When I first saw Braveheart, I got hooked on Scotland. Naturally, I had to learn the true history. As I read about the War for Scottish Independence and the time before the death of Alexander III and his granddaughter, the Maid of Norway, stories started swirling about my head. That history led me to write my Highlander romance novels, The Marriage Alliance, Claiming the Highlander and The Laird’s Right.
During my learning spree, I discovered Edward I of England and his wife Eleanor of Castile. History remembers Edward as a king that changed the English government and legislation, conqueror of Wales and as the Hammer of the Scots. There were many facets to this couple that as we look back with modern eyes is not very nice or to be truthful—he was a right bastard—sometimes.
As a husband, history remembers him differently.
On November 1, 1254, Edward married Eleanor of Castile in the monastery of Las Huelgas in Burgos, Spain. Their marriage much like others royal ones was a political alliance. Eleanor was better educated than most medieval queens and was considered a keen businesswoman.
But when they first married, they were nothing more than teenagers and Eleanor soon became pregnant. Sadly, her daughter was stillborn. However, she went on to survive sixteen pregnancies.
This royal couple was rarely apart. She even accompanied him on military campaigns. When Edward went on Crusade, Eleanor went with him and gave birth to her daughter known as Joan of Acre. A tale about that time shows their love. Edward was injured they say with a poison dagger and that Eleanor sucked out the poison. Sadly that tale is false but it shows how their contemporaries viewed their relationship. In fact, Edward was not known to have had extramarital affairs and fathered no children out of wedlock.
In November 1290, Eleanor was traveling to Lincoln when she became ill. Seven miles from Lincoln, they halted at Harby, Nottinghamshire and took up residence a house nearby. Word of the Queen’s illness reached Edward. He rushed to her side. Three days later, with Edward at Eleanor’s side, she died. It was the 28th of November and Eleanor was 49. They were married for 36 years.
For most of way back to return to London, Edward accompanied his wife’s body to Westminster Abbey. Edward ordered memorial crosses to be erected at each site that was an overnight stop between Lincoln and Westminster. They were known as Eleanor’s Crosses. Only three survive. The best is located in Geddington, England.
In a letter from Edward, he wrote about his wife, “whom living we dearly cherished and whom dead we cannot cease to love.”
Edward remarried nine years later because his sons were young and could die. The son Edward, the youngest of Eleanor’s children and the first to hold the title Prince of Wales, was about six years old and survived to become Edward II. His second wife gave birth to a daughter who they named Eleanor.