Charing Cross

The Eleanor Cross at Charing Cross Station*
The Eleanor Cross at Charing Cross Station

Ordinary people make do with bunches of roses and boxes of chocolates, but royalty are slightly more extravagant - especially when the loved one is dead! India has its Taj Mahal, but Britain has Charing Cross.

Actually, there used to be fourteen of them, which does lift the stakes slightly, but only four are left - three originals and one reproduction, situated outside Charing Cross station in the heart of London.

When Eleanor of Castile died in 1290 her grieving husband had her brought back from Northampton, where she died, to London for burial in Westminster Abbey. Where her catafalque rested each night of the journey the king ordered a magnificent and ornate cross be erected, and the Charing Cross one marked the final stage of her journey.

Mind you, it is possible that it was guilt rather than love which prompted Edward's action. In her final years poor Eleanor was not only in poor health but she grew exceeding fat, to the extent that Edward could no longer sleep with her. Instead he fell for Alice Perrers, a teenage femme fatale introduced to the court by none other than Eleanor herself - though I doubt she foresaw the consequences. Eleanor was no sooner in her grave than Alice became queen in all but name, to the scandal of the entire country.