Rahere

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Rahere Jester to Henry 1st.jpg

Rahere (or Raher or Raherius) (died 1144) was clergyman and a favourite of King Henry I. He is most famous for having founded St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1123.

Many of the details of Rahere's life have become confused with legend, but undoubtedly a historical Rahere existed and did many of the things in the legends about him. He has been described as a clergyman (clerk), a courtier, a minstrel, and a jester, and may at different times in his life have been all of these.

He is listed as one of the Canons of St. Paul's Cathedral in a document of 1115. On a pilgrimage to Rome, he fell ill and had a vision of St Bartholomew, who told him to found a hospital. On his return to England, he adopted a religious calling, and in 1123 founded St Bartholomew's Hospital and the nearby church of St Bartholomew-the-Great, becoming prior of the church, a post he held until his death in 1144. His ornate tomb can be found in the church.

Rahere is the subject of a poem, "Rahere", by Rudyard Kipling, collected in his book Debits and Credits, and is a major figure in Kipling's story "The Tree of Justice", collected in his book Rewards and Fairies. He is also a significant character in Rosemary Sutcliff's historical novel for children, The Witch's Brat (1970). It seems likely that Sutcliff was first introduced to Rahere through reading Kipling's Rewards and Fairies as a child, and later chose to use him as a character in one of her own books. Kipling's works were a major and freely acknowledged inspiration for Sutcliff.

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