Regina Jeffers: Jews in England During the Reign of George III

Regina-270x300The next book in my highly popular and award-winning Realm series contains several Jewish characters. When I started writing A Touch of Love, I was most concerned with portraying the Jewish population as it really occurred at the time. I spent countless hours in research, even setting several of my Jewish friends to the task of finding me volumes not readily available. Georgette Heyer’s Jewish characters were often criticized as too stereotypical. Therefore, I meant to avoid that issue. Each of the books in this series addresses a different issue: family abuse, religious sects, anorexia, etc. A Touch of Love addresses issues of “prejudice” in Regency England among social classes and religions.

Jews in England During the Reign of George III

Like the Deputies appointed to protect the civil rights of Protestant Dissenters, the Spanish and Portuguese Jewry, who had taken refuge in England, periodically nominated deputados to keep the Jewish community aware of the political developments, which could affect Jewish interests. Therefore, when George III ascended to the throne, a standing committee was formed to express loyalty to the new king, while keeping a close eye on political changes.

However, the Ashkenazi sect–those of Judaeo-German extraction–lodged a formal protest, expressing their fear of neglect. They nominated the German Secret Committee for Public Affairs to serve their particular interests. Eventually, the King’s government insisted that the Deputados regularly communicate with the Committee of the Dutch Jews’ Synagogues. This joint venture formed the basis for the London Committee of Deputies of British Jews, which is commonly referred to as the Board of Deputies in present day UK. During the 19th Century, these deputies retained substantial importance and even earned statutory recognition.

The Jews in England had increased twelve fold over the seventy years following the Glorious Revolution and numbered between 6000-8000, most who lived in London. The more anglicized (but only 25% of the total population) nation were those from Spain and Portugal (Sephardic) faction. The Ashkenazim were less assimilated (with several notable exceptions) and belonged to the lower classes. From The History of The Jews in England, we learn, “On every section, the alembic of English tolerance was working with remarkable speed and with an efficacy which from the sectarian point of view, was only too complete. Not only was this the case with the native-born upper class, in whom the process was more notorious, but with their more modest associates as well.” Many Jews chose to forsake their religion and take advantage of the opportunities available to those who submitted to conversion. “This process was partially compensated by a modest though unmistakable trickle of proselytization, strenuously combated by the nervous communal leaders, which was to culminate most embarrassingly, notwithstanding their opposition, in the preposterous episode of the conversion to Judaism of the erstwhile Protestant champion, Lord George Gordon in 1787.”

Jews held high offices in English Lodges (Freemasonry) as early on as 1732. Their presence assisted in shaping a change in sentiment among the British populace. The process of assimilation brought English into the public school curriculum of Sephardic Jews. Sermons appeared in English translations. Even the publication of the Jewish prayer book into English occurred in 1770. Yet, the foreign character of the community was maintained by the constant influx of new arrivals, those who had escaped the wars in central Europe, expulsion from Bohemia, massacres in Poland, etc.

London attracted more of the displaced Continental Jews than did other English cities, most settling in the East End or the West beyond Temple Bar. The wealthier ones found employment or developed institutions dealing in commerce, jewelry, brokerage or stocks. Those of the middle class became silversmiths, watchmakers, and shopkeepers. Lower still were tailors, hatters, glass engravers, pencil makers, etc. Lowest of all were those without job skills or money. These took on the roles of peddlers or traders of old clothes, often referred to as the “Rag Men.” Estimates say there were 1500 “Old Clothes Men” in London at the end of the 18th Century. “Rag Fair, or Rosemary Lane, near the Tower of London, became the most populous, though far from the most salubrious, part of London’s Ghetto. Hither, the cast-off clothing of the upper classes, purchased after much haggling in the areas of Westminster and St. James’s, was brought to be reconditioned by the dark-eyed daughters of Judah, who were famous as needle-women. Then it would set out on its travels again, to return at intervals, until the odyssey was ended as dirty rag to be pulped into paper.”

