On 28th November 1290, Eleanor of Castile died at Harby in Nottinghamshire. She had been married to King Edward I of England for thirty-six years, bearing him as many as sixteen children. Her body was embalmed and her viscera were buried in Lincoln Cathedral where they remain to this day. Her body then went in solemn procession from Lincoln to London and at the places where her body lay each night of the journey, Edward ordered a cross be built that passers by could offer prayers for her soul. Twelve crosses were built in all, but only three survive to this day.
My photograph for today is a shot of the best preserved of those three surviving Eleanor Crosses, the one in Geddington, Northamptonshire. Geddington had been the location of a royal hunting lodge, often frequented by Edward and Eleanor. The lodge was located just to the northeast of the church of St. Mary Magdalene. There is still a “Kings Door” within the church which leads to the path that royal visitors would have followed between hunting lodge and church.
The “cross” still stands forty feet high, although originally it would have been higher still, with an actual cross in place atop the surviving structure. This example is unusual in that it is triangular in section and is quite tall and slender. The other crosses are (or were) hexagonal and somewhat stouter in design. The Geddington cross stands above a natural spring and the foundations are of bog oak. The spring prevents the bog oak from drying out and decaying. The church can be found a matter of yards to the east of the cross and a wonderful bridge dating to 1250 crosses the River Ise a hundred yards or so to the southwest.
Both bridge and church would have been well known to Eleanor of Castile during her life, a fact that I couldn’t help reflecting upon as I stood watching a Range Rover splash noisily through the ford below the bridge today, nearly 720 years after her death.
Update 6th March 2011 : after writing up my entry for Day Three Hundred and Forty for which I photographed the Eleanor Cross at Hardingstone, I found this entertaining blog entry from Tom Hall. Just thought I’d pop a link here for those who might be interested.