Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England,
April 27, 1925
One hour before midnight on January 22, 1717, twelve good men and true made their way into the jury box at the Sessions House of the Old Bailey and declared Francis Francia not guilty of a treasonable attempt to subvert the government of the Kingdom by supporting the claims of the so-called James III., more commonly known as the Old Pretender. Nearly a century and a quarter before, the only other Jew in English history to be charged with treason, Dr. Roderigo Lopez, Queen Elizabeth's physician, had met with a less fortunate fate. The verdict in the Francia case, according to a contemporary unofficial report, came " to the great surprise of the generality present at this remarkable trial." 1
In this report Francia was described as being " of Jewish extraction, descended from the tribe that hold themselves to be that of Benjamin, and was-born about 45 years since in the city of Bourdeaux in France, a place eminent for its produce and vent of most excellent wine and brandies, by trading in which with the English and other nations his father got great wealth." Except that Francia was about 42 years of age at the time of the trial, this description is not inaccurate. The account goes on to say that Francia had become a Christian, was therefore not employed by Jews, and so began to execute commissions for English gentlemen. It is indeed probable that, in accordance with the general custom of the Jews at Bordeaux which was in vogue until at least 1686, Francia was baptised.2 He may thus have nominally been a Christian, but it is interesting to note from the evidence given
1 The Case of Francis Francia, the reputed Jew, etc. Printed for John Gouldins near Lincoln's Inn, 1716 (old style).
2 It was in this year, according to Malvezin (Histoire des Juifs d Bordeaux, p. 150), that the outward practice of Catholic rites was abandoned.
at the trial, that Francia refused on a certain occasion to take an oath upon the New Testament but produced instead a Jewish prayer book from his pocket.
The Francia family, which is mentioned in a prefect's report at Bordeaux as late as 1806,3 and the English representatives of which were of considerable commercial standing in the city of London for many years, is dealt with in the Postscript to this paper kindly furnished by Mr. Lucien Wolf. It therefore does not at this point call for extended treatment.
The trial in which Francis Francia was the principal figure does not represent his first experience of the working of English law in
political cases. He had already shown proof of his pro-Stuart sympathies fourteen years previously as a witness for the prosecution in the case of one Wolstenholme, who had seditiously expressed his regret that the daughter of James II. had become