The procession's first stop: the Lincoln Eleanor Cross
The first Eleanor cross, that at Lincoln, was not erected in the centre of the town. While the route of the procession was dictated by a desire to visit places of significance to Eleanor, and near her properties, generally what seems to have been key to cross sites was that they be placed near an abbey or similar foundation, and at a location where thy would be seen by plenty of passers by. To the extent that the crosses were (as some argue) essentially a statement of monarchical power, this guaranteed them the maximum publicity. But the main motive was surely to ensure that the maximum number of passers by be reminded to pray for Eleanor's soul - as Edward has so movingly begged the Archbishop of York and other prelates to do.
The location of the cross has been somewhat confused over the years, because of the existence of another cross nearby. The Cross O Cliff, at the top of a steep rise early on Ermine Street, marked the boundary of the city. Consequently some early records descrie the "Queen's Cross" as “the cross on the cliff” (1445-6).
But Leland puts the cross just outside the city’s Barre Gate. In line with this it is generally now agreed that it stood near St Catherine’s priory, by the junction between the ancient roads of Ermine Street (which the cortege was to follow south) and the Fosse Way (the modern A15 and A1434/A45). This location would be in keeping with the siting of the other crosses, convenient for travellers to see them. It would also explain the association which is often made between Eleanor and St Catherine’s Priory. What is more, two of Eleanor’s properties, Nocton and Dunston lay just south east of Lincoln and no great distance from the cross.
Below is a picture (by Richard Croft at geograph.org.uk) of the site as it appears today. Sadly unromantic I'm afraid!
In all likelihood therefore the funeral cortege made its first steps just between the centre of Lincoln and St Catherine’s priory. The cortege was preceded by a rider, identified as Robert of St Albans, bearing a cross. Following it was Eleanor’s embalmed body. She was not coffined but either (probably) reclining on a bier or (possibly) enthroned, as Blanche of Castile had been for her funeral procession. She was dressed as for coronation, in loose robes, with her hair flowing free, and with a sceptre and crown.
Behind her came a procession of notables: Robert Burnell, the bishop of Bath and Wells, and one of Eleanor’s best friends, Oliver Sutton, the bishop of Lincoln and the celebrant of her funeral masses, Eleanor’s friends the Earl and Countess of Lincoln and Salisbury. Some way back, so as not to distract attention from Eleanor, came Edward, probably accompanied by his old friend, Robert Tybetot.
Eleanor’s body would then have lain in vigil in the very substantial Priory church before the journey recommenced on the next day.
Little is known about the design of the cross. It cost a little over £100, and William de Hiberna, who also worked on the Hardingstone cross, was involved in its construction.
It was repaired in the early C17, but was destroyed in the Civil Wars.
The only solid evidence of it that remains is owed to one Frederick Burton, a local amateur archaeologist, who in 1863 found a portion of one of the statues – the skirts to just above the waist - doing service as a footbridge over a ditch. After his death it was removed to the grounds of Lincoln Castle, where it can be seen today.
(photo Dave HItchborne at geograph.org.uk)