Comitissa Turbe of Gloucester

Referred to in records as: “Comitissa”.

Brief biography

Comitissa Turbe, a Jewish woman from Gloucester, spent much of the year 1220 before the Justices of the Exchequer of Jews accusing Abraham Gabbay of murdering her husband Solomon. According to Comitissa, Abraham hired a man called Andrew, a beer-server called Gilbert, and three other castle guards, to push Solomon out of the tower at Gloucester Castle, where he had been imprisoned after a physical altercation with Abraham. Comitissa, who was also briefly imprisoned, claimed that she overheard Abraham plotting with Andrew and Gilbert and, as soon as she was out of prison, hurried to London to inform Christian and Jewish authorities (among them Isaac of Norwich, leader of the Norwich Jewish community until his death ca. 1236). According to other witnesses, however, Solomon died by suicide. He lived for some time after his fall, when he claimed that he wanted to be like King Saul (who fell on his own sword in 1 Samuel 31:1–5). At the same time, he also accused Abraham Gabbay and even seemed to accuse Comitissa: witnesses heard him say repeatedly to her, Flee hence, for it is by your plot I am slain. The legal proceedings brought by Comitissa included witnesses and jurors from prominent Jewish families in Warwickshire and Gloucestershire, including Mirabel of Gloucester and her son-in-law Isaac (who was, at first, also accused). When Solomon was still alive, Mirabel paid a fine to have the Justices inquire directly with him about whomever he might accuse. Ultimately, the court ruled that Solomon had thrown himself from the castle tower, and that they did not have enough evidence to convict any other Jew. Comitissa, in response, began new proceedings against Gilbert the beer-server. Nothing further is known of this additional accusation, nor of Comitissa’s life in the years after her husband’s death, but the 1220 murder investigation reveals a woman’s independent and persistent use of the courts, complex interactions between Christians and Jews, and the interrelationships of several Jewish communities.
Further reading
  • Emma Cavell, The Measure of Her Actions: A Quantitative Assessment of Anglo-Jewish Women’s Litigation at the Exchequer of the Jews, 1219–81, Law and History Review 39.1 (2021): 135–72.
  • Hillaby Joe, Testimony from the Margin: The Gloucester Jewry and Its Neighbours, c.1159–1290, Jewish Historical Studies 37 (2001): 41–112, at 65–66.

Dates mentioned in records






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Putative social network for Comitissa Turbe of Gloucester (experimental feature)
Contessa Solomon Turbe
Putative family tree for Comitissa Turbe of Gloucester (experimental feature)