Author of the first biography of Licoricia, the 'most influential Jewish woman in 13th century England', Rebecca Abrams explores her significance.
Twice married, twice widowed and the mother of five children, Licoricia rose from obscurity to become one of the wealthiest women in thirteenth century England and one of the country’s most successful Jewish financiers, providing loans to kings, queens, bishops and the nobility. She enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Henry III and helped to fund his lavish shrine to Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey.
But Licoricia also endured the horrors that engulfed the Jews of medieval England in the decades before their mass expulsion by Edward I in 1290. She and her family experienced at first hand the rising tide of antisemitic legislation, local expulsions and massacres, which in the course of her lifetime systematically destroyed the country’s once-thriving medieval Jewry. Her first husband was falsely accused of killing a Christian child, one of her sons and grandchildren were executed on charges of coin-clipping, her local community was violently attacked, and she herself was ultimately murdered in her own home. Rebecca’s book Licoricia of Winchester (2022) brings this story of this remarkable individual to a general audience for the first time.
REBECCA ABRAMS (NC 1982) read English at Newnham. An award-winning author of eight works of fiction and non-fiction, she teaches creative writing at the University of Oxford. Her recent titles include The Jewish Journey: 4000 years in 22 objects (2017) and Jewish Treasures from Oxford Libraries (2020), which was longlisted for the 2021 Wingate Literary Prize. She is a regular contributor to the Financial Times, a former columnist on the Daily Telegraph and the recipient of an Amnesty International Prize for Journalism.