Bessa wife of Elias of Warwick

Referred to in records as: “Bessa”, “Besse”.

Brief biography

Bessa of Warwick was brutally assaulted by the family of Leo son of Deulebene in front of the Warwick synagogue on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah in 1244 (12 September 1244/1 Tishrei 5005). The pregnant Bessa, who was decked out in a gold belt buckle and gold rings at the time, suffered at the hands of Leo (who kicked her), his sister Muriel, his daughters Antera and Sigge, and his wife Henna (all of whom beat and dragged Bessa by her hair), so violently that she miscarried her unborn child later the same afternoon. While the motivation for the attack remains unclear, Bessa’s husband Elias of Warwick brought the accusation against Leo’s family on behalf of his miscarried infant. Elias also claimed that the family stole Bessa’s belt buckle and eight gold rings. In response, Leo’s family claimed they had stolen nothing, that Bessa started the fight by attacking Leo’s daughter Antera, and that Bessa had faked her injuries and miscarriage by smearing herself with the blood of animals. King Henry III ordered a jury inquest to determine the facts.
The jury found that Elias had made a false charge of robbery—Bessa had been wearing a gold buckle and rings but the exact number and value were unknown—but that Sigge and her family did in fact assault Bessa. Further, the inquest determined that Bessa did not attack Antera, that she did miscarry an infant yet too young for its sex to be distinguished, and that she did not smear herself with the blood of animals, but … was bathed in her own blood as she held her infant. Ultimately, Elias paid one mark for his apparently false accusation, while Sigge, Antera, Muriel, and Leo were ordered, with their household and chattels, to leave Warwick permanently.
Further reading

Dates mentioned in records






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Bessa Elias of Warwick
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