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This series of ‘blogs’ sets out to give you an insight into the 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.
The winner of last week’s FREE COPY is ……. Bev Newman – Congratulations, Bev.
YOU TOO can win a copy – just see offer at the end.
CHAPTER FIVE – Here we find the knight Gilles de Burgh at the house of the Jewish moneylender, Joseph ben Simon ben Moshe in London in 1238. Gilles wants to extend his credit but something totally unexpected is revealed (you’ll have to buy the book!).
But how did the Christian people of England see the Jews? All is revealed in this very telling cartoon from 1233.
Tax records can tell us a great deal about life in the middle Ages. They don’t usually come with pictures, but this one does.
It is a cartoon from 1233 during the reign of King Henry III. It’s a detailed, complex cartoon and it is a bit of a mystery.
It was found on an Exchequer Roll, a government document recording various payments that is stored rolled up. This roll listed tax payments made by Jewish people in the city of Norwich in Norfolk.
Look at the cartoon above and see if you can find:
A castle – Pitchforks – A set of scales AND
A woman – A crown –Devils.
Background – Persecution of the Jews
The terrible treatment of Jews by the Nazi Government in the 1930s and 1940s was not a new event. Though nothing had ever been seen on the scale of the appalling ‘Final Solution’ begun in 1942 in which 6 million were murdered, Jews have been the victims of mistreatment since Roman times, as their different religion and their success in business attracted hatred and jealousy.
Laws were sometimes passed against them, such as the 1215 ruling by the Catholic Church that Jewish men had to wear spiked hats to identify them. At other times they have been made to wear stars on their clothing or change their names.
At the time this roll was written Jews in England were subjected to heavy taxes, had property stolen or confiscated and were sometimes attacked. The most serious attack on a Jewish community was the York Massacre in 1190 in which hundreds of Jews were killed as they took refuge in Clifford’s Tower, one of the city’s castles. The 12th century historian William of Newburgh accused the townspeople of an attempt at ‘sweeping away the whole race in their city’.
In the 13th century, Norwich was one of the largest and most important towns in England. One of its richest and most powerful residents was Isaac fil Jurnet, a Jewish money lender who owned a large amount of property in the city and was a banker to the king. To some jealous citizens Isaac seemed like a king himself.
Isaac employed other Jews to collect the money that borrowers in the city owed to him. The most well-known (and most disliked) were Mosse Mokke and his wife Abigail.
The cartoon above is an example of the feelings many people had towards Jews in medieval England. It is about real people and their situation within 13th century society.
Let’s look at the image in more detail – below is the left section.
You’ll see a man is holding a set of scales containing money.
This man is not a Jew. He is a poor Christian monk, his scales full of coin that Isaac is trying to wrest from him using one of the many devils at his command – that’s a devil behind him, the figure with the forked tongue!
Isaac had sued the Westminster monks to get the interest from money they had borrowed after they refused to pay it.
Now look at the centre images of the cartoon – below
That three-headed monster above with the crown towering over the centre of the drawing is Isaac fil Jurnet, the wealthy Jewish moneylender from Norwich who was banker to King Henry III, the Abbot and monks of Westminster, the Bishop of Norwich and many others.
The man and woman facing each other above with Satan between them are Mosse Mokke and his wife Abigail both of whom were employed as debt collectors by Isaac.
Mosse wears the pointed hat that all Jews were ordered to wear AND the demon is pointing to their noses!
Now look at the right-hand side of the cartoon. –below.
What do you think these characters are supposed to be? Well you’re right. These are even more devils come to assist the moneylender. They carry pitchforks and reaping tools in order to gather in the ‘harvest’ of money and debt.
Such was the febrile nature of English Christianity in those days and it saddens me to think that such attitudes eventually culminated in the ‘Holocaust’ of World War Two.
In 1290 when the Jews of England were expelled a learned Jew in Norwich, Meir ben Eliahu wrote a collection of poems imbued with a mixture of fear, anger and sorrow – in short a concoction of all sorts of those emotions, which the Jewish community in England must have lived through, when they finally lost their livelihoods and homes after more than 200 years of anti-Semitic persecution.
“Forced away from where we dwelt
We go like cattle to the slaughter.
A slayer stands above us all.
We burn and die.”
How prophetic was that?
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