Skip to main content

Full text of "A Note on Jewish Doctors in England in the Reign of Henry IV"

See other formats


STOP 



Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 
purposes. 

Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.jstor.org/participate-jstor/individuals/early- 
journal-content . 



JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 
contact support@jstor.org. 



JEWISH DOCTORS IN ENGLAND IN REIGN OF HENRY IV 141 



A NOTE ON JEWISH DOCTORS IN ENGLAND 
IN THE REIGN OF HENRY IV. 

Throughout the Middle Ages the Jews held an honourable record 
for the study and practice of medicine. Whilst the art of healing 
was reduced by most Westerns to a mass of superstitions or to a body 
of traditional lore, the Jews, with the Arabs, devoted themselves to 
the unravelling of the problems of medical science with singular 
pertinacity. They were hampered by various prohibitions against 
the employment of Jewish doctors by Christians, but in practice these 
prohibitions had no great weight. 

Dispensations and non-obstantes, licences and permits were scattered 
profusely until they wholly nullified the prohibitory legislation ; nay, 
the legislators and popes themselves were among the first to set aside 
their own ordinances and statutes. From the tenth century onwards 
many courts possessed their Jewish doctors. 

Jews had been banished from England more than a hundred years 
before the accession of Henry IV, during which period few conforming 
Jews appear to have visited these shores openly. Here and there it 
is true some converted Jews, hearing of the royal bounty to their 
class, followed the victorious armies of Edward III and his heroic son, 
and settled in the Domus Conversorum. 

It was not until disease had tightened its grip upon Henry IV that 
we find authentic evidence of Jews re-visiting these shores. A successful 
combination of the Church and nobility had driven Richard II from 
the throne. His cousin, Henry of Derby, the leader of the rebellious 
elements, then received the crown as a reward for his services in 
restoring the authority of these powerful sections of the nation. But 
to defend his prize against all comers proved no easy task. Rebellion 
succeeded rebellion until the labour and anxiety of crushing them 
had shattered the king's health. 

The decline in the king's vigour began as early as 1406, and for 
seven long years he remained a victim to the ravages of disease. Yet 
his work was far from being complete. Glendower still roamed about 
in Wales at the head of armed bands threatening the Marches, nor 
had that Arch-plotter, Percy, Earl of Northumberland, run his fatal 
course. The task of securing his kingdom against these internal 
enemies and their external allies, Scotland and France, overtaxed the 
king's energies and wore out his strength. His malady now assumed 



142 THE JEWISH QUARTEELY REVIEW 

such a serious character that the skill of his native physicians was 
totally baffled. 

In his younger days, when he was still Henry of Derby, the king 
had wandered over Europe a good deal. He had visited Italy, had 
fought under the banner of the Teutonic knights against the 
Lithuanians, and had entered Wilna with the victorious German army 1 . 
In these wanderings he had come into contact with Jews, and even 
made purchases of them 2 . It was at this time that the fame of 
the Jewish doctors must have reached him, for several of them 
occupied eminent positions at the courts of his contemporaries. 
I will but mention two or three of the most distinguished. 

Don Meier Alguades, the author of IDD'HK? JTflDn "IBD, a translation 
of the Arabic version of Aristotle's Ethics, and afterwards Rabbi of 
the Jews of Castile, was the private doctor of Henry III of Castile, 
who reigned from 1390- 1406. Boniface IX, who wore the tiara from 
1389-1404, employed two Jews — Manuela and his son Angelo, to 
minister to his bodily ailments*. In Germany and Poland the 
reputation of the Jews in the medical world would be often brought 
to his knowledge. Upon these half-forgotten memories of his youth 
the king fell back in his time of need. In 1410 the king's illness 
had become so serious that foreign aid was necessary. The first of 
the newcomers was Doctor Elias Sabot the Hebrew, brought specially 
from Bologna to prescribe for the illustrious patient 4 . Of Sabot's 
antecedents the official documents unfortunately tell us nothing 8 . 
My own researches have been no more fruitful in discovering any 
particulars of his birth or education. Nor is our knowledge of his 
subsequent history more extensive. The description of him in the 
safe-conduct permitting him to enter England terms him " doctorem 
in artibus medicinarum." His retinue included ten servants with 
their horses and harness 6 . Does this indicate that our medico 
travelled with a private minyan, knowing that in far-off Britain 

1 Derby Accounts (Camden Soc), xix, xxx, cvi ; Wylie, England under 
Henry IV. 

a "Super officio pulleterei per manus Iacob Iudei pro xxviii caponibus 
xxxi gallinis per ipsum emptis, ibidem pro providenciis viii due. 54 s.," 
Derby Accounts. 

