Prince inaugurates statue of Licoricia, Winchester’s medieval Jewish heroine

The Prince of Wales had been due to attend the unveiling last month but was unable to after catching Covid-19


Crowds gathered on Jewry Street in Winchester on Thursday to welcome Prince Charles to the city as he inaugurated its new statue of Licoricia, medieval England’s most prominent Jewish businesswoman.

The Prince of Wales had been scheduled to unveil the sculpture by royal sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley last month but was forced to postpone his visit after testing positive for Covid-19.

Prince Charles received a Licoricia plant at the event to honour the remarkable life of its namesake who, twice a widow and a mother-of-three, singlehandedly carved out a position as a key source of financial aid for the aristocracy.

The heir to the throne was greeted by dignitaries, community leaders, schoolchildren and acclaimed historian Simon Sebag Montefiore who also attended last month’s unveiling ceremony.

Mr Rank-Broadley, whose sculpture of Princess Diana was unveiled at Kensington Palace last year, said: “His Royal Highness is very committed to interfaith work. Licoricia is in many ways a symbol of what can be achieved by that. I think it was very important that he came and he certainly recognised that.”

He added, “Apart from the name Jewry Street, the actual Jewish quarter has been entirely erased through the passage of time so in some ways it indicates there was a significant and very important Jewish community here and there still remains a Jewish community here so one sees history take its toll but also it goes round in that people are beginning to recognise the contribution which the Jewish community made to this country.”

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, who contributed educational material on Licoricia as part of the project, also attended.

“This is a special occasion because it’s actually quite rare to know about individuals let alone Jewish individuals,” he said.

We knew about “kings and queens, nobles, people who had their heads cut off or burnt at the stake, but not ordinary individuals,” he added.

Rabbi Romain was also among guests who personally spoke to Prince Charles.

“I said I was from Maidenhead and therefore whenever Prince Charles stays at Windsor Castle I’m his local rabbi which he chortled at.

“He asked me how long the synagogue had been there and I said about 70 years and mentioned his son Prince Edward had come along to celebrate our 70th anniversary in our new building and he’d done a really good job and he was really good at what he did, chatted to everybody, gave everybody a lot of time, stayed half an hour later than the appointment and he sort of sprinkled fairy dust all over the place and people are still talking about it even four or five years later. “

William Carver, a trustee at the Licoricia of Winchester Appeal, briefed Prince Charles on the sculpture’s design and historical significance.  

He said the royal commented on how “tragic the history of that time was”. 

Prince Charles also appeared “particularly interested in the Jewish elements of the statue.”

Mr Carver demonstrated how to spin a dreidel as he explained that Licoricia is depicted with her youngest son, Asser, who is shown holding a spinning top.

Prince Charles also appeared “fascinated” by an engraving on one side of the structure where the words “love thy neighbour as thyself” from Leviticus appear in English and Hebrew.

“He was fascinated by the ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ being in Hebrew,” he added.

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