Licoricia of Winchester

views updated


LICORICIA OF WINCHESTER (13th century), English busineswoman and moneylender. After the death of her first husband, she became an active and highly successful moneylender. She is first mentioned in records from the early 1230s that show she also lent money in association with other Jews. In 1242 Licoricia married David of Oxford, one of the wealthiest English Jews. In order to marry Licorica, David had to divorce his first wife, Muriel, a protracted undertaking in which King Henry iii of England, the Archbishop of York, and the batei din of London and Paris were all involved. After Licoricia and David married, she settled in Oxford, where she assisted her husband in his business dealings.

Following David's death, in 1244, Licoricia was immediately imprisoned in the Tower of London in order to prevent her interference in the assessment of David's estate. The price of her repurchase of all the debts owed to David was set at 5,000 marks, of which 4,000 went to a special exchequer established at Westminister Abbey to build a new shrine to Edward the Confessor. When she was released from the Tower in September 1244, Licoricia was left in control of sufficient wealth to engage in substantial and widespread business activities. Returning to live with her family in Winchester, she remained an active moneylender for the next 30 years or more. She frequented King Henry's court whenever he was in Winchester, dealing with members of his entourage as well as with the king himself, who apparently aided her in some of her more questionable activities. Licoricia's ease of access to the king was an asset to the Jewish community and individual Jews often used her to intercede for them. In 1277, Belia, Licoricia's daughter, found the bodies of Licoricia and of Alice of Bicton, Licoricia's Christian maid, stabbed to death in Licoricia's home in Winchester, possibly murdered during a robbery. The amount stolen was rumored to be the unlikely sum of £10,000. Licoricia was probably buried in the Jewish cemetery at Winchester.


S. Bartlet. "Three Jewish Businesswomen in Thirteenth-Century Winchester," in: Jewish Culture and History, 3/2 (2000), 31–54; S. Cohen. "The Oxford Jewry in the Thirteenth Century," in Jewish Historical Society of England: Transactions, 13 (1932–35), 293–322; R.B. Dobson, "The Role of Jewish Women in Medieval England" (Presidential Address), in: D. Wood (ed.), Christianity and Judaism. Studies in Church History 29 (1992), 145–68.

[Cheryl Tallan (2nd ed.)]