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Edward I and Eleanor of Castile

Edward I and Eleanor of Castile

19 August 1274

Edward was born in the Palace of Westminster 17 June 1239, the eldest child of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, and was baptised in the Abbey. In 1254, aged just 15, he married Eleanor, daughter of Ferdinand III, King of Castile and Leon. Edward was on his way home from a Crusade when he heard of his father's death in 1272 but he did not hurry back and his coronation in the Abbey did not take place until 19 August 1274. His nickname was "Longshanks", being 6 feet 2 inches tall, and he is chiefly remembered for his battles against the Welsh and the Scots and for his legal reforms. In 1296 he brought to the Abbey the Stone of Scone, on which Scottish kings had once been crowned, and made a special oak Coronation Chair to enclose it. (The Stone was returned to Scotland in 1996). Eleanor died in 1290 and nine years later Edward married Margaret, daughter of Philip III of France. Edward died 7 July 1307 at Burgh on the Sands in Cumberland and his embalmed body was taken first to Waltham Abbey in Essex before being brought to Westminster for burial in the chapel of St Edward the Confessor on 27 October. His large grey marble tomb has no effigy or decoration and the inscriptions "Edwardus Primus Scotorum Malleus. Pactum Serva" (Edward the First, Hammer of the Scots. Keep Troth) were not painted on it until the 16th century. In 1774 his tomb was opened and inside a Purbeck marble coffin his body was found nearly entire, wrapped in a waxed linen cloth and wearing royal robes of red and gold with a crimson mantle. He had a gilt crown on his head and carried a sceptre surmounted by a dove and oak leaves in enamels.

Photographs of the tombs can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library. Further reading: "Edward I" by Michael Prestwich (Yale University Press, 1997).

Eleanor of Castile

Eleanor of Castile (born about 1244, died 1290) has a fine tomb in St Edward's chapel, with a gilt bronze effigy, cast by goldsmith William Torel in 1291. She died at Harby in Nottinghamshire and Edward erected memorial crosses at the places where her funeral procession rested on its way to London. She holds the string of her cloak in one hand but the sceptre in her other hand has now gone. The tomb slab and pillows beneath her head are covered with the emblems of Castile and Leon (castles and lions). On the ambulatory side is a carved iron grille of exquisite workmanship by Thomas of Leighton Buzzard. The Norman-French inscription can be translated as "Here lies Eleanor, sometime Queen of England, wife of King Edward son of King Henry, and daughter of the King of Spain and Countess of Ponthieu, on whose soul God in His pity have mercy. Amen".

Photographs of the tombs can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library. Further reading: Edward I by Michael Prestwich (Yale University Press, 1997).


When Henry III died in 1272 he was succeeded by his son, Edward I.

Edward I captured the Stone of Scone from the Scots in 1296 and he had an oak chair made to contain the sacred Stone. The Coronation Chair is on display in the Abbey and the Stone, returned to Scotland in 1996, is now on display at Edinburgh Castle.

In the 1700s mischievous Westminster Schoolboys carved their names onto the Chair, one even claimed to have slept the night in it! For George IV's 1821 coronation the pinnacles were deliberately sawn off and (after they were replaced) the Suffragettes blew one of the pinnacles off the Chair when they hung a handbag, containing a small bomb, on it!

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