Simon Doubleday November 18, 2015


For a child born in Spain, and raised in Córdoba and Seville, the court of King Edward I of England must have seemed insufferably cold.

For decades, Queen Leonor—“Eleanor of Castile,” who had married the English prince in Toledo in 1254—tried to bring some southern sophistication to the small island, an emissary of the medieval Spanish enlightenment overseen by her half-brother Alfonso the Wise. After her death, the Eleanor Crosses, which Edward dedicated to her memory, would stretch from London as far north as Lincoln, where she is immortalized in the cold masonry of the cathedral.

Scholars from Spain were present in numbers at the summer 2015 meeting of the Society for the Medieval Mediterranean, which gathered in Lincoln. Here, I presented a paper on Leonor’s niece, Beatriz, the Wise King’s first-born daughter and future queen of Portugal, and addressed the question of “illegitimacy:” itself an insufferably cold word that should, I think, be exorcised from our vocabulary. Today, Lincoln has become a hub of medieval Spanish history, with no fewer than three historians—Jamie Wood, Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo, and Robert Portass—specializing in a field that no longer lies on the far frontiers of medievalism.