Eventually, this population of peddlers spread out across England, bringing “treasures” (buckles, buttons, lace, tobacco, cutlery, toys, etc.) to the isolated rural population. Jews of the organized provincial centers, market towns, and seaports aligned with one of the London conventiclers, generally the Great Synagogue. Large Jewish communities could be found in Portsmouth (established 1747), King’s Lynn (1747), Bristol (1754), Plymouth (1740), Canterbury (1760), Liverpool (1750), Exeter (1763), Falmouth (1766), Manchester (1770), Birmingham (1770), Chatham (1780), Sheffield (1790), Ipswich (1792), and Bedford (1803).

At the height of the expansion, the Ashkenazim community was hampered by the steady flow of poor Jews, who were often of a criminal element. A series of crimes, culminating in a brutal murder in Chelsea, caused the community to disassociate itself from the malefactors.


Regina’s new book will be available the end of October. Here’s a sneak peak.

BookCoverImageA Touch of Love

“The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout.”

Publishers Weekly

The REALM has returned to England to claim the titles they left behind. Each man holds to the fleeting dream of finally knowing love and home, but first he must face his old enemy Shaheed Mir, a Baloch warlord, who believes one of the group has stolen a fist-sized emerald. Mir will have the emerald’s return or will exact his bloody revenge..

Aristotle Pennington has groomed SIR CARTER LOWERY as his successor as the Realm’s leader, and Carter has thought of little else for years. He has handcrafted his life, filled it with duties and responsibilities, and eventually, he will choose a marriage of convenience to bolster his career; yet, Lucinda Warren is a temptation he cannot resist. Every time he touches her, he recognizes his mistake because his desire for her is not easily quenched. To complicate matters, it was Mrs. Warren’s father, Colonel Roderick Rightnour, whom Sir Carter replaced at the Battle of Waterloo, an action which had named Carter a national hero and her father a failure as a military strategist.

LUCINDA WARREN’s late husband has left her to tend to a child belonging to another woman and has drowned her in multiple scandals. Her only hope to discover the boy’s true parentage and to remove her name from the lips of the ton’s censors is Sir Carter Lowery, a man who causes her body to course with awareness, as if he had etched his name upon her soul. Fate cruel twists have thrown them together three times, and Lucinda prays to hold off her cry for completion long enough to deny her heart and to release Sir Carter to his future: A future to which she will never belong.


Matthew Warren had instructed his first wife to send their child to his second wife if something, Heaven forbid, happened to both of them during the war. The problem: Captain Warren had married Lucinda Rightnour, the girl to whom he had been betrothed since childhood, while still married to Sadia Cotto. In this scene, Lucinda and her uncle, the Earl of Charleton, negotiate for the Simon Warren’s future with Sadia’s parents.

As Lucinda looked on, Charleton turned to those who would place a claim on Simon. “May I ask of your reason for choosing Portsmouth, Mr. Cotto?”

The man, who reminded Lucinda of the “Rag” men, she had once observed at Rosemary Lane, near the Tower of London, sat perfectly straight. “First, Your Lordship, please excuse my English,” he said with a thick accent. He spoke slowly, enunciating each word carefully. “I read your tongue with more efficiency than I speak it.” Charleton nodded his head aristocratically, and Cotto continued. “I do not possess the learning of Mr. Cohen and many of my countrymen. I am a simple man from a small Spanish village in the Soria Province. My wife and I traveled to England some ten months prior, but as it was in my homeland, work has been difficult to find. We have journeyed across England, but I have known no success.”

“And what is your occupation?” Lucinda asked when no one else spoke. She did not wish to place Simon with a family who could not support the boy. Simon had thrived over the last month with no more bare meals.

“In Spain, I trained the horses for Vizcendo de Ariba, a man of high rank who met his end at Salamanca. De Ariba prided himself on owning the finest line in the province.”

