Eleanor of Castile

Eleanor of Castile

Eleanor of Castile,

1st wife of King Edward I



1241, the daughter of King Ferdinand III of Castile and Jeanne de Dammartin, Countess of Ponthieu


1 November 1254 Edward I, at Las Huelgas convent, near Burgos, Spain


19 August 1274, with Edward I, at Westminster Abbey, London


28 November 1290 near Grantham, Lincolnshire


Lincoln Cathedral (viscera); Westminster Abbey (body)

he marriage of 13-year-old Eleanor and 15-year-old Edward grew into a true love match. Eleanor accompanied Edward on crusade and on his campaigns in the north of England, and shared his interest in hunting and chess.

The couple’s constant companionship resulted in many children, either fifteen or sixteen, born between 1264 and 1290. Only six lived to adulthood: one son, Edward, and five daughters. Eleanor was not known as a particularly indulgent or attentive mother although she did ensure that her daughters, as well as her sons, could read and write.

Eleanor herself was interested in literature and regularly exchanged books with her brother Alfonso, King of Castile. Her main focus, though, was on Edward. Eleanor did not have a reputation as a soft and gentle woman and she was not popular with the English people. She did not seek political influence as such, but was uncompromising in her insistence on her “rights.” She was also aggressive, even ruthless, in her personal pursuit of wealth and property. She had few scruples about her methods of acquisition.

A contemporary verse paired her acquisitiveness with Edward’s penchant for raising taxes: The king would like to get our gold, The queen, our manors fair to hold.

Eleanor was with Edward, who was in the north of England preparing for a military campaign, when she died. Her innards were buried at Lincoln. Edward then escorted her body south to London for a state burial at Westminster.

The grieving widower later marked the sites between Lincoln and London where the funeral cortege had stopped with twelve monumental sculptural “Eleanor crosses.” He also adorned her tomb at Westminster Abbey with a full-size gilded bronze effigy.

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