Eleanor and Edward – a summary
extracted from pages 246-247 of “Eleanor of Castile – The Shadow Queen” by Sara Cockerill
Effigy of Eleanor in Westminster Abbey
The starting point for any consideration of Eleanor’s family must be the most important constituent of it to her – her husband. The more time one spends looking at the life of Eleanor the more apparent it becomes, that she and Edward were genuinely incredibly close, and not really happy out of each other’s company. Marc Morris concludes, and I entirely agree, that their shared tastes for horses, hunting, chivalry, romance and chess had provided a good base for a happy marriage. More than this though, it is fairly clear that they shared a sense of humour – each was plainly ready to laugh and to find fun in amusing pictures and little word plays and both also enjoyed the kind of boisterous fun which marked the coronation. Beyond these shared interests and tendencies, however, one can see in the household records the hallmarks of active respect, consideration and kindness which promote a happy marriage.
Victorian interpretation of Eleanor
So, repeatedly each can be seen paying attention to the interests of the other, and doing their best to help. Each helped the other financially – Eleanor gifting Edward with 1,000 marks when he and everyone else was out of cash following the Gascon expedition, and Edward helping with purchase monies and funds for improvements for her properties. For Eleanor, Edward was the centre of her world, and she identified herself completely with his interests – as she had been raised to do. Everything gave way to his interests and she would uproot herself from her work for years at a time to be with him in Wales and in Gascony, as well as on crusade. Although Eleanor had her own office and powerbase of very able employees, there was no “Team Queen” operating in opposition to “Team King”; unlike the position under Eleanor of Provence and Henry III. Eleanor and her staff were parts of Edward’s team, and never sought to be perceived otherwise. But it was far from being a one way street. Having charged Eleanor with a role in property management, Edward was supportive of Eleanor’s very active interest in this role; to the extent of inconveniencing himself in repeated dislocations.
Edward I (not contemporary)
Each can also be spotted in the records planning pleasant surprises for the other, and trying generally to make life more pleasant for their spouse. So in Gascony, Eleanor sent home to get Edward a particularly special hunting bird for his birthday, while on another occasion Edward, mindful of Eleanor’s book obsession and vibrant theological interests, commissioned a psalter and book of hours as a present for her. Facing a social engagement too far, Eleanor agreed to go by herself, and made arrangements for musicians to be hired to amuse Edward, while she was discharging their social obligations. Meanwhile, Edward made sure that everywhere they went, gardeners and decorators went ahead, so that Eleanor need not face the shabby lodgings which were her aversion.
One surprising thing which emerges from the record is that Edward was surprisingly sentimental – rather more so, it would appear, than Eleanor. So the records of his charitable oblations for 1283-4 show him giving extra alms on the occasion of their wedding anniversary and also in those nervous days in the run up to Eleanor giving birth to Edward, as well as the expected celebratory donations on the birth and christening of a prince. When Eleanor was ill and he could not actually be with her, he sent thoughtful gifts of food, with which he hoped to tempt her appetite or recoup her strength. The public face of his mourning is well known, but in addition to the well-known gestures after Eleanor’s death of commissioning spectacular funeral monuments he provided chantries at the place of her death, and at Leeds castle where they had spent happy time together. He also took for himself the chess set with which they had played chess together.
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