Licoricia of Winchester

Marriage, Motherhood and Murder in the Medieval Anglo-Jewish Community. It sounds like another pseudo-medieval bodice ripper or Cadfael clone. Can anyone really have been called Licoricia? But hang on a minute. Wasn’t Suzanne Bartlet a Fellow at Southampton University, until her death in June 2008? And Licoricia of Winchester was actually a real and famous Jewish woman.

Medievalists.net reports that

On a spring day in 1277, the prominent Jewish businesswoman Licoricia of Winchester was found by her daughter murdered, stabbed to death in her own house. Alongside Licoricia’s body was that of her Christian maid, Alice. Why was Licoricia killed? And why was her death reported as far away as Germany? In this ground-breaking new book, Suzanne Bartlet draws on extensive research in the fiscal archives of medieval England, most notably those of the Jewish Exchequer, to examine the family history behind the famous murder. This is the story of Licoricia’s route to wealth through advantageous marriages (her second amidst a divorce scandal which was referred to the Beth Din in Paris) and business acumen, the business contacts she made, the close relationship she appears to have had with King Henry III, and the altogether more mixed fortunes of her sons. By using Licoricia’s family as an example, Bartlet demonstrates the gradual deterioration in the conditions of even the wealthiest Jews in England in the run up to the Expulsion of 1290, as well as drawing together the fragments of a medieval life which has long fascinated historians, but has never been fully investigated.

Who needs fiction when you can have the truth?