3 Mandosio : Degli archiati Pontifici, I, 107, in. "Angelo di Manuele, 
Giudeo del Eione di Trastevere, al primo di Luglio 139a ottenne di essere 
annoverato tra famigliari e mediei del papa e della santa sede." 

4 Ramsay, Lancaster and York, I, 123 n. 7 ; Wylie, III, 231 n. 5. 

6 Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, XXIV, 993, mentions a Dr. Elias 
who may possibly be identical with Sabot. If so, he had a stormy career 
before his appearance in England. 

6 Eymer, VIII, 667. 



JEWISH DOCTOKS IN ENGLAND IN REIGN OE HENEY IV I43 

that " alter orbis," he would find 110 Jews, and it would be impossible 
to obtain the number of adult males requisite for public worship ? 
Perhaps it was this that prompted the Rev. M. Adler in his paper on 
the Domus Conversorum to assert that Dr. Sabot remained staunch 
to his ancestral faith — though Mr. Adler furnishes no reasons for his 
conjecture 1 . The royal protection was extended to Sabot and 
his retinue for two years with permission to practise his art un- 
molested in any part of the kingdom, provided that they always 
showed their safe-conduct before entering any town, fortress, or camp 
of the king. 

The king's health under Dr. Sabot's ministrations had not improved, 
he could scarcely take part in public business, hence, in the words of 
Dr. Wylie, "he followed the prevailing fashion and called in the 
services of an Italian Jew, Dr. David di Nigarelli of Lucca who 
remained in this country until his death in 1412." 

Before proceeding to give a detailed account of Nigarellis I would 
point out that none of the documents in which he is mentioned 
contains the slightest hint of his racial origin. But the learned 
historian whom I have just quoted assigns him to the Jewish race 
upon the grounds of his name, his place of origin, the undisputed 
pre-eminence of Jewish doctors, and the prevailing fashion of the 
time upon which I commented in my opening remarks. 

I have endeavoured to track Nigarellis to his lair and establish his 
identity beyond the possibilities of doubt, but many weary hours 
spent in the British Museum and Record Office failed to reveal 
anything more than is contained in these notes. 

From the first document extant relating to him, tested by the king 
on Feb. 2, 141 2 s , some thirteen months before his death, we learn that 
the king has granted to David de Nigarellis "jffisicus penes nos," the 
sum of eighty marks per annum for his services, secured upon certain 
lands administered by Walter Beauchamp on behalf of John de Beyton, 
a minor, who held " in capite " from the king. This amount should be 
paid in two instalments at Easter and Michaelmas. This information 
is duplicated by a " closed letter " of the following April, addressed 
to Walter Beauchamp ordering him to make the payments granted 
by the king from the lands which Beauchamp administered 3 . A side 
note on the patent-roll records the death of David and the surrender 
of the lands by his executors, though no date of the event is given. The 
services rendered by the king's new doctor must have been efficacious 
in affording some relief from his sufferings, if we may judge by the 

1 Trans. Jew. Hist. Soc., IV, 36. 

* Pat. Rolls, 13 Henry IV, p. i. m. 10. 

