If we are lucky enough to reach 90, most of us would want to take it easy. According to the Ethics of the Fathers, 90 is the age to stop. But the Queen, whose ninetieth birthday celebrations take place on 10-12 June, is still very active and shows little sign of slowing down.
As a community, we can reflect on positive relations with the Queen over the 64 years of her reign. We have said a prayer for her every week in shul, and she has reigned with consistency and equanimity. Community members have been feted at investitures and receptions. She has supported hundreds of charities, giving her patronage to the likes of Norwood and the Council of Christians and Jews.
Memorably, the Queen hosted a reception for the Jewish community in 2006, for the 350th anniversary since the resettlement of Jews in the UK. Ironically, this seminal moment in Anglo-Jewish history occurred under Cromwell’s watch in 1656 during the interregnum, the brief period in the mid-seventeenth century when we had a republic.
However, the harmonious relationship enjoyed by the community with the Queen nowadays is in stark contrast to the situation in the Middle Ages. In this era, the Jewish community was persecuted in Britain and the Crown, along with the Church, was part of this culture of hostility. The 16,000 Jews were expelled when Edward I (1272–1307) issued the edict of expulsion in July 1290, which coincided with Tisha B’Av in the Jewish calendar.
Even though the Jewish community was not officially to return for almost 400 years, Henry VIII (1509-47) ordered a copy of the Bomberg Talmud, as he was looking for loopholes to overcome the Catholic prohibition on divorce, which would allow him to marry Anne Boleyn. After the resettlement, the community enjoyed good relations with monarchs. Under George III (1760–1820), the Board of Deputies was founded when the community sent a deputation to visit the new King. Queen Victoria’s long reign (1837-1901) saw a close bond with the financier and philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore, originating from the time he allowed the young Princess Victoria and her family to use his holiday home in Ramsgate.
Relations with the community reached a high point during Edward VII’s reign (1901–1910). The King was close to a number of Jewish figures and financiers, including the Rothschilds, the Sassoons and Sir Ernest Cassel, known as “Windsor Cassel.” The King also greatly admired the then chief rabbi Hermann Adler, appointing him a Commander of the Victorian Order.
The community, then, has had its ups and downs with the monarchy, but under this Queen, we have been in safe hands.
Zak will be giving a talk at JW3 on Thursday 9 June at 7.30 pm – “The Monarchy in 10 objects.”