The Coronation of Richard I

Another Coronation which was signalised by fear and bloodshed was that of Richard I., the Coeur-de Lion of romance and tradition, who so strangely has been chosen with Cromwell to represent the part of English kingship in statuary outside the Houses of Parliament.

At the time of his father's death in the July of 1189 Richard was in France, where the English Crown then had vast dominions. On his return to England the Coronation was held at Westminster on September 3rd

It was not without ill-omen, for a bat, woken by the acclamations of the people, left its dark home in the rafters and circled in panic round the King's head throughout the ceremony. This naturally caused much alarm to a primitive and credulous people much addicted to portents. Afterwards, during the banquet in Westminster Hall, a riot began of a more than usually unpleasant kind.

Owing to the violence of popular prejudice which was then raging against the Jews, the King, prior to his Coronation, had issued a proclamation forbidding any Jew to attend service in the Abbey or to be present at the ensuing Banquet. This was probably in order to protect them from the violence of the people, whose religious feelings were at that time much inflamed by the constant preaching of the Crusade enthusiasts.

Unfortunately several wealthy Jewish merchants, with eager curiosity, persisted in pushing their way into Westminster Hall, where they were recognised and roundly insulted by a "Christian", who struck one of them with the palm of his hand. Immediately a riot began, the mob crowding on the unfortunate Jews from all parts and striking at them first with their fists and then with clubs and stones.

In the course of their flight many of these poor creatures were trampled or beaten to death. Like wildfire the rumour spread that the King had ordered all his Jewish subjects to be treated likewise.

The mob was out, and the city was crowded with a great concourse of countrymen who had come up for the Coronation with arms in their hands. Eager for plunder, they fell on their prey. The Jews barricaded themselves into their houses, which with some prescience were built of stone, but all was in vain, for the furious mob, thwarted for an hour or two, set fire to the roofs and butchered the inmates with swords as they sprang from the windows.

Soon half-a-dozen fires were blazing in the narrow streets of wooden London, which that night presented the appearance of a sacked and conquered city rather than the rejoicing capital of an empire at the hour of its greatest commemorative festival.

More Articles on the British Monarchy