UPDATE DECEMBER 2nd 2015 The winners of this week’s FREE eBook are = Anna Belfrage and Luke Jordan. CONGRATULATIONS.
When researching in order to write a 1,200-page trilogy there is so much background that never sees the light of day (or pages) of the finished books (though such close detail is naturally included to build and enhance the story). This series of ‘blogs’ sets out to give you an insight into building blocks that make up “The King’s Jew” – if you have any questions concerning any of these points just get in touch and I’ll be happy to share what knowledge I have garnered. Thanks
Thanks for popping in – there are two prizes on offer at the end
Continuing our look behind the scenes of “The King’s Jew”.
In Chapter Two
We meet Gilles de Burgh a knight in the service of Henry III. Gilles is in the Jewry district of London on his way to meet the moneylender Joseph ben Simon ben Moshe. But what of the real Jews in London in 1238?
The history of Jews in medieval England is quite short.
William the Conqueror is said to have brought moneylenders to London after 1066, and the Jewish presence in England lasted until their expulsion by Edward the First, in 1290.
By the end of this period, the Jews numbered several thousand out of a total population of almost two million. As moneylenders, Jews were under the protection of the Crown and this caused much anger to the locals in times of economic hardship. Their identification as Christ-killers, and the popularity of the Crusades from the late eleventh century, also exacerbated hostility towards Jews.
The earliest reference to Jews in London dates to 1130 and notes their settlement around Jew street (now Old Jewry) and Cheapside. We also know that until 1177 the only Jewish cemetery in England was at Cripplegate. Given that Jewish law requires the dead to be buried within 24 hours, you must appreciate how difficult it was for Jews living elsewhere in the country. This law was later relaxed to enable Jewish cemeteries in locally designated towns where they were allowed to live.
The constant need of the Crown for money to pay for foreign wars meant the Jewish community were a lucrative source of taxable income and written records are peppered with royal demand for money and goods. However, the rise of Italian bankers from the mid-twelve hundreds – free from the stigma of non-Christian association – meant that the usefulness of the Jews to the Crown was short-lived. This in turn meant that royal protection from persecution also diminished. The years leading up to their expulsion from England in 1290 were particularly oppressive.
During the barons’ wars of King John’s reign (1199-1216) rebels looted the Jewish community in London. Their houses were destroyed and inhabitants moved to other places. Indeed, stones from these houses were used to rebuild Ludgate and other gates in the city wall.
The year 1215 also saw the papacy endorsing the idea that all non-Christians (i.e. Moslems and Jews) should wear distinguishing clothing in order to prevent ‘accidental’ fraternising with Christians. Regulations were subsequently soon in force throughout Europe. Note the distinguishing ‘Tabula’ sewn onto the Jew’s garments in the image above. Makes you think doesn’t it?
During the Second Baron’s war – 1264 to 1267 (led by Simon de Montfort) persecutions and massacres of Jews took place on a regular basis. One of the characters in the book, Gilbert de Clare, massacred the Jews at Canterbury in April 1264 –
Spoiler Alert; Gilbert was the implacable enemy of the main character in the book.
Before this, in 1262, amidst allegations of excessive interest being charged by Jews, a London mob destroyed a synagogue, south of Lothbury Street EC1, killing 700 inhabitants. Henry III (1216 – 1272) ordered the synagogue to be rebuilt as a chapel for a group of friars but by 1598 it had had become a wine tavern. There were apparently several synagogues in London because in 1282 the bishop of London was ordered to destroy all synagogues in his diocese. AND THIS WAS EIGHT YEARS BEFORE THE DEPORTATIONS OF 1290!!
Attempts to convert Jews for the good of their souls.
In 1232, Henry III established a house of conversion (Domus Conversorum) in Chancery Lane (now a library for King’s College London). The hope was that by the establishment of this refuge there would be a mass conversion of the English Jews. Records show that in 1290 there were 80 converts in residence.
The problem with entering the Domus was that all monies and property were taken away and given to the king which left the ‘convert’ destitute. (Just to say that another of the main characters in “The King’s Jew” came from the Domus after his parents gave him away to a Christian family – but more of that in the book!)
The first warden of the Domus was Walter Mauclerc, bishop of Carlisle.
In 1330, there still remained eight men and thirteen women from the pre-expulsion period. By the year 1353 the Domus possessed only one convert, a woman named Claricia of Exeter, who had been admitted several years before the expulsion. She died in 1356; and a month after her death a Spanish Jew, John of Castile, found his way to England and the Domus. The last trace of the Domus was legally swept away by an act of the year 1891.
The last warden of the Domus was Edward Phillips, appointed 1608.
However, the days of the Jews in England were numbered. In 1275, Edward 1 (1272 – 1307) issued the Statute of Jewry. Jews were prohibited from charging interest on loans and had to collect all existing debts by the following Easter or forfeit them. In order to survive economically Jews were to be encouraged to become labourers and, therefore, granted a licence to lease land for 15 years (until 1290). The Statute also stipulated all Jews from the age of seven had to wear a yellow felt badge 6” long and 3” wide. A poll tax of 3d a year was also imposed from the age of twelve. Finally, Jews were given notice to quit England forever on 18 July 1290.
Their re-admission in 1656 under the Cromwellian Protectorate is interpreted by some as evidence of Cromwell’s toleration and compassion.
These tally sticks above date from the 13th century and relates to the taxation of the medieval Jewish community in England. The first stick shows payment of one shilling by Isaac the butcher, probably relating to the 1241 tax of Gloucester Jews. The stick was notched to indicate the payment and then split into two “receipts”. Payment could be checked by matching them back together.
According to Reverend Moses Margoliouth, Old Jewry was a ghetto. Ghettos, areas of a city mainly or exclusively populated by Jews, were common across Europe. In 2001, archaeologists discovered a mikveh (ritual bath) near to Old Jewry, on the corner of Gresham Street and Milk Street, under what is now the State Bank of India. It would have fallen into disuse after 1290 when the Jews were expelled from England.
The Mikveh, or ritual bath dug up on Milk Street close to St Paul’s Cathedral. Courtesy of the Museum of London Archeology Service
It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that the Jewish quarter in 13th century London extended from Jewen Street in the north, by St Giles-without-Cripplegate, to Poultry in the south. Also nearby is St Lawrence Jewry, a Church of England guild church on Gresham Street, next to the Guildhall.
Thus ends our look behind the scenes of Chapter Two.
BUT SCROLL DOWN FOR YOUR PRIZE and next week we’ll have a sneaky peek at some more background from TKJ = “The King’s Jew. Book One. At the tomb of King Edward the First…”
And it is available at the following outlets:
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Thank you, dear reader. Any questions – just SHOUT!