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Simon Doubleday

Eleanor of Castile

Alfonso’s half-sister Leonor—daughter of Fernando III and his second wife, Jeanne de Dammartin—was raised with her mother in the sophisticated courtly circles of Córdoba and Seville. Here, she developed much the same literary passion and cultural imagination as the Wise King. Her remarkable career has been traced by historians of queenship such as John Carmi Parsons and, in a recent study, Sarah Cockerill.

In the summer of 1254, in Toledo, she married Prince Edward of England, the future Edward I. Unusually for a medieval king, Edward would never have a mistress, and the twelve “Eleanor Crosses” that he commissioned after she passed away in 1290 still dot the land from London as far north as Lincoln.

Eleanor of Castile, as Leonor came to be known in England, brought Castilian and even Andalusi influences to her adopted country, transforming aesthetic attitudes to gardening and decoration, as well as in taking an active role in the patronage of learning.