Belaset of London

Referred to in records as: “Belaset”, “Belasez”, “Belasset”, “Belassez”, “Beleasez”, “Beleassez”, “Bellaset”, “Belsaet”, “the wife”, “widow of Leo”.

Brief biography

Belaset of London, daughter of Aaron, was the wife of Leo son of Preciosa. Her mother-in-law Preciosa must have been an important woman—Leo is almost always identified in records as Leo son of Preciosa, that is, by his mother’s name and legacy—but little is known about her apart from her relation to her son. Leo was a prominent London financier who did business all across England. He had died by 1273, when Belaset began to appear frequently before the Justices of the Exchequer of the Jews to manage his estate, valued at just over £507. For much of 1273, she participated in the valuation of Leo’s chattels, bonds, and properties. Relying on other London Jewish men to verify his bonds and seals in court, she repeatedly liquidated Leo’s debts. Ultimately, the Crown accepted almost £41 of Leo’s chattels and, to cover taxes, 21 charters of his better and clearer debts, totalling more than £155. In 1278, she explained to the Justices, when accused by another Jew of disposing of Leo’s debts maliciously, that she had (smartly) taken over all of Leo’s debts to Christians precisely to pay these fines and taxes. She also took over Leo’s remaining debts (particularly those to other Jews) and continued to litigate these, and some of her own, into the 1280s. During the intervening years, Belaset also worked to protect her home and library. Her house was in the London Jewry, on Catte (now Gresham) Street at Ironmonger Lane, where she lived two doors down from the nearest mikveh and just around the corner from the community’s synagogue. One of the houses next to hers, owned 1271–1280 by Aaron Crespin, was the former home of Milkana of London, suspected convert and wife of Sakerel. By 1276, Belaset formally secured all rights to her home, including her garderobe (lavatory) and solarium, as well as her books. Her neighbor Meir son of Benedict, who seems to have held her property during litigation of Leo’s estate, freely returned ownership to Belaset, including all books that had belonged to her uncle Leo son of Miles, but excluding those books that came to her in the presence of her neighbors Aaron son of Vives and Josce son of Jacob. The specifics suggest not only that Belaset was concerned to maintain the library of her birth family but also that the exchange of books between neighbors (and between men and women) was not uncommon. It is likely that Belaset was dead by 1290, at which time her Catte Street property was owned by Abraham Motun.
Further reading

May be the same person as

Dates mentioned in records



London, Cambridgeshire, Kent, Essex, Sussex, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Rutland



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Putative social network for Belaset of London (experimental feature)
Leo Belaset Meir Bersale Unnamed Preciosa Aaron Unnamed Unnamed Leo
Putative family tree for Belaset of London (experimental feature)