England’s Immigrants 1330 – 1550 Resident Aliens in the Late Middle Ages

Benedict Zakarie, Italian Goldsmith

fl. 1352 – d. 1376

An example of a successful and fully settled alien resident in London is that of the Italian goldsmith, Benedict Zakarie, who originated from Genoa.  He was a member of the Zakarie family who were amongst the earliest Genoese capitalists and owned alum mines in Asia Minor, and imported alum to England from 1278.  Zakarie had very little to do to establish himself in England, as he was initially attracted to the country by the prospect of taking over the business of a fellow Italian, Bartholomew de Canvilla, who was an established supplier of goods to Edward III.  Zakarie continued the business of supplying goods to the English king, for by 1360 he was already owed an undisclosed but presumably large sum of money by the king’s chamber, from which he received 499 marks towards the debt.  This connection with the monarch was vital to the success of this particular merchant in England and it is highly likely that he chose to settle in London because of his relationship with Edward III.

Zakarie confirmed his residence in England by 1365, whereupon he became a citizen of London and was therefore granted exemption from the city’s customs which aliens were bound to pay on goods.  Dr. Helen Bradley has found that Zakarie was the only Genoese merchant to take up London citizenship between 1350 and 1450.  As a general rule, the Genoese did not feel the need to take up the freedom that would exempt them from alien customs because they believed themselves to be exempt already by a royal charter of Henry III, as well as having a certain allegiance with the French which may have prevented them from taking up citizenship.  Although this was an unusual move for Zakarie to make and perhaps deemed by his fellow Genoese as unnecessary, it was politically astute and was looked upon favourably by the monarch and the civic authorities.  In any case, it certainly did his career no harm.

Zakarie’s main supply to the Crown was of goldsmiths work.  Between 1360 and 1368 he was paid nearly £500 by the Crown for various jewels, many of which were destined for Edward III’s daughter Isabella, countess of Bedford.  One item was a richly decorated gold brooch bought for her wedding, costing £66.  It was described as a ‘gold brooch set with a square balas ruby, four diamonds, four sapphires and four clusters of pearls with a diamond in each cluster.  The opulence of the item supplied by Zakarie emphasises the ability of the Italian merchant to supply the court’s demands for exotic and novel items.  Zakarie was also regularly paid for carrying letters to Flanders on behalf of the Crown, for example in 1362 and 1363, and was paid just under £25 for the expenses he incurred on those trips.

It is quite possible that Zakarie died in London, especially as it had clearly become his home.  His will is recorded in the index of the Archdeaconry Court Register of Wills, but the actual will itself has been lost.

Jessica Lutkin


London, The National Archives
E 403: Exchequer, Issue Rolls
E 43/744: Exchequer receipt of Benedict Zakarie
London Metropolitan Archive
MS 9051: Archdeaconry Court of London Register of Wills, 1393-1415

Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1350-1354 and 1364-1367

Beardwood, A., Alien Merchants in England 1350 to 1377: their Legal and Economic Position (Massachusetts, 1931)
Ruddock, A. A., Italian Merchants and Shipping in Southampton (Southampton, 1951)
Bradley, H., ‘Italian Community in London c. 1350 to c. 1450’ (University of London PhD, 1992)
Lutkin, J., ‘Goldsmiths and the English Royal Court, 1360-1413 (University of London PhD, 2008)

Cite this page:

England’s Immigrants 1330 – 1550 (www.englandsimmigrants.com, version 1.0, 9 December 2022), http://www.englandsimmigrants.com/page/individual-studies/benedict-zakarie-fl-1352-d-1376