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November 20: Edward Longshanks

November 20, 2015

King-Edward-IEdward I, known as “Longshanks” for his unusual height, ascended to the English throne on this date in 1272 at the age of 33. He would be remembered most for his cruel wars of conquest and colonization against Wales and Scotland, for establishing Parliament as a permanent legislature, and for evicting Jews from his kingdom in 1290 in an edict that would remain in effect for 350 years. The Jews of England were considered to be the king’s personal property, and Edward I had taxed them into penury by the 1280s. Jews were not allowed to hold land, and Jewish children could not inherit their parents’ wealth, which went to the king. In 1275, Edward I issued the Statute of the Jewry, which outlawed money-lending; in 1279, he arrested all the heads of Jewish households in England and had some 300 of them executed for supposed economic crimes. In the 1290 expulsion, the king took over all Jewish loans and property. Most Jews fled to France or Germany, while some stayed in England and hid their religious identity. Estimates of those who left range variously between 2,000 and 16,000.

“Although this sounds surprising — even unbelievable — the edict has not been cancelled and is still listed among British legal documents. It was actively in effect for decades until Oliver Cromwell allowed the Jews to return in the middle of the 17th century. In the past 350 years, the British Jewish community has become one of the largest and most thriving in the world, but the edict is still in effect.” —Ori Katzir