Queen Eleanor's Cross


King Edward I was devastated when his Queen, Eleanor of Castille, died at Harby on 28 November 1290. What had started as a marriage of political convenience became a marriage of love. The nation mourned as the funeral cortege set off for Westminster Abbey, Eleanor's burial ground.

Eleanor was 45 when she died of a slow fever. After three days of mourning at Harby, she was taken to Lincoln where her body was embalmed. The cortege set off from Lincoln and passed through Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone (Northampton), Stony Stratford,Woburn, Dunstable, St. Albans, Waltham, West-Cheap, to the final stopping place at| Charing, London. This somewhat unusual route allowed her corpse to pass through more frequented areas where she was well known and loved - news traveled fast that she had saved her husband's life during the Seige of Acre in 1272 by sucking poison from his arm from an assassin's dagger

Through biting winter conditions, this 159 mile journey took 15 days, but to show the happiness and joy that his beautiful wife had given him throughout their life together (they were betrothed to each other when Eleanor was just 10 years old), Edward requested that Richard Crundale, his Master Mason, provide a basic design for a cross to be erected in 12 of the 15 resting places. Their purpose was to inspire sentiment, their presence to implore the passer-by to remember and pray for the soul of his 'Queen of Good Memory' as she was called.

Of the 12 crosses erected, only 3 remain, 2 in our county at Geddington and Northampton and the third at Waltnam. If is believed that many crosses were destroyed during the Cromwellian rampage and of course by 'furious elements'. The surviving Charing Cross, the best known of all I the crosses, is in fact a replica, but is still quite magnificent. Richard Crundale, Edward I's master mason, contracted Northampton mason Johannes de Belo (John Battle) and Simon Pabenham to construct and design embellishments for the crosses at Hardingstone, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable and St. Albans and were paid 400 each for these five. Work commenced in 1291 and chisels were finally put down in 1294.

Each cross had a flight of steps and was built in three stages, the first stage consisting of 3, 6 or 8 sides bearing carved shields of the Queen's heraldry England, Castille, Leon and Ponthieu.

The second stage was a platform upon which stood as many statues of Eleanor as there were sides. A tabernacle encased each statue to give the impression of a shrine. The third stage continued the column and was surmounted by a cross. These structures are still our finest examples of 13 th century work,

The most splendid and beautiful of the three remaining crosses, built in the Geometrical period, it stands close to the town centre on London Road, and commemorates the date when Eleanor's cortege rested at Delapre Abbey on 9th December 1290. Known locally as the 'Queens Cross', it has undergone much thoughtful restoration since its medieval beginnings. Its limestone steps have long since crumbled and were replaced by Derbyshire Grit in 1884. The statues for all the crosses throughout England were sculpted in London by William of Ireland, and transported to the individual sites. Although the top of the monument has disappeared, it remains a fine example of our local history, as any passer-by will discover.





The cross during its aniversery clean up