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