Eleanor and Edward

Sometime in the late hours of this day in 1239, Eleanor of Provence gave birth to a boy she and her husband Henry III called Edward, the first heir to the throne in more than two centuries with a quintessential English name (never minding the much later ‘Longshanks’ bit that he never liked). The people were overjoyed and partied into the night, but in a little over 24 years they celebrated in a different manner. They were gathered as a mob on London Bridge as the queen’s barge approached. When it came in distance, they pelted her with stones and rubbish, calling her a whore and whatnot. How on earth had she found herself such an object of contempt?

It was the summer of 1263 and Simon de Montfort was determined to impose a constitutional monarchy on England. He launched a blitzkrieg that caught the royal family off guard. Stuck in the Tower of London, they had no money to fund a knightly force to stop de Montfort. On 29 June, Edward sallied forth from the Tower and robbed the New Temple of jewels and deposits, then went on to Windsor to cut off de Montfort. News of the heist led London to erupt in violence, mainly against foreigners and Jews. The queen being the most visible foreigner, Henry decided she would be safer at Windsor. The crowds outside the Tower saw what was up and went to cut her off.

The mayor of London had declared for de Montfort, but he knew if the queen went to the bottom of the Thames, it was going to be his head. With difficulty, he and his militia managed to get the boat ashore and on Henry’s instructions conveyed her to St Paul’s. Simon and his army marched in a few days later and the king and queen took up their normal residence at Westminster Palace. Edward never forgot the insult to his mother, and at the battle of Lewes the next year allowed his revenge against the Londoners to override his good military sense. He cost his father the battle and it would be more than a year before he escaped to defeat and kill de Montfort at Evesham.

London had to pay a huge indemnity for all the damage they caused during the war. Henry gave London Bridge itself to the queen, who collected the tolls and rents but did nothing to maintain its upkeep. After five years, the wardens begged her to allow repairs to commence. Her answer: Call me a whore, will you?

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