Eleanor of Castile – Edward I’s Queen

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Eleanor of Castile was born in late 1241 as the daughter of Ferdinand III of Castile and Joan, Countess of Ponthieu. Her early years are shrouded in mystery, but we know she was present at her father’s deathbed in 1252.1 He was succeeded by her elder half-brother, now King Alfonso X, who was 20 years older than Eleanor. Her education was excellent, well beyond that normal for the time.2

Arrangements for Eleanor’s marriage to the future King Edward I of England were concluded in March 1254. They were married at the convent of Las Huelgas on 1 November 1254. The marriage must have been quickly consummated because Eleanor gave birth to a daughter who died soon after her birth in May 1255. They travelled to England in late 1255.3 She gave birth to another daughter named Catherine in 1261, but the little girl died after she was ordered to leave Windsor when her father-in-law and husband were captured at the Battle of Lewes. Another daughter, born in January 1265, named Joan, also died not much later. Edward managed to escape in May 1265, and the couple were finally reunited in August. Eleanor’s first son named John was born in July 1266, followed by a second son named Henry in May 1268 and another daughter named Eleanor in June 1269.4

In 1270, Eleanor and Edward set out to join a crusade led by Edward’s uncle, King Louis IX of France. She gave birth to two daughters while on the crusade but only one, named Joan of Acre, survived. The couple returned home after an assassination attempt on Edward. They arrived in Sicily in late 1272 to the news that both her father-in-law and her eldest son were dead. Despite now being King and Queen, they were in no hurry to return to England. In February 1273, they passed through Rome and visited the Pope, and in the summer they had reached Gascony, where a third son named Alfonso was born. They then travelled to Ponthieu to visit Eleanor’s mother, and Eleanor left her youngest daughter her mother’s care. They then crossed to England where they were finally crowned together in August 1274.5

In March 1279, Eleanor’s mother died, and she succeeded her as Countess of Ponthieu, but she never used the title in England. Eleanor was too busy bearing children. We do not know the exact number of children the couple had, but there are at least 11 daughters and four or five sons. They did not have much contact with their children. When Henry died in 1274, neither parent visited him. When Alfonso died in 1284, there were no memorial masses. This may seem distant, but perhaps Eleanor was unwilling to emotionally attach herself as she had lost so many children already.6 Despite their losses, Eleanor and Edward were devoted to each other and she often accompanied him on campaign. While on campaign, she gave birth to a daughter named Elizabeth in 1282 and a son named Edward in 1284. She went with him to Gascony in 1286 and it was there that she contracted malaria. From then on, she was frequently unwell.

The couple were in Harby when Eleanor’s health rapidly deteriorated. She died on the evening of 28 November 1290 and Edward was devastated. He ordered that her body should be embalmed and she was given a grand funeral cortege. It would take 12 days to reach London and Edward ordered that a stone cross be erected at every place where Eleanor’s body stopped. Her bowels and internal organs were buried in Lincoln, while her body was interred in Westminster Abbey.7

  1.  Sara Cockerill – Eleanor of Castile, The Shadow Queen p. 38-40 (UK & US)
  2.  Sara Cockerill – Eleanor of Castile, The Shadow Queen p. 59
  3. Elizabeth Norton – England’s Queens from Boudica to Elizabeth of York p.150 (UK & US)
  4. Elizabeth Norton – England’s Queens from Boudica to Elizabeth of York p.151
  5. Elizabeth Norton – England’s Queens from Boudica to Elizabeth of York p.152-153
  6. Elizabeth Norton – England’s Queens from Boudica to Elizabeth of York p.152-154
  7. Elizabeth Norton – England’s Queens from Boudica to Elizabeth of York p.156

About Moniek Bloks 2666 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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