Strangely, the story begins in England with the first Plantagenet King, Henry II (1154-1189). Henry’s children, through their marriages, spread family connections throughout Europe. His daughters became Duchess of Saxony, Queen of Sicily with Henry’s daughter, Eleanor (1160-1214), married to King Alfonso VIII (1156-1214) of Castile and Toledo. King Alfonso VIII built the convent of Santa Maria la De Huelgas at the specific request of his wife, Eleanor of England.
Indeed they both died in the same year, 1214 and were entombed at the convent. The heraldic motifs on the tombs in the Las Huelgas Abbey, show the same Coats of Arms of Castile and the Plantagenet Lions, as on the Eleanor Cross at Geddington, although this also includes the later additions of the Arms of Leon and Ponthieu.
Alfonso VIII, King of Castile with his marriage to the daughter of Henry II of England, brought him under the influence of the greatest governing intellect of his time.
One of the daughters of this marriage was Berenguela (1180-1246) who became Queen of Castile and Leon. She married Alfonso IX in 1198 and in 1217 her son, became Ferdinand III (1198-1252), the Saint, King of Castile and Léon (1230), he founded the University of Salamanca and the Cathedral in Burgos. Ferdinand was canonized by Pope Clement X in 1671. After his first wife, Beatrice died in 1236, he married Joan of Dammartin (Ponthieu) his daughter by Joan was Eleanor of Castile.
Edward I (1272-1307) son of Henry III (direct descendent of HenryII) married Eleanor (1244-1290) in 1254 in the Las Huelgas Abbey and was knighted there in 1255.
Eleanor was born in the Los Heulgas Abbey in Burgos, Spain in 1244. She was one of the many children of Ferdinand III King of Castille and Leon. At this same Abbey in 1254 she married Edward, who on the death of Henry III was to become Edward I, the most powerful of all the Plantagenet Kings. He was 15 and she was 9.
History records that both stayed on many occasions at their royal palace at Geddington attending the church (originally Saxon but it was the Normans who created the Church we see today) and enjoyed hunting on the Chase.
On 28th November 1290, while on her way to join the King in Scotland, the Queen was taken gravely ill and died at Harby, Nr Lincoln. Her body was taken to and entombed in Westminster Abbey. The King was so grief stricken he gave orders that every place where her bier had rested a cross be erected in her memory. In total there were 12 crosses, but today only three remain. The one at Geddington is in the best condition and represents her love for the area and that the beir rested here on 7th December 1290. A picture of the Cross forms the menu frame for this Website.
Edward survived until 1307, but never visited Geddington again. The village declined over the next few hundred years doubtless not helped by the 14th century Black Death.