Well according to scholars, King Richard III (1452-1485) has turned up, or better put, been turned up, pulled from blessed peace into the eyes of the public. Although I’ve recently delved into British history– while researching my book Jewish Lives: Britain 1750-1950 (Pen & Sword)– I drew a blank about Richard, who pre-dated my featured immigrants by several hundred years. In fact, with typical American boorishness and Shakespeare aside,I couldn’t place him at all. But I had a sneaking suspicion.
So I googled Richard III/Jews. Oho, my memory had served me wrong. It was Longshanks, the overly tall (for his time) King Edward I (1239-1307) who did us in.
In 1275, after years of robbings, beatings, forced conversions, hangings, and murder, he forbade his Jews to practice usury, a service they (being damned anyway) had long provided the Crown. Although he granted trade and farming rights instead, as Jews, they remained ineligible to join guilds or own land. In 1290, when they could neither support ourselves nor contribute to the economy any longer, Edward I formally ordered all the Jews of Britain to leave his kingdom forever. The Jewish enclaves in London, Winchester, Canterbury, Oxford, Cambridge, Bury St. Edmunds, Colchester, Thetford, Ospringe, and elsewhere were emptied. Jewish homes and valuables reverted to the Crown.
Edward I is buried in Westminster Abbey.