Lucinda knew little of thoroughbreds–had only even considered their value to the aristocracy after having the acquaintance of the Hellsmans. Lady Arabella had explained how men saw their horses as an extension of their personalities. An aristocrat setting astride his thoroughbred declared to the world his lineage equaled that of the animal. She could understand how a man accustomed to training such animals could find work scarce as the animals themselves, especially if the man was a Jew. Unfortunately, Cotto’s explanation did not ease Lucinda’s qualms.

“Would you please explain how you believe you hold a connection to the boy my niece has made her ward?” Charleton’s expression showed none of the emotions Lucinda’s did.

“Many years prior, during the war that raked our homeland raw, our daughter,” Cotto gestured to his wife, “met an English lieutenant. When she brought the man home for our approval, neither her mother or I could accept Sadia’s choice.”

“Because the gentleman was an English military officer?” Lucinda asked indignantly. Why she felt any allegiance to Matthew Warren, she could not explain. Perhaps it was the fact Lucinda had never considered the possibility others would object to an English gentleman.

“No, Ma’am,” Cotto explained. “The man…” Cotto paused awkwardly. “I mean no offense, Ma’am. From your introduction, I recognize you possessed a connection to my daughter’s husband, and you hold an allegiance to the man.” He glanced at her significantly. “Our objections are difficult of which to speak. The man Sadia chose was of Judaeo German extraction. Matthew Warren held Ashkenazim origins.”

Lucinda’s lips trembled. She struggled to hide how much pain coursed through her chest. She had come to accept Captain Warren’s betrayal as being the man’s great love for another woman, but this was another layer of deceit. She had the acquaintance of Matthew Warren her entire life, but she had never really known the man to which she had been betrothed.

Her uncle captured her hand, and Lucinda concentrated on his features. They were nothing like her father’s. The colonel would have been fuming by now, but the earl had schooled his expression to one of sensibility. “You mean to tell us the Warrens are of Jewish descent? How is that possible? I know from both my brother’s words and those of his wife the Warrens regularly attended services at the Church of England. My, God man! My niece and Matthew Warren spoke their vows before the clergy of the church.”

“Long after he, obviously, spoke his vows to our daughter before a rabbi,” Cotto declared.

Lucinda found her voice. “If you objected to your daughter’s marriage, how did it come to pass?”

Cotto’s eyes narrowed and his mouth thinned to a tight line. “Lieutenant Warren held no honor. He claimed my daughter before vows were spoken.” The man’s words ripped at Lucinda’s composure. Once again, she despised her husband for denying her the intimacies of the marriage bed. If it were not so unladylike, Lucinda would spit upon Matthew’s name. “When a woman anticipates her marriage no good can come of her joining,” Cotto declared into the silence. “I said as much to Sadia, but my warning knew deaf ears. My beautiful daughter lost the child she carried only weeks after speaking her commitment.”

The man’s words made little sense. “Simon is but…”

“Six years of age,” Cotto finished Lucinda’s protestation. “The first child was a daughter.”

Lucinda had trusted Matthew Warren unconditionally. She had bought into the fairy tale, and now all her walls had crumbled to dust.

Charleton empathized, “It is difficult to permit a child her mistakes and not wish to rush in.”

Cotto closed his eyes, and Lucinda noted the pain and disillusionment, which crossed his countenance. She had observed like emotions in her mirror’s reflection. “Mr. Warren took our Sadia away on the day of their joining, and Mrs. Cotto has known no peace since that eventful day. We received but a half dozen letters from Sadia in those intervening years. One explaining the untimely death of her daughter. Another holding news of her second child. A third announcing Simon’s arrival. Another speaking of Captain Warren’s demise. A fifth pleading for our assistance when our Sadia took ill. A final one from a physician explaining Sadia’s passing. We knew nothing of the lieutenant’s abandonment or of the Englishman’s dual life. It makes me sad to think our daughter accepted Lieutenant Warren’s unfaithfulness.”

