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The Coronation Riots - a Jew's Account

Richard the Lion-Heart was crowned king of England in London in 1189, and a mob, excited by the young king's call for a new crusade, attacked the city's Jews.

Behind this popular violence lay resentment at the role English Jews had played in raising money for the crown. Because King Richard did little to stop it, anti-Jewish violence spread throughout England in the months following the coronation. The following passage is from the Sefer Zekhirah, a work on Jewish suffering during the Crusades by Ephraim of Bonn (b. 1132).

 

 

 

 


On the day he [Richard] was installed as king and the royal crown placed upon his head in London, in the palace outside the city, a large crowd from France and from England gathered. Jews also came -- the leaders and the wealthiest of them -- to present the king with a gift. The wicked began to say: "It is not proper that the Jews come to see the royal crown with which the priest shall adorn the king on his coronation day." They therefore pushed the Jews aside and struck them. The king, however, did not know.

Then a rumor spread through the city, indicating: "The king has commanded to destroy the Jews." They then began to smite the Jews and to destroy their houses and towers. They killed about thirty Jews; some slaughtered themselves and their children. There the famous rabbi, R. Jacob of Orleans, was killed for the sanctification of the Divine Name. The king knew nothing of all this, for, when he heard the noise of the mob in the city, he had asked: "What is that tumult?" His gatekeeper had responded: "It is nothing -- only the lads playing and enjoying themselves."

Subsequently, when the truth was revealed to the king, he ordered that the gatekeeper be tied to the tails of horses and dragged through the streets and marketplaces until he expired. Thus he died a painful death. Blessed is the Lord who provides revenge.

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