Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hugh (1246?-1255)

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HUGH (1246?–1255), called Hugh of Lincoln, Saint, was son of a woman of Lincoln named Beatrice. It is said that after having been missing from his home for some days, he was found dead in a well belonging to the house of a Jew named Copin, about 29 June (Matt. Paris), or more probably on 28 Aug. 1255 (Annals of Burton). The neighbours believed that he had been crucified by the Jews of the city, who were under the rule of a rabbi named Peytivin the Great, and it is asserted that his body bore the marks of crucifixion. In its full form the story is that Copin enticed the boy, who was eight or nine years of age, into his house when at play with his companions, that the Jews tortured him during ten days, keeping up his strength by feeding him well, or, according to another version, that they almost starved him for twenty-six days, and sent meanwhile to the other Jewries in England to gather the Jews together. Many are said to have assembled, and on 26 Aug. the boy is stated to have been tried before a man acting the part of Pilate, to have been scourged, crowned with thorns, and crucified in mockery of the death and passion of Jesus Christ. The Jews accounted for the presence of so many of their people in the city by saying that they had come to attend a wedding. It is said that they tried to sink the boy's body in the river, that the water would not hide it, that when they buried it the earth refused to remain above it, and that they therefore threw it into the well. Later than might have been expected Hugh's playfellows told his mother when and where they had last seen him; she went to Copin's house, and the body was discovered. John of Lexington, one of the officers of Henry III, being at Lincoln, the people brought Copin before him, and charged him with the murder. Lexington is represented as encouraging the accusers; he threatened the Jew with instant execution, promising, however, that he should be saved from death and mutilation if he would make a full confession. Copin confessed the crime, and is reported to have said that the Jews crucified a boy in the same manner every year. Lexington caused him to be kept in prison. Meanwhile a blind woman who touched Hugh's body is stated to have received sight, and other miracles are reported. Hearing this the dean of Lincoln, Richard of Gravesend, afterwards bishop, and the canons of the cathedral church begged to have the body, and, in spite of the opposition of the parson of the parish to which Hugh belonged, buried it with great state in their church next to the body of Bishop Robert Grosseteste. A monument has without sufficient reason been ascribed to Hugh. His mother went to meet the king on his return from the north, and laid her complaint before him. Henry at once ordered Copin to be drawn at a horse's tail through the streets of Lincoln and then hanged; the order was executed with great barbarity. Peytivin the Great escaped; eighteen Jews were hanged on 23 Nov., and ninety-one were imprisoned in London. On 7 Jan. 1256 Henry issued a writ to the sheriff of Lincoln commanding him to call a jury of twenty-four knights and burghers for the trial of the Jews confined in the Tower, who had put themselves on the county, and sent commissioners to Lincoln to hold an inquest on the case in March. The Jews were found guilty and condemned to death. They persuaded the Franciscans (Matt. Paris, or the Dominicans, Annals of Burton) to plead for them, but in vain. In consideration of a large sum Richard, earl of Cornwall, interfered on their behalf, and they were released on 15 May. The martyrdom of Hugh was made the subject of a French ballad before the end of Henry's reign, and in later times remained a popular theme for ballad poetry (Michel, Hugues de Lincoln). Reference is made to it by Chaucer in the ' Prioress's Tale,' and by Marlowe in his 'Jew of Malta,' act iii.

Such accusations against the Jews were commonly used for the purpose of extorting money, and were, therefore, encouraged by the royal officers. But the theory that they were invented in order to replenish the exchequer is insufficient. They were mainly the outcome of popular malice, ignorance, and superstition, and were often turned to the advantage of local churches. In England the first case of the kind seems to have happened in the reign of Stephen, when the Jews of Norwich are said to have bought a boy namedWilliam, and, having tortured hirn to have crucified him on Good Friday. The monks buried him in their church, miracles followed, and he was venerated as a saint (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, an. 1137; Robert de Monte, col. 459). A case of the same sort is said to have taken place at Gloucester in the next reign (Trivet, p.68). On 10 June 1181 a boy named Robert is supposed to have been murdered by the Jews at Bury; he was buried in St. Edmund's Abbey, and many miracles were wrought (John de Taxster ap. Cont. Flor. Wig. ii. 155; Gervase, i. 296), which were recorded by Jocelin de Brakelond (Jocelin, p. 12). In 1192 a Jew of Winchester was accused of crucifying a boy; no competent witnesses appeared against him, he paid a sum of money, and the case fell through (Richard of Devizes pp. 59-64). It was commonly believed at the time that the Jews were in the habit of buying Christian children in order to crucify them in mockery of the death of Christ (Coggeshall, p.26). Seven Jews of Norwich were accused before Henry III, at Christmas 1234, of having stolen and circumcised a boy, intending to crucify him the following Easter; some were executed (Wendover, iv. 324). All the Jews of the Norwich Jewry were arrested on a similar charge by order of Bishop William Ralegh in 1240; four were put to death (Matt. Paris, iv. 30). In 1244 the corpse of a boy was found in London tattooed with marks said to be Jewish characters; it was believed that the Jews had bought the boy and tortured him, and that he had died before they could crucify him; the body was buried in St. Paul's by the canons (ib. p. 377). On 14 Sept, 1279, soon after Edward I had heavily punished the Jews for abusing the coin, a boy is said to have been crucified at Northampton, but survived. On this occasion many Jews were sent up to London and there put to death ('Bury Chronicle' ap. Cont. Flor. Wig. ii. 222).

