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The start of Eleanor's final journey

November 30, 2014

Allowing for the fact that Eleanor had not died until the evening of 28 November, it was possibly not until 30th November that her body completed the journey begun in mid November from Clipstone to Lincoln.  Jean Powrie has pointed out that logistical factors – in particular negotiating Steep Hill with the need to manage the cortege, and critically the body, in a safe and seemly manner – suggest that the cortege had to take a long way round and enter the town by the Northern gate, rather than by the nearer southern gate.

Once in the town Edward would have lodged at the castle and preparations could begin to be made for the burial of Eleanor’s viscera in the Cathedral and for the embalming of her heart and body for transport south.

It is often suggested  (in reliance on WH Stevenson) that her body was embalmed at the priory of St Catherines, but there is no contemporaneous record of this, and the evidence suggests that this is a conflation of two events – the embalming and the memorial cross.

The priory of St Catherines stood slightly outside the city, to the south.  It was therefore not particularly convenient for the Cathedral – and again at the wrong end of Steep Hill.  The Dominicans (Eleanor’s favourite order of monks) however occupied a site at Silvergate by Pottergate  much closer to the Cathedral and the Castle.  They also had piped water  - installed in 1260, which was a useful adjunct to the process of embalming.  It is therefore rather more likely (as Jean Powrie argued) that Eleanor’s body was entrusted to them for embalming.

As for that process of embalming, we know that a bushel of barley was used – presumably to replace the lost bulk of the removed organs, as well as a pound of incense and  about 7 metres of cloth, in which to wrap the body.


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