History

“Whom in life we dearly cherished and whom in death we cannot cease to love””.

Queen Eleanor Harby

Queen Eleanor died on the 28th November 1290 in the Nottinghamshire village of Harby near Lincoln.

Her grieving husband, King Edward I, arranged for her body to be embalmed and her viscera to be entombed at Lincoln Cathedral before being carried on a funeral bier to London for burial at Westminster Abbey.

Each overnight stop was later marked with an elaborate stone cross in memory of his beloved wife. Crosses were built at Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone, Stony Stratford (Old Stratford), Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham Cross and Charing (now Trafalgar Square). An additional cross was built at Cheapside, near where Queen Eleanor’s heart had been buried at the Dominican Friary, known as Blackfriars and where the heart of their third son who died in 1284, Alfonse was buried.

Only three of the original crosses survive; at Geddington, Hardingstone and Waltham Cross.  For more information about the crosses click here

The final cross was originally built at the top of Whitehall near St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Royal Mews, on the spot now occupied by the statue of King Charles I  on the south side of Trafalgar Square.  A replica of this cross, which was the largest of the 12 crosses,  now stands in front of Charing Cross Station..

In 2005 Kath Shaljean (1941-2009), a Quaker and lifelong campaigner who worked for many years helping homeless people at the Connection at St Martins (and its predecessor organisation, the St Martin’s Social Care Unit), noticed the connection between St Martins and the Queen Eleanor Crosses on a tea towel and it was Kath who first suggested that the route would make an excellent cycle ride.

Recommended reading

  • A Great and Terrible King by Marc Morris
  • Eleanor of Castille by Sarah Cockerill