Jewish Ritual Murder in England Before 1290


Arnold S. Leese

The first known case occurred in 1144; after that, cases cropped up from time to time until the Jews were expelled from the realm by Edward I. The most famous of these incidents was that of Little St. Hugh of Lincoln in 1255. I record these cases in chronological order; and I do not deny the possibility that some of them, in which details are lacking, were "trumped up" ones, where death may have been due to causes other than ritual murder and the Jews blamed for it; but the case of St. Hugh, particularly, was juridically decided, and the Close and Patent Rolls of the Realm record definitely cases at London, Winchester and Oxford. There seems no reason to doubt that many cases of ritual murder have been unsuspected and even undiscovered.

1144, Norwich. A twelve year-old boy was crucified and his side pierced at the Jewish Passover. His body was found in a sack hidden in a tree. A converted Jew, called Theobald of Cambridge, confessed that the Jews took blood every year from a Christian child because they thought that only by so doing could they ever obtain their freedom and return to Palestine; and that it was their custom to draw lots to decide whence the blood was to be supplied; Theobald said that last year the lot fell to Narbonne, but in this year to Norwich. The boy was locally beatified and has ever since been known as St. William. The Sheriff, probably bribed, refused to bring the Jews to trial.

In J. C. Cox's Norfolk Churches, vol. II, p. 47, as also in the Victoria County History of Norfolk, 1906, vol.. II, is an illustration of an old painted rood-screen depicting the ritual murder of St. William; the screen itself is in Loddon Church, Norfolk, unless the power of Jewish money has had it removed. No-one denies this case as a historical event, but the Jews of course say it was not a ritual murder. The Jew, C. Roth, in his The Ritual Murder Libel and the Jew (1935) says: "Modern enquirers, after careful examination of the facts, have concluded that the child probably lost consciousness in consequence of a cataleptic fit, and was buried prematurely by his relatives." How these modern enquirers arrived at a conclusion like that after all these years, Mr. Roth does not say; nor is it a compliment to the Church to suggest that its ministers would allow the boy's death to be celebrated as the martyrdom of a saint without having satisfied themselves that wounds on the body confirmed the crucifixion and piercing of the side. And why the relatives should bury the boy in a sack and then dig it up and hang it in a tree would puzzle even a Jew to explain.

John Foxe's Acts and Monuments of the Church records this ritual murder, as did the Ballandists and other historians. The Prior, William Turbe, who afterwards became Bishop of Norwich, was the leading light in insisting that the crime was one of Jewish ritual murder; in the Dictionary of National Biography (edited by a Jew!) it is made clear that his career, quite apart from this ritual murder case, is that of a man of great strength of character and moral courage.

1160, Gloucester. The body of a child named Harold was found in the river with the usual wounds of crucifixion. Sometimes wrongly dated 1168. (Recorded in Monumenta Germania Historica, vol. VI (Erfurt Annals); Polychronicon, R. Higdon; Chronicles, R. Grafton, p. 46.)

1181, Bury St. Edmunds. A child called Robert was sacrificed at Passover. The child was buried in the church and its presence there was supposed to cause miracles. (Authority: Rohrbacher, from the Chronicle of Gervase of Canterbury.)

1192, Winchester. A boy crucified. Mentioned in the Jewish Encyclopaedia as being a false charge. Details lacking.

1232, Winchester. Boy crucified. Details lacking. (Mentioned in Hyamson's History of the Jews in England; also in Annals of Winchester; and conclusively in the Close Roll 16, Henry III, m.8, 26.6.1232.)

1235, Norwich. In this case, Jews stole a child and hid him with a view to crucifying him. Haydn's Dictionary of Dates of date 1847, says of this case, "They [the Jews] circumcise and attempt to crucify a child at Norwich; the offenders are condemned in a fine of 20,000 marks." (Further authority Huillard Breolles, Grande Chronique, III, 86; also Close Roll, 19 Henry III, m.23.)

1244, London. A child's body found unburied in the cemetery of St. Benedict, with ritual cuts. Buried with great pomp in St. Paul's. (Authority: Social England, vol. I, p. 407, edited by H. D. Traill.)

1255, Lincoln. A boy called Hugh was kidnapped by the Jews and crucified and tortured in hatred of Jesus Christ. The boy's mother found the body in a well on the premises of a Jew called Jopin or Copinus. This Jew, promised by the judge his life if he confessed, did so, and 91 Jews were arrested; eventually 18 were hanged for the crime. King Henry III himself personally ordered the juridical investigation of the case five weeks after the discovery of the body, and refused to allow mercy to be shown to the Jew Copinus, who was executed.

Hugh was locally beatified, and his tomb may still be seen in Lincoln Cathedral, but the Jewish Money Power has evidently been at work, for between 1910 and 1930 a notice was fixed above the shrine as follows: "The body of Hugh was given burial in the Cathedral and treated as that of a martyr. When the Minster was repaved, the skeleton of a small child was found beneath the present tombstone. There are many incidents in the story which tend to throw doubt upon it, and the existence of similar stories in England and elsewhere points to their origin in the fanatical hatred of the Jews of the Middle Ages and the common superstition, now wholly discredited, that ritual murder was a factor of Jewish Paschal Rites. Attempts were made as early as the 13th century by the Church to protect the Jews against the hatred of the populace and against this particular accusation."

