A Hospitaller and the Jews: Brother Joseph de Chauncy and English Jewry in the 127os*

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Among the many entries touching on matters of Jewish interest in the memoranda rolls of the English exchequer in the late-13th century1 is a pair of entries dating from December 1 273. They record orders issued by the treasurer, Brother Joseph de Chauncy,2 and sent to various sheriffs. The sheriffs were to have it proclaimed that all Jews resident in their shires were to come to, and remain in, the principal (or possibly, the arc/m) town of each shire from December I 273 until the following Easter (1 April 1274). The reasons for their forced migration and residence, as for the penalties with which any Jews who did not obey were threatened, are not given in the memoranda roll.3 It is likely, however, that the treasurer wished to facilitate the collection of the ‘great tallage’ of one-third of the Jews’ movable goods, which Roth indicates had been imposed by ‘the Council of Regency during the new king’s [Edward 1’s] absence, with the severe methods that had become recognized as normal’,4 by forcing the Jews to remain within easy reach of the collectors - acting on the principle that a flock may be more efficiently fleeced if gathered together before the shearers arrive. The texts of these consecutive entries

read roughly as follows:

(King’s Remembrancer’s Memoranda Roll, E 159/48, m. 4 [1273-4]):5

The sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire has been ordered, as soon as he shall see these letters, to have it proclaimed - franchises notwithstanding - in every city, borough, and vill/town where any Jews abide in his bailiwick, that all the Jews are to come to Cambridge and remain there until the coming Easter [1 April 1274]. No Jew of Cambridge or of the vills [towns] outside of Cambridge is to leave Cambridge within this period, unless he wish to forfeit his life or members, as well as all his movable and immovable property. Should any Jew flee or absent himself from Cambridge after this proclamation, the sheriff is to seize him and detain him in the king’s prison. He is also to take into the king’s hand all of that Jew’s goods and chattels, movable and immovable, as being the king’s forfeit, and is to safeguard them until etc. [he receive further orders about the prisoner and the disposition of his property]. Witnessed by brother Joseph [de Chauncy] on 9 December [1273].

Similar orders have been sent to the sheriffs of Kent, Hampshire, Somerset [and] Dorset, Nottinghamshire [and] Derbyshire, Essex [and] Hertfordshire,6 Surrey and Sussex, Warwickshire and Leicestershire, Yorkshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire [and] Buckinghamshire, Worcestershire, Cornwall,7 Devonshire, Lincolnshire, and Gloucestershire.8 Let us consider the background of these orders. Henry III’s son, the Lord Edward, had set forth on crusade in 1270, with his father’s blessing, and with a systematically organized fighting force, the funds for which had been raised, inter alia, from English Christians and English Jews for the purpose.9 When Henry died on 16 November 1272 Edward was in Sicily on his way back to England.

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