A belief in the guilt of the Jews has prevailed in most Christian lands in times of ignorance and fanaticism since the fifth century. In 428 an attack was made upon the Jews in Mestar, in the region of Chalcis, for crucifying a boy, and many were afterwards punished by legal sentence (Socrates, Historia, vii. c. 16; Cassiodorus, Historia Tripartita, xi. c. 13). Several cases are reported in France in the twelfth century, in Germany in the thirteenth and two following centuries, and in Spain in the fifteenth century. A like crime is said to have been committed at Constantinople in 1569, and on 17 April 1598 a boy named Albert was supposed to have been crucified in Poland (Acta SS. xi. 832). In 1840 the old superstition was revived at Damascus and at Rhodes, and in 1882 at Tiszaeszlar, near Tokay, in Hungary. In the last case the innocence of the Jews was conclusively proved by legal proceedings.

[For the story of St. Hugh the contemporary authorities are Matt. Paris, v. 516-19, 546, 552 (Rolls Ser.); Annales Monast.,Annals of Burton, i. 340 sq., 348, 371, and of Waverley, ii. 346 (Rolls Ser.); Royal Letters, Henry III, ii, 110 (Rolls Ser.); Fœdera, i. 335, 344 (Record Off.); ballad in Fr. Michel's Hugues de Lincoln; there are many later notices of the story; see also Tovey's Anglia Judaica, pp. 136-43; Archæologia, i. 26; Papers at Anglo-Jewish Exhibition of 1887, p. 159; Hume's paper in Liverpool Lit. and Philos. Soc.'s Proc. of 13 Nov. 1848, and criticism upon it in Athenæum of 15 Dec. 1849; Chaucer's Cant. Tales, Prioress's Tale, p. 102, ed. Tyrwhitt; Marlowe's Jew of Malta, act iii. p. 165, ed. Dyce; ballads in Michel's Hugues de Lincoln from collections of Grilchrist, i. 210, Jamieson, i. 139, Pinkerton, i. 75, Motherwell, p. 51, and Brydges, i. 381; Percy's Reliques, i. 54-60, ed. Wheatley. For similar accusations in England, Anglo-Saxon Chron. an. 1137 (Rolls Ser.); Rob. de Monte (Migne), col. 459; Trivet, p. 68 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); two Conts. of Flor. of Wore. ii. 155, 222 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Gervase of Cant. i. 296 (Rolls Ser.); Chron. of Jocelin de Brakelond, pp. 12, 113, 144 (Camden Soc.); Ric. of Devizes, pp. 59-64 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Walt. of Coggeshall, p. 26 (Rolls Ser.); Roger of Wendover, iv. 324; Matt. Paris, iv. 30, 377, u.s.; in France, Lambert Waterlos, an. 1163, Rob. de Monte, ann. 1171, 1177 in Recueil des Historiens, xiii. 315, 320, 520, and Rigord, an. 1191, Will. of Armorica, an. 1192, and Chr. de St. Denys in xvii. 37, 71, 377. For accounts of similar charges in other lands, see Socrates, Hist. Eccles. vii. c. 16 (fo. Paris); Cassiodorus's Hist. Tripart. xi. c. 13, Op. p. 343 (fo. Venice); Fleury's Hist. du Christianisme, l. 88, c. 40, ed. Vidal, v. 600; Graetz's Geschichte der Juden, vols. vi. vii. passim; Fr. Michel's Hugues de Lincoln, u.s.; Acta SS. Bolland. xi. 501, 695-738, 832, 836; Erfurt Annals, Pertz SS. xvi. 31; Annals Placent., Rerum Ital. SS. xx. cols. 945-9 (Muratori); H. Stero, an. 1288, Rerum Germ. SS. i. 572 (Freher); Percy's Reliques, u.s.; Dr. Lea's Religious Hist. of Spain, pp. 437 sq.; Ann. Register, vol. cxxiv.for 1882, p. 248.]

W. H.