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Her Amesbury Story

Her Amesbury Story highlights the lives of 26 women throughout history with links to Amesbury, including Queen Eleanor of Provence, who lived in Amesbury Abbey and is believed to have been buried there in 1291.

Queen Eleanor of Provence

Eleanor was born in Aix-en-Provence. She was strong-willed and clever and wielded a great deal influence over the king. Eleanor was always loyal to Henry, but she brought with her from France countless relations, servants and hangers-on who were all quickly ensconced at court to the fury of her English subjects.

She had an impecunious, though cultured and educatece hilchood and retaliated by exhibiting dimost unparalleled greed and rapaciousness at the expense of the English. Her generous husband encouraged her and she, in turn, supported him in his enthusiasm for They built new cathedrals, such as Salisbury, and refurbished and renovated the royal residences of the Tower of London, the Palace of Westminster, and Windsor Castle.

Eleanor's excesses and nepotism made her hated by the people and she was a significant factor in the risings by Simon de Montfort and the barons. On one occasion, passing under London Bridge in the Royal Barge, she was pelted with rotten eggs and vegetables by a crowd shouting "Drown the witch", who then attempted to sink the barge with stones. She had to seek sanctuary in St. Paul's until rescue arrived.

Eleanor was given the tolls and rents from the London Bridge as a present from Henry and proceeded to spend them on herself rather that the upkeep of the bridge. The bridge fell into disrepair, and a derisive verse was formed with the telling, sarcastic phrase, "my fair lady'. Control of the bridge returned to the City of London in 1281.

Ironically, the heavy river ice that winter built up against the bridge and five of the arches collapsed.

In 1263, Henry and Simon were set on a path which could only lead to war and Eleanor went to France to hire mercenaries. Her fleet was wrecked in a storm before it left Flanders and, back in England, her husband and son were captured at the Battle of Lewes. The situation was saved by Prince Edward who escaped, rallied the royalists, and defeated the barons, killing Simon de Montfort.

When Henry died, in 1272, Eleanor became Queen Dowager, and her son Edward became king Edward I. She did not retire from public life and her active role in promoting the roya family's interests continued until 1286, when she entered a nunnery in Amesbury remaining there until her death in 1291. The exact site of her grave at the abbey is unknown making her the only English queen without a marked grave.

Amesbury: where history begins

Order a copy of the book that accompanies our exhibition below.
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