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Queen Eleanor's crosses: 1290

Throughout the autumn of 1290 Eleanor, the queen of England, lies sick at Harby some ten miles west of Lincoln. Her husband, Edward I, is with her when she dies, on November 28. Eighteen years earlier they were together on crusade in the Holy Land and she is believed to have saved his life when he was wounded at Acre. Grief-stricken at her death, he finds a profoundly effective way of commemorating his beloved wife.

Her body is embalmed. On December 4 a funeral procession leaves Lincoln for the 12-day journey south to burial in Westminster Abbey. Wherever the coffin rests for the night, the king later marks the spot with a carved stone cross in Eleanor's memory.


The twelve Eleanor crosses - the first in Lincoln and the last a few hundred yards from Westminster Abbey - strike a lasting chord in the English imagination.

By the 20th century, only three of the original crosses survive - at Geddington and Hardingstone in Northamptonshire, and at Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire. The last in the sequence and the most famous of them all, Charing Cross in the Strand, is a 19th-century replacement. The original was destroyed in 1647 by anti-royalists in England's Civil War.


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