Edward I

(1239–1307)
   King of England 1272–1307. While he was crown prince, Edward’s father Henry in granted him the taxes obtained from the Jews, in an effort to buy his loyalty. He was, therefore, accustomed to regard them as a source of revenue. On taking up his throne in 1274, after two years’ absence on a Crusade, Edward found the country financially ruined. Many Jews were forced to sell their homes in an effort to meet the tallage (property levy) he imposed on them; those who were unable to pay were banished. Edward’s Statutum de Judaismo, promulgated in 1275, effectively ruined the Jews’ livelihood. They were forbidden to lend money at interest and all outstanding loans had to be wound up by the following Easter. Jews of seven years and over had to wear a distinguishing badge and they could live only in towns under direct royal authority. Edward continued to impose levies on his Jewish subjects; those who could not pay were imprisoned and their wives and children deported. In 1278 all the Jews in England were arrested for alleged coin-clipping and a large number - said to be as many as 680 - were imprisoned in the Tower and subsequently hanged. His attitude was in line with the anti-Jewish pronouncements of the pope and the English church leaders at the time.
   In 1287 he imprisoned the heads of Jewish families in England and released them only on payment of a ransom of twelve thousand pounds. In 1289 he arrested the Jews in his province of Gascony, seized their property and expelled them. On 18 July 1290, he decreed that all Jews must leave England by I November of that year. As a pious ruler, he wanted the expulsion to be humane. The wardens of the Cinque Ports were to supervise the departure of the Jews and see that the poor were able to obtain cheap tickets; and no man was allowed to ‘injure, harm, damage or grieve’ them. They were to be allowed to take with them all their cash and personal property, but their bonds and real estate reverted to the Crown, while synagogues became church property. With the money he raised from the sale of Jewish houses, Edward completed his father’s tomb and installed stained-glass windows in Westminster Abbey. By whatever kind of ship they could afford, around sixteen thousand Jews left England’s shores. A number died on the voyage, as autumn storms wrecked Channel shipping. One large group from London, recounts Holinshed’s Chronicle, arranged to be picked up from a sandbank in the Thames at low tide. After pocketing their money, the captain left them there to drown in the rising tide, telling them that they ‘ought to cry unto Moses, by whose conduct their fathers passed through the Red Sea’. True to his word, however, Edward hanged the captain for his part in the murders.
   Most of the Jews from England went to France, while others wandered to Spain, Germany and Flanders. Although the Jews returned to Gascony soon after their expulsion, they did not come back to England until the time of Oliver CROMWELL, four centuries later.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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