London Bridge is Falling Down

As Simon de Montfort’s army approached in July 1263, Queen Eleanor (of Provence) had no intention of capitulating like her husband, Henry III. She knew that would spell the end of the good life for her foreign friends and relations, the hated Savoyards. From the Tower she could see that all of London was up in arms against the royal family, not least because the heir to the throne, Edward (I), and his alien mercenaries had robbed them of their deposits at the New Temple. Eleanor decided she preferred her son’s way of doing business to her husband’s and had her barge readied on 13 July so she could join his gang at Windsor. Word of her flight brought throngs to London Bridge, where they shouted “whore” at her and pelted her with all kinds of rubbish. She was forced to turn back, but Henry refused to let her dock at Tower Wharf. Serves her right, he was probably thinking. In the end, the Montfortian mayor brought in an escort and had her safely conducted to St. Paul’s. He was denied the same decency after Evesham, however. Edward invited him to discuss the surrender of London under safe conduct, only to throw him in jail and left him there for three years. Edward’s robbery was forgiven, London was slapped with a £14,000 fine, and Eleanor got half that money, plus custody of the bridge. As might be expected, she used the rents and tolls from the bridge for her personal benefit without providing any upkeep or repairs, hence she could well be the “my fair lady” of the nursery rhyme.Yates Thompson 47   f. 94v   London Bridge

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