“730 years ago, in December 1290, the body of Queen Eleanor lay in Geddington, mourned by King Edward I and his court. This was a stage in the most famous funeral cortege in English History and the end of a royal love match. Eleanor had died in Harby, near Lincoln, while the court was on its travels. King Edward had vowed that he would honour her memory by putting up a splendid stone cross of the finest workmanship at every stop on the way to London and Westminster Abbey. In the next few years, twelve crosses were erected, the first at Lincoln, the twelfth at Charing: Geddington was the fourth stop.”
700 years later, in 1990, Queen Eleanor was still remembered and admired. So much so, that a celebration of her passing was organised in the form of a pageant. It was to happen in the very place that she lay, in the Church of St Mary Magdelene. The village has to thank the Revd Richard Dorrington for the success of this venture, and who was quoted as saying, “It was in the September of 1989 that I first thought of the pageant, and I must thank all of the members of my family for their support and sacrifice and also those who kept faith, even though I know at times, you had your doubts.”
A report in the following issue of The Newsletter commented, “It was a considerable challenge which faced Richard, but when his courageous decision came to fruition, 700 years precisely after the historical event, writers, producers and actors responded magnificently to the challenge. They presented us with a spectacle that was profoundly and deeply moving. King and Queen, priest and peasant, monks and messengers, lords and ladies – we congratulate you all on a splendid achievement.”
The final words in this Newsletter report: a definition of stress from Richard: “Having a horse and an Archdeacon in the church at the same time!“
On 29 November 1990, Westminster Abbey had their own celebration of the 700th Anniversary, with an Evensong and Commemoration of the death of Queen Eleanor of Castile.
76 Pilgrims from Geddington and Weekley visited Westminster Abbey to attend this service. Thanks to the good offices of the late Lady Scott, they were given a guided tour of the Abbey prior to the service. During the singing of the closing hymn of the service, a procession, led by the Dean of Westminster, made its way to the tomb of Queen Eleanor where Mrs Joan Bennett laid a wreath and the Dean offered prayers of remembrance and thanksgiving.
30 years later, on 6 December, 2020, we decided to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the pageant by including the video made at the time, by the late Eddie Toseland. Technology has moved on considerably, since 1990, but knowledge of the layout of our church, helps the imagination of that event. It runs for 115 minutes, so be patient, as it’s well worth the viewing.
So many familiar names: so many no longer with us.