This Society has a fine sense of the fitness of things and times if not of persons, and it was arranged that I should make a few re? marks on Jews and Coronations on the morrow of the day originally fixed for the coronation of Edward VII. The serious illness of the King rendered this arrangement inappropriate, and the proposed lecture was for the moment abandoned. But though the whole idea was thus shorn of its topical glamour, I have been held to my promise, and I now redeem it.
After this preamble, I trust your expectations will not be abnor? mally raised as to the value of what will be placed before you this evening. The fact is, the material is not so abundant as I had hoped, or perhaps I should rather say that I am not so gifted with the sleuth-hound's scent of some of my friends and colleagues for hidden away material of interest to the Anglo-Jewish historian. However, I must do my best with my limitations from whatever cause. I divide this lecture into two parts?the one dealing with Jews as personally affected by the coronation of English sovereigns, the other treating of Jewish influence upon the Coronation Service.
In pre-expulsion days the Jews were not specially affected by the accession of a new monarch. No tallage was imposed, and the new king simply walked into the rights which his predecessor enjoyed over the person and property of the Jews. In the Middle Ages the Jews of the German empire were compelled to pay a coronation tax on the accession of a new ruler. In Italy, too, on the appointment of a new pope, a tribute of spices was imposed. But such taxes were unknown in England. It is remarkable that the first English coronation of which we have a full and circumstantial account is that of Richard I., 3rd September 1189. Stubbs (Const. Hist., i. 496) says that it was carried out in such splendour and minute formality as to form a precedent for all subsequent ceremonies of the sort. The event has been often de? scribed, and, as every one here knows, it was full of melancholy interest to the Jews of this country. Let us glance at the sources from which later accounts have had to draw. The original autho? rity1 was a writer formerly described as Benedictus Abbas (Benedict of Peterboro'), but now virtually known to be Richard Fitz Nigel.2 He was a contemporary writer, and, as the King's Treasurer, was probably an eye-witness of what he relates. Mr. J. H. Round dis? putes the view that some now lost Exchequer record was used by Richard Fitz Nigel, and contends with much ingenuity that the author of the Gesta wrote from his own knowledge. Fitz Nigel's account is followed by Roger of Hoveden,3 also a contemporary, but not an eye-witness,4 adding matters of very little importance, and making a few changes which, as we shall see, do not improve the narrative. The next