© Marcus Roberts with original research and contributions by Ian Holt. Trail and Project Kindly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund


Bookmark this page |  E-mail this page to a friend

Pages < 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   > 

As was the case in other Jewries, a small number of families rose to social and economic prominence. Moses the Rich, whose wealth matched his name, was the leading Gloucester Jew and it appears he made his fortune by his dealings with the Abbot and convent of the Church of St Peter in Gloucester, until his death, by c. 1192 and the inheritance of his wealth by his son Abraham, who did not long survive his father.

Mirabel and Elias of Gloucester

After the death of Moses and Abraham, their main rivals in Gloucester took over. One Elias, son of Isaac, became the leading Gloucester Jew in the early 13th century and started a Jewish dynasty of three generations in Gloucester. He established a large property and house on Eastgate Street, as befitted his status. However, Elias and two other leaders of the Jewish community died probably during or shortly after the 'general captivity' at Bristol castle in 1210, victims of the reign of terror unleashed by John in 1210, to extract more money from the English Jewry. After his untimely death his widow Mirabel of Gloucester took over his business, after securing from the king relief from the debts that her husband owed to the king and became an important business player in the Jewish community.

It is in the document, that reconfirmed her relief from her husband's debts, that we find her caricature portrait in one of the royal rolls that has been recently identified in the Public record Office. The Fines Roll reads: '3 Jan. [1217] Gloucester. To the barons of the Exchequer. It is evident to the king by an inspection of the rolls of the Jews that King John, his father, had granted to Mirabel, who was the wife of Elias the Jew of Gloucester, that she be quit of all the debts which Elias, her former husband, owed to the king, so that all of Elias' charters and the debts contained within them would remain to the king's father...' . The marginal portrait shows a woman with a couvre-chef covering the ears and perhaps secured with a headband or circlet. The emphasis of the portrait on a huge nose and eyes and prominent chin is evident, which is typical of an already established tradition of anti-Semitic portraiture in Europe generally and Germany, in particular. This portrait is now only the second know portray of a medieval English Jewish Woman - the other is from the famous Norwich Exchequer MS of 1233 which shows Mokke and other local Jews surrounded by devils. The female figure in this portrait is once again a side on figure, with a large nose and eyes and a conspicuous head-dress.

In time, Mirabel passed on the business to her son Bonenfaunt, which he then, in turn, passed it onto his son Jacob Couperon. Belia, the widow of Jacob Couperon, was the last of the family, (along with her brother, Ursell who had led the Worcester community of 42 years) in Gloucester. In 1275, when all Jews were expelled from all of the Queen Mother's five dower cities, including Gloucester, she and Ursell were the last Jews in Gloucester, as they hung on in Gloucester after the local expulsion, by staying in a small suburb outside the city walls, which was technically out-side of the city.

Post a Comment
Submit to this trail