Simanaitis Says

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CHARING CROSS—LONDON’S CENTREPIECE PART 1

CHARING CROSS, LONDON, is sort of New York City’s Times Square, Los Angeles’s Hollywood and Vine, and Paris’s Place de l’Opera. It’s the geographical center, er…, make that centre of a great metropolis. Charing Cross has a comparably rich heritage with these others, though it’s much older. It even has a good etymological story, albeit an incorrect one. 

Here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are Charing Cross tidbits, gleaned from my collection of old guidebooks and Internet sleuthing.

Charing Cross on John Norden’s map of Westminster, London, 1593. North is to the top right. The Strand extends off to bottom right.

Etymology. Charing was an ancient hamlet of London, from the Old English word cierring referring to a bend in the River Thames.

The Cross was Eleanor’s Cross, added 1291–1294 when King Edward I erected it and others in memory of his beloved wife, Eleanor of Castile. Edward and Eleanor were married for 36 years. 

Faux Etymology. Wikipedia notes, “Folk etymology holds that the name derives from chère reine (‘dear queen’ in French), but the name [Charing] in fact pre-dates Eleanor’s death by at least a hundred years.”

Eleanor of Castile, Queen of England. Eleanor was known as an astute businesswoman, hardly common in medieval times. 

Eleanor of Castile, 1241–1290, Spanish-born Queen Consort of England, 1272–1290, wife of Edward I.

As noted by Wikipedia, “… that she survived sixteen pregnancies suggests she was not frail.” Among her fifteen children was Edward II of England.  

Eleanor died in Nottinghamshire in 1290, with Edward I at her side. Her funeral procession to London took twelve days, Edward having a cross erected in each overnight locale. 

Sites of (eleven) Eleanor Crosses from Lincoln in the north to London’s hamlet of Charing. It appears the penultimate one just northeast of Charing Cross is not shown on this map,

Only three Eleanor Crosses remain more or less intact: in Northampton’s Geddington and Hardington and in Waltham, now Waltham Cross, in Hertfordshire. 

This Eleanor Cross in Geddington, Northamptonshire, is the best-preserved of twelve erected from Lincoln to Charing. Image by Lofty at English Wikipedia.

It was not only time that played a role in cross preservation. English politics played a major role as well. Tomorrow in Part 2, we encounter the Roundheads and a JCCJ memory aid. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021 

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