At a visit to Lincoln of the Jewish Historical Society, in 1934, the Mayor, Mr. G. Deer, said to them: "That he [St. Hugh] was done to death by Jews for ritual purposes cannot be other than a libel based upon the prejudices and ignorance of an unenlightened age." The Chancellor on the same occasion said: "It was quite obviously one of the very many cases of slander spread about the Jews from time to time. No doubt, the child died or fell down the well."

These people, Jews and Gentiles, bring no evidence whatever for their statement; it couldn't have happened, they say. Why not?

Was Henry III, weak in character as we know him to have been, ever charged with being an immoral man? Did the judges not examine the body, which was only four weeks dead? Is Haydn's Dictionary of Dates (1847 edition) medieval and superstitious when it said of this case "They [the Jews] crucify a child at Lincoln, for which eighteen are hanged"? There are no 'ifs' and 'buts' here! Or does Copinus's confession not tally with that of Theobald, quoted above in the first Norwich case? Copinus said, "For the death of this child, nearly all the Jews in England had come together and every town had sent deputies to assist in the sacrifice."

No-one questions the historical facts in this case; but Jews and Judaized Gentiles alike unite in denying the fact of ritual murder.

Strack, in his The Jew and Human Sacrifice, written in defence of the Jews against the Blood Accusation, omits all mention of this famous case, which is the subject of the Prioress's Tale in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and is referred to in Marlowe's Jew of Malta. Hyamson's History of the Jews in England devotes the whole of Chapter IX to "Little St. Hugh of Lincoln," showing the importance of the ritual murder issue in the Jewish mind today. (The following Close Rolls of the Realm refer to the case of St. Hugh: Henry III, 39, m.2, 7.10.1255; 39, m.2, 14.10.1255; 40, m.20, 24.11.1255; 40, m.13, 13.3.1256; 42, m.6, 19.6.1258. And the Patent Rolls, Henry III, 40, m.20, 26.11.1255; 40, m.19, 9.12.1255; 40, 27.3.1256; and 40, m.5, 20.8.1256.)

1257, London. A child sacrificed. (Authority: Cluverius, Epitome Historiae p. 541.) Details lacking.

1276, London. Boy crucified. (Authority: The Close Roll of the Realm, 4, Edward I, m.14, 3.3.1276.)

1279, Northampton. A child crucified. Haydn's Dictionary of Dates, 1847, says of this case: "They [the Jews] crucify a child at Northampton for which fifty are drawn at horses' tails and hanged." (Further authorities: Reiley, Memorials of London, p. 15; H. Desportes, Le Mystére du Sang.)

1290, Oxford. The Patent Roll 18 Edward I, m.21, 21st June 1290, contains an order for the gaol delivery of a Jew, Isaac de Pulet, detained for the murder of a Christian boy at Oxford.

Only one month after this, King Edward issued his decree expelling the Jews from the Kingdom. There is, then, every reason to believe that it was the Oxford murder which proved the last straw in toleration.

A similar ritual case was one of the main stimulants to the King and Queen of Spain to expel professing Jews from that country in 1492 (Leese: Jewish Ritual Murder, p. 20).

The Jews, in attempting to escape responsibility for these deaths by ritual murder, do not hesitate to impugn the probity of two of the Kings of England, against whose moral character no-one else has dared to cast a slur. Here are some examples. Firstly the Jew Hyamson (in History of the Jews in England, 1928 edition, p. 21) wrote: "It has also been pointed out that the Blood Accusation was as a rule made at a time at which the Royal Treasury needed replenishing." This foul accusation against men of upright character was repeated in the Jewish Chronicle Supplement, April 1936, p. 8 (speaking of the Lincoln case in the reign of Henry III): "Henceforth and especially under the zealously Christian Edward I, the Crown and its officers became almost a worse peril to the Jews than mobs intent on loot and led on by fanatic priests and knightly spendthrifts who had borrowed Jewish money. When 18th century writers of history began to examine the old records in a new sceptical temper some may be found venturing on such unkind surmises as that the alleged crucifixions of Christian children only seemed to happen when kings were short of money."

To deny that the cases of St. William of Norwich and St. Hugh of Lincoln were Jewish ritual murders is to accuse certain English Kings, certain English Clergy, and certain English administrators, known to be men of good morals, of murdering and torturing Jews to get their money, after accusing them of horrible crimes. In the case of St. Hugh, the sentence was juridical; in the case of St. William, the mob took the matter into their own hands because the Sheriff would take no action himself.

Whom do you believe - the Jews or the English?

"It is difficult to refuse all credit to stories so circumstantial and so frequent." So says Social England concerning ritual murders in England (vol. I, p. 407, 1893, edited by H. D. Traill).

A significant fact is that Haydn's Dictionary of Dates, at least up to 1847, quoted the ritual murders in Norman and Plantagenet England as undisputed facts. In later editions in the sixties, all mention of them is extirpated! We may take it that the Jewish Money Power began to dictate to the Press in England somewhere in the fifties of the last century.