Although she thought it impossible, Lucinda felt pity for Sadia Warren. The woman’s parents had turned their backs on their only child. She could hear the bitterness in the earl’s tone when he asked, “You did not rush to your daughter’s side when you discovered Captain Warren’s desertion?” She knew Charleton had searched for her after the colonel’s death, and he had welcomed her despite Lucinda’s many faults. It was a sobering reality.

Mrs. Cotto shot a furtive glance at her husband. “Sadia’s choice was not in keeping with our faith,” she said softly. “But we did send for the child after learning of Sadia’s passing.”

Apprehension riddled Lucinda’s question. “You have never set eyes on the boy?”

“No, Ma’am.” Mrs. Cotto wiped her eyes with a small handkerchief.

Another long, uncomfortable pause followed. “Yet, you had sought the boy?” Lucinda searched for a flicker of hope in the Cottos’ tale.

“We were too late,” Cotto admitted without emotion. “Sadia had sent the child away, leaving no record of where he might be. However, our daughter did leave an account of her husband’s activities. Neither Sadia or Mr. Warren acted honorably, as such, we feared retribution and fled our home.” Lucinda noted Mr. Cotto’s expression of anticipation. The man thought his tale would spark the earl’s interest. Little did Cotto realize the earl would never pay to hush information, which would soon become public record.

About Regina:

Regina Jeffers is the author of several Austen-inspired novels, including Darcy’s Passions, Darcy’s Temptation, Vampire Darcy’s Desire, Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion, The Phantom of Pemberley, Christmas at Pemberley, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, and The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy. She also writes Regency romances: The Scandal of Lady Eleanor, A Touch of Velvet, A Touch of Cashémere, A Touch of Grace, and The First Wives’ Club. A Time Warner Star Teacher and Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, Jeffers often serves as a consultant in language arts and media literacy. Currently living outside Charlotte, North Carolina, she spends her time with her writing, gardening, and her adorable grandson.
Twitter – @reginajeffers
Facebook – Regina Jeffers
(Books available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Joseph Beth, and Ulysses Press.)
The Phantom of Pemberley – SOLA’s Fifth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Awards – 3rd Place – Romantic Suspense
Darcy’s Temptation – 2009 Booksellers’ Best Award Finalist – Long Historical
The Scandal of Lady Eleanor – Write Touch Readers’ Award – 2nd Place – Historical Romance
A Touch of Grace – SOLA’s Seventh Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Awards – 3rd Place – Historical Romance
The First Wives’ Club – SOLA’s Seventh Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Awards – Honorable Mention – Historical Romance
Christmas at Pemberley – 2011 Booksellers’ Best Award Finalist – Inspirational Romance; Second Place, General Fiction, New England Book Festival
The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy – SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Awards – Honorable Mention – Romantic Suspense
Angel and the Devil Duke – SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Awards – 3rd Place- Historical Romance

6 thoughts on “Regina Jeffers: Jews in England During the Reign of George III

  1. Great post Regina! I look forward to reading this. I too am interested in this subject and have that wonderful resource book, “The Jews of Georgian England” by Todd Endelman. For all of their grudging acceptance in the business community, there was still tremendous prejudice against Jews. I always found it interesting that it was Cromwell who allowed for the re settling of the Jewish population in England, although the theory is that he most likely used their business acumen as a way to strengthen England.
    Tweeted and shared

  2. Nancy, thank you for the kind comments. I appreciate your support. As a point of reference, I also found “Profiles in Diversity: Jews in a Changing Europe 1750-1870” very helpful. It is by Frances Malino and David Sorkin.
    One point which struck me as poignant was the fact that as a practicing Catholic, I would have had less religious “freedom” than the Jews in Regency England. Because of the Holocaust, the general public often think the Jews possessed NO religious freedom.

  3. Jennelle, thank you for joining us today. The book should have been released by now, but with the US government shut down, I have been waiting for a Library of Congress catalog number so the interior might be set. Keep watching for promo posts from me. I will be giving away loads of copies over the next 3 weeks.

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