Female and Male Voices in Early Modern England: An Anthology of Renaissance Writing

By Betty S. Travitsky; Anne Lake Prescott | Go to book overview
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15
The Jewish Question in Early Modern England

Although the Jews had been officially expelled from England in 1290 following an accusation of a ritual murder,1 the persecution of Jews in the Iberian peninsula in the late fifteenth century scattered Spanish and Portuguese refugees across Europe. Approximately two dozen Jews settled in Elizabethan London. Ostensibly converted, these “New Christians” were often, as many suspected, Marranos (“Secret Jews”) who at risk to themselves continued secretly to practice remnants of their old faith. Among the Jews in early modern England's tiny colony were a mother and daughter who left some written records. Sara Ames Lopez (1550–after 1594) was the daughter of Constance Ruys and Dunstan Añes, a Portuguese Marrano merchant. Born in London, she married another Marrano, Dr. Roderigo Lopez, an immigrant Portuguese physician who rose to become Queen Elizabeth's trusted doctor before being executed in 1594 on what many now think a trumped-up charge—originating with spies of the rambunctious Essex—of plotting to poison the queen.

A normal concomitant of execution for treason was seizure of the felon's goods by the crown. After Lopez's execution, his widow petitioned the queen to return his goods to her and her now orphaned children. In a very unusual response, Elizabeth agreed, returning to Sara Lopez all Dr. Lopez's goods except a ring given him by King Philip of Spain, the ring Lopez had once offered to the

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1
A libel accusing Jews of murdering a Christian child to reenact the crucifixion and then using the blood of the innocent to prepare matzot for Passover. The earliest accusation in England was in Norwich in 1144. The most notorious was in 1255 and involved eight-year old Hugh of Lincoln, later canonized.

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