In the second of three articles, Pembrokeshire historian MARK MULLER discusses Queen Eleanor of Castile.

The articles have been written to coincide with Pembrokeshire County Council’s publication of their immense plans for Haverfordwest castle and the town:

Llewellyn ap Gruffydd, or Llewellyn the Last, grandson of Llewellyn the Great had considerable success.

Even before Edwards accession, Llewellyn had forced Henry 111 to the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267, which allowed Llewellyn to be known as Prince of Wales and retain the lands that he had conquered.

However, problems with Marcher Lords, his own brother and Welsh resentment at Llewellyn’s constant desire for more land, created tensions and regular skirmishes.

When Llewellyn married Simon de Montfort’s daughter in 1275 Edward took huge exception to this open support of the de Montfort faction, despite de Montfort having been killed at the Battle of Evesham, and a few years later assembled a huge army to finally subdue Llewellyn and the Welsh.

Leaving a brother, Dafydd, to defend Gwynedd, Llewellyn took the fight south and like his grandfather before him, was passionate in ridding Pembrokeshire of what 19th century historian Edward Laws terms, ‘colonists’, meaning the English speaking Flemings.

The Archbishop of Canterbury attempted to arrive at a conciliation between the two, but in 1283, Llewellyn appears to have been tricked or ambushed and was killed at Builth Wells. 

With Wales finally secure, and ringed with castles, in 1284 Edward and Eleanor made a pilgrimage to St Davids, it having been for centuries, one of the most important pilgrimage venues in Europe.

On his departure from St David’s, Edward took with him parts of the saint’s skeleton, reportedly the skull and one arm, which he subsequently displayed in London. On their return, they stayed at

Haverfordwest Castle between the 26th and 29th November.
Eleanor seems to have fallen in love with the castle and by 1289 had acquired it from Humphrey de Bohun.

The castle had come to de Bohun with his marriage in about 1258 to another Eleanor, a granddaughter of the extraordinary knight, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke on whose death in 1219 had come the deluge of titles, land and property to beneficiaries, and which meant the splitting of the Earldom of Pembroke into various lordships.

Eleanor then borrowed £407, partly from Gilbert de Clare, who has long been associated with the castle, an enormous sum for those days.

It seems a frenzy of work took place with £360 being spent on timber transported from Ireland and £47 to John le Fleming and Robert of Northampton for carpentry and building works.

The south-east wing was constructed and if the inner and outer wards were not previously separate, it probably happened at this point.
The walls that we see today with huge windows, some blocked up and some still open, were it seems, increased in height to accommodate the residential areas being built on the inside.

The small area accessible by going down the stone stairs in the Breckinock Tower has always been known as Queen Eleanor’s Bower, and is supposed to be an area that figured perhaps as part of a garden in Eleanor’s renovation plans.

The tragedy is, that on the 28th November 1290, Eleanor died whilst accompanying Edward to the north of the country, without ever having seen her new property renovations.

The level of love for one another that they enjoyed is well illustrated by Edward’s actions on the return journey to London.

At every point that the funeral cortege stopped nightly, a cross was erected in memory of where her body had lain for the night. 

These became known as the Eleanor Crosses. Starting at Lincoln, they were erected at Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Northampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham, West Cheap and Charing.

Only Waltham remains as original and on the same site. Perhaps the most well known is Charing Cross.

The original memorial structure stood in front of where Nelson’s Column now stands, that spot now taken by an equestrian statue of Charles I.

The puritans tore down the Eleanor Cross early in the 17th century and the present cross was erected in the middle of the 19th.

The name Charing is said to derive from the French – ‘chere reine’ - meaning dear queen.