Tag Archives: Richard of Devizes

The Coronation of Richard I, and the Anti-Semitic Riot that followed (1189)


The  Duke of Normandy  was formally crowned King Richard I at Westminster Abbey on this day in 1189.  According to one account, which now  resides in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, the coronation ceremony was accompanied by “evil omens”, including the presence of a  bat fluttering around the king’s head during the crowning, and the mysterious pealing of bells.  Shortly afterwards, representatives  of the Jewish community, who had been barred from the ceremony, arrived at the abbey to present gifts and their respects to the newly-crowned king, only to beaten and stripped by the king’s men, and thrown out onto the street.  Sadly, this came to be taken as a licence to attack the entire – sizeable – Jewish  population of London.  According to Roger of Howden, in his Gesta Regis Ricardi, the “jealous and bigoted” citizens went on to kill many, including Jacob of Orleans, a respected scholar, to burn  the houses of many others, and to force  the remainder to seek sanctuary in the Tower of London, or to flee the city altogether, until it was safe to return.  And according to another chronicler of the event, Richard of Devizes: “On the very day of the coronation, about that solemn hour in which the Son was immolated to the Father, a sacrifice of the Jews … was commenced in the city of London, and so long was the duration … that the holocaust could scarcely be accomplished the ensuing day … ”.  A horrified Richard was forced  to issue a writ ordering the cessation of the  persecution of the Jews (he also  allowed those who had been forcibly converted to Christianity to  revert to Judaism).  Those guilty of the most egregious offences against them were  executed.


“Every quarter of it abounds with grave obscenities” (Richard of Devizes)


Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts and descriptions of the historic City of London, this one written by Richard of Devizes in the late twelfth century, i.e., at the same time – although not in the same tone – that William FitzStephen wrote his  …

“I do not like at all that city.  All sorts of men crowd together there from every country under the heavens.  Each race brings its own vices and its own customs into the city.  No one lives in it without falling into some sort of crimes.  Every quarter of it abounds in grave obscenities … .  Whatever evil or malicious thing that can be found in any part of the world, you will find it in that one city.  Do not associate with the crowd of pimps; do not mingle with the throngs in the eating-houses; avoid dice and gambling; the theatre and the tavern.  You will meet with more braggarts here than on all France; the number of parasites is infinite.  Acrobats, jesters, smooth-skinned lads, Moors, flatterers, pretty boys, effeminates, pederasts, singing and dancing girls, quacks, belly-dancers, sorceresses, extortioners, night-wanderers, magicians, mimes, beggars, buffoons: all this tribe fill all the houses.  Therefore, if you do not want to dwell with evil-doers, do not live in London”.