Blood Libel: Little Saint Hugh’s Tale

Matthew Paris's English history. From the year 1235 to 1273
Matthew Paris's English history. From the year 1235 to 1273

The Tragic Tale of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln

Introduction: The Death of Hugh of Lincoln

In 1255, the death of an English boy named Hugh in Lincoln became infamous as it was falsely blamed on Jews. Referred to as “Little Saint Hugh,” the incident is a notable example of the blood libel myth.

Origins of the Blood Libel Myth

Hugh’s death is part of a series of blood libel cases, wherein Christian children’s deaths were wrongfully interpreted as Jewish human sacrifices. Scholars speculate that church authorities in Lincoln may have orchestrated events to attract pilgrims to a new martyr’s shrine.

Political and Religious Context

Leading up to the accusation, King Henry III heavily taxed English Jews, causing financial distress. The Crown’s sale of Jewish tax rights to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, further strained relations. Anti-Jewish sentiments intensified with church pronouncements, leading to the expulsion of Jewish communities from several English towns.

The Accusation and Its Impact

In Lincoln, a nine-year-old Hugh went missing, only to be found dead later. Accusations surfaced, claiming Jews had imprisoned, tortured, and crucified him. King Henry III gave credence to these allegations, marking a shift in Crown policy regarding ritual child murder claims.

Legal Ramifications and Mass Arrests

Henry III’s response included the execution of a Jew named Copin and the arrest of ninety Jews, leading to a trial for ritual murder. Eighteen Jews were hanged, but subsequent intercessions by religious figures and Richard of Cornwall eventually led to the release of the remaining prisoners.

Motivations Behind the Accusations

The reasons behind Henry III’s belief in the accusations remain unclear. Some attribute it to personal connections and influence, while others suggest financial motives, as the Crown stood to gain from executed Jews’ properties.

Hugh’s Posthumous Legacy

Despite never being formally canonized, Hugh became a local ‘saint’ with his shrine attracting pilgrims to Lincoln Cathedral. The myth persisted in literature, including Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta.

Modern Reflections and Recognition of the Myth

The Hugh myth continued to influence anti-Semitic narratives into the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1955, the Church of England acknowledged the falsehood of the ritual murder myth and placed a plaque at the site of Hugh’s former shrine, emphasizing the need for forgiveness and enlightenment.

Conclusion: Unveiling the Legacy of Little Saint Hugh

The Hugh of Lincoln incident, marked by misinformation and tragedy, serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of unfounded accusations and the enduring impact of historical myths.


Source: (VallariaMay, 2022)


  • Paris, M. (2015). Matthew Paris’s English History: From the Year 1235 to 1273. Cambridge University Press.
  • Langmuir, G. I. (1990). Toward a Definition of Antisemitism. University of California Press.
  • Jacobs, J. (2003). Hidden Heritage: The Roots of Black Britain. The History Press.
  • VallariaMay. (2022). The Legend of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln and the mystery of #BLOODLIBEL [YouTube Video]. In YouTube.

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