3 Close Rolls, 13 Henry IV, m. 22. 



144 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

ample rewards showered upon his medical adviser. Within sixteen 
days of the grants referred to in the previous documents the king 
issued letters of naturalization to Nigarellis whereby he was hence- 
forth to be treated as a native, to have the right of receiving, 
obtaining, giving, granting, alienating, enjoying and inheriting any 
lands, tenements, revenues, advowsons, services, reversions, and other 
possessions whatsoever 1 . The said David might plead in any court 
in all matters affecting realty as well as personalty, always providing 
that he pays scot and lot, taxes, tallages, customs, subsidies and all 
other dues paid by the king's lieges. This was a comprehensive 
grant, and if I am right in claiming the doctor as a Jew we have here 
the first grant of naturalization to a Jew within the British Isles. 
The patent just summarized was preceded by an order in French, 
under the privy seal, addressed to the Chancellor, Thomas Arundel, 
Archbishop of Canterbury, who entered upon his fifth term of office 
about a month before Nigarellis came to this country (Jan. 5, 1412) 2 . 
The two documents are identical in date and in subject-matter, though 
the privy seal must have, as I stated, preceded the patent— the latter 
being a Latin version entered upon the public records and the date 
copied from the mandate addressed to the Chancellor. 

In addition to the 80 marks per annum which Nigarellis received 
from his lands he was also made Warden of the Royal Mint. 
A document has been preserved in the mint accounts of the Exchequer 
setting out an indenture between the executors of the late Warden, 
Lodowick Recouche, and Master Davynus de Nigarellis de Luca, 
"physicus et custos monete regis 3 ." The document is undated, but 
I have no hesitation in ascribing it to the early part of 141 2. 
Recouche, whom Nigarellis succeeded, held the office of Warden from 
5 Henry IV i. e. from 1403 onwards, but the date of his death is 
unknown. On the other hand the holders of the office for the last 
year of Henry's reign are known 4 . Thus far the king's physician. 

My third Jewish doctor is connected with the life-story of a less 
exalted individual than the King of England, but is linked to the 
fortunes of one whose fame surpasses that of kings. I speak of 
Sir Richard Whittington, the hero of the well-known nursery tale, 
and of Alice, his wife. 

Into the history of Whittington, or the curious fate that has 
overtaken his memory, and transferred his activities from the counting- 
house to the realms of fairy-land and the pantomime I do not propose 

1 Foedera, VIII, 725. 

a Campbell, Lives of the Lord Chancellors, I, 317. 

3 Excheq. K. E. Mint Account's, ^f*. 

1 Ending, Annals of Coinage, I, 27 and 46. 



JEWISH DOCTORS IN ENGLAND IN EEIGN OP HENRY IV I45 

to enter. Suffice it to say that the Eichard of history when he had 
grown to manhood married Alice, the daughter of Sir Ivo Fitzwarren, 
who, like her husband, has been a source of amusement to generations 
of the young. About the year 1409 the lady was seriously ill— in fact 
so serious was her condition that her husband had recourse to the 
indispensable Jewish doctor. The king readily granted the necessary 
permission to import a " destitute alien " and " Maistre Sampson d'e 
Mierbeawe judeus" came from the South of France to tend the 
Lady Alice l . 

The " Mierbeawe " of the MSS. is no doubt Mirabeau. But there 
are two places of this name situated in the modern departments 
of Basses Alpes and Vaucluse respectively. The latter is the more 
considerable, so that probably Master Sampson came from Mirabeau 
in Vaucluse, since the Jews generally lived in the largest towns. In 
any case Sampson hailed from a region where Jews abounded in large 
numbers, and where they were especially distinguished in medical 
science. The papal dominions in the South of France, Marseilles, 
Montpelier, Lunel, Carpentras, Vienne, and many other places in that 
region were centres of Jewish life and learning. 

Of Sampson, as of the others, I have found no trace previous or 
subsequent to his coming to England. The permission granted to him 
by the king was very comprehensive, and included the privilege of 
sojourning in London, practising his art throughout the whole realm, 
by day and night, by land or sea, " as well as by marque of war." 
The grant is for one year, and contains the usual commands against 
interference with Sampson in the exercise of his calling. What the 
results of Master Sampson's ministrations were I am unable to say — 
information on that point is wholly lacking, nor are we able to infer 
it from other events, since the exact date of the death of the Lady 
Alice is unknown. 

A. Weinee. 

1 French Rolls, n Henry IV, m. 20 ; Rice and Besant, Life of Whittitigton. 



VOL. XVIII.