suit Alphonso of Castile -Eleanor's brother, and Henry III of England -Edwards father, who were at war with one another. Alphonso had claimed Gascony in France and Henry in retaliation went to war and demanded Eleanor as a bride for Edward, a guarantee of good intentions. Alphonso stipulated that the marriage should take place "five weeks before Michaelmas Day, 1254."

The marriage would not normally be consummated until the girl was about 14 or 15 years old; in Eleanor’s case it would appear that she didn’t live with her husband until she was about 18 or 19 as her first child was not born until she was 20 years old. This was the first of 15 children.

Despite the original political intentions of their marriage, it is understood they were very much in Love. It is said that Edward and Eleanor were inseparable and she went on the crusades with him in 1270. When they returned and the King, Henry III died they were both crowned in Westminster Abbey on the 19th of August 1274.

In 1290 news reached Edward that Queen Margaret of Scotland, commonly known as The Maid of Norway, had died. He immediately hastened Northwards leaving Eleanor to follow at a more leisurely pace as she had just given birth to her 15th child (who did not survive).

Click for Lincolnshire map.
Stony Stratford
Waltham Abbey

On her arrival at Harby in Nottinghamshire about 8 miles from Lincoln she was taken ill with a fever. Eleanor did not improve and so the King was sent for but she died on the 24th of November 1290 before he arrived.

Her body was immediately carried to St Catherine’s Priory in the south of Lincoln where she was embalmed. Her viscera was sent for burial in Lincoln Cathedral and her body was sent to London for burial in Westminster Abbey where she lies at the feet of her father in law King Henry III. Her heart which travelled with the body was buried in Blackfriars Church.

From St Catherine’s at the bottom of "Cross o Cliff Hill". the cortege took 12 days to get to London and between 1291 and 1294 for each place where the procession rested overnight an Eleanor’s Cross was erected. The stopping places were at St. Catherine's Priory at Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, the Delapre Convent at Hardingstone (Northampton), Stony Stratford (nr Milton Keynes), Dunstable, Waltham Abbey, Cheapside and Charing Cross. The only remaining piece of the St Catherine’s cross left in Lincoln is kept in Lincoln Castle but there are three crosses remaining at Geddigton, Hardingstone and Waltham (there are replicas at other places such as Banbury).

Edward I died of dysentery at Burgh on the Sands near Carlisle on the 7th of July 1307 aged 68.


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