Archpresbyter, Presbyter of the Jews

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ARCHPRESBYTER, PRESBYTER OF THE JEWS , title of the official representative of medieval English Jewry, designated in Latin as Presbyter Judaeorum. The first archpresbyter, Jacob le Prestre, is recorded in 1183. After the Exchequer of the Jews' foundation, c. 1190, he was to "reside there and advise its justices." In 1199 he accepted responsibility for "the Jewry's great debts from the reigns of Henry ii and Richard i." His own tax he negotiated, personally, with the Crown. As the office carried risks as well as prestige, the king promised compensation would be paid, immediately, by any who transgressed against him. His own transgressions would be heard by the king or his chief justice. All Jacob's successors were eminent members of the Jewry. The great Rubigotsce's grandson, Josce, who retained the family's Rouen mansion, held office from 1207 to 1236 when Aaron of York, wealthiest of English magnates, replaced him. Elias l'Eveske, archpresbyter 1243–58, broke down under the pressure, accusing Henry iii of exactions "for things we cannot give though he would put out our eyes and cut our throats after pulling off our skins," a few years later resigning, and converting to Christianity. Hagin, Master Moses' second son, succeeded in 1257, surrounded by persistent scandal, and intrigue. Imprisoned in 1280, he died the next year. The queen's puppet, Hagin "at her instance" was replaced by his nephew, Cok Hagin, who in 1275 had been excommunicated by his uncle, the great scholar Master Elias. At the Expulsion in 1290 the queen, whom Cok also had served for many years, granted him license to sell his properties.


H.G. Richardson, English Jewry under Angevin Kings (1960), 117, 119–24; J. Hillaby, "The London Jewry: William i to John," in: jhset, 33 (1993–34), 18–19, 36–39; idem, "London: The 13th-Century Jewry Revisited," in: jhset, 32 (1990–92), 130–34, 137–46.

[Joe Hillaby (2nd ed.)]