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St. Ethelburga's
78 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AG

Performance in the church

Thursday 7th December 2017

Be transported back to medieval world of Queen Eleanor and Edward 1st and the court of King Arthur as we weave together the real history of Queen Eleanor, and a legend of Camelot. In 1290 Eleanor died near Lincoln, and her body was taken back to Westminster in a splendid cortège, a heartbroken Edward following behind his Queen, accompanied by hundreds of members of the royal household. The Cortège passed through the lands she owned allowing her tenants and stewards to pay their respects. The Medieval church would have stood here in Eleanor and Edward's day and Eleanor's cortege would have entered the city of London on Ermine Street, today’s Bishopsgate, very close to the site of St Ethelburga's on December 14th 1290 en route to the priory of the Holy Trinity in Aldgate and from there to St Paul’s, then Charing and onto her final resting place in Westminster Abbey.


It feels very fitting to be bringing a show about Eleanor of Castile to St Ethelburga's because Eleanor was as strong a woman as St Ethelburga - the first leader of a monastic order for women. In the years following her death Edward ordered the best craftsmen in the land to build 12 stone crosses in the places Eleanor’s body had rested overnight stretching from Lincoln to Westminster.


The City of London Memorial Cross was erected on Cheapside near to St Paul's, one of London's busiest thoroughfares - a stone's throw from St Ethelburga’s. This cross was claimed to be one of the most beautiful of the 12 as they became more elaborate the nearer to London they got. Fragments can still be seen today in the Museum of London. In the late medieval times it was a well-known London landmark - Henry 5th's victory parade began at the cross and a committee to its upkeep ensured it was regularly re-guided. However, by the time of the reformation it had become controversial. The wooden cross at the top had rotted and was considered dangerous, but what particularly annoyed the Londoners was the cross’ location in middle of a busy Cheapside - making it a traffic hazard. So much so that vandalism and riots were commonplace. This along with it becoming a Catholic and royalist symbol for parliamentarians led to permission being given to pull it down. On 2nd May 1643 the bells of St. Peter's rang out, there were volleys of musket fire and cheers and cape throwing from the crowd as the demolition began. During a reconstruction of the Cheapside sewer in 1838 two fragments of Purbeck marble were found from the lower panels of the cross – these can now be seen in the Museum of London.


Through the ancient art of storytelling you will enter Edward and Eleanor’s world, seeing the contradictory and glorious powerhouse she was: property magnate, mother, lover, bookworm, huntress, crusader and chess champion. This dramatic, tender and captivating performance is touring the monument locations – come and be part of the story!

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