The queen’s coronation

Eleanor of Provence saw London for the first time on this day of 20 January in 1236. She arrived with her new husband, King Henry III, whom she had married six days earlier in Canterbury. After crossing London Bridge, which was destined to play an infamous role in her life, the twelve-year-old girl would have seen the Tower of London on the right, while in the distance to the left was St Paul’s Cathedral and its huge spire. The royal party was escorted to Westminster by a troop of trumpeters and mounted procession of citizens carrying 360 gold and silver cups. The abbey that Eleanor saw was the Romanesque church built by Edward the Confessor. It was drawn by Matthew Paris nine years later, in 1245, to mark the beginning of the reconstruction that would turn the abbey into the church we know it today. For Eleanor’s coronation, the king walked inside the abbey first, under a canopy, and she followed under her own canopy, with her hair worn loose to her shoulders. She was led to the high altar, where a prayer was said before the archbishop of Canterbury anointed her with holy oil. A gold crown of lilies was placed on her head and by that act she became queen by the grace of God.

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