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Eleanor's Crosses

Part 5: The importance of art in good kingship

The year when Eleanor crosses were commissioned marks the beginning of a new development within Edward I’s patronage. His military works were temporarily set aside and, for seven years after the queen’s death the monarch focused his interests on the royal palace and the abbey of Westminster, as well as the crosses commemorating his beloved wife. Edward learnt from his father the importance of art in the promotion of good kingship, and was developing his own concept of royalty reflected in the imperial symbolism of his Welsh castles in the early years of his reign, and then in the Westminster Abbey tombs and St Stephen’s chapel, all constructed or begun by the same group of masons and sculptors after 1290. The Eleanor crosses also belong to this group - the combination of heraldry, the courtly images of the queen and the cross on top entrust the emblems of temporal power to divine protection thus granting Edward the ultimate license to rule as God’s vicar.

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