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Mora [ship] [English history]

Mora [L.]
[etymology: ]

The flagship of William, Duke of Normandy, in his invasion of England. It was the gift of Matilda (Mathilde).

*1 van Houts ed., (cited below).

§ Ship List of William the Conqueror (12c.)

Mora was name of the ship given by Mathilda to her husband William, Duke of Normandy. The mntion occurs in a document so-called the "Ship List of William the Conqueror," whose historical context is discussed by van Houts*1. Below is the full text of the Latin*2, with an excerpt of the full translation given by van Houten*3.

WILLELMUS Dux Normannorum ve­niens in Angliam, ob adquirendum regnum jure sibi debitum, habuit a Willelmo dapifero, filio Osberni, sexaginta Naves. Ab Hugone postea Co­mite de Cestria totidem. Ab Hugone de Monfort quinquaginta Naves, et sexaginta Milites. A Ro­mo vel Rumi elemosinario Fescanni, postea Epi­scopo Lincolniensi, unam Navem cum XX Mili­tibus. A Nicholao Abbate de Sancto Audoeno XX Naves cum C Militibus. A Roberto Comite Augi sexaginta Naves. A Fulcone claudo XL Naves. A Geroldo dapifero totidem. A Will. Comite d'Evereux octoginta Naves. A Rogero de Mont­gomeri sexaginta Naves. A Rogero de Beaumunt LX Naves. Ab Odone Episcopo de Baios C Na­ves. A Roberto de Morotein C & XX. A Waltero Giffardo XXX cum C Militibus. Extra has Naves, quæ computatæ simul M efficiunt, habuit Dux a quibusdam suis Hominibus, secundum possibilita­tem unius cujusque, multas alias Naves. Matildis, postea Regina, ejusdem Ducis Uxor, ad honorem Ducis fecit effici Navem quæ vocabatur Mora, in qua ipse Dux vectus est. In prorâ ejusdem Navis fecit fieri eadem Matildis infantulum de auro, dex­tro indice monstrantem Angliam, et sinistra manu imprimentem cornu eburneum Ori. Pro quo fac­to Dux concessit eidem Matildi Comitatum Cantiæ.
—"Account of the Fleet which came over with the Conqueror, from and ancient MS in the Museum" given in Lyttelton The History of the Life of King Henry the Second, Book I, Appendix No. 1, p.613-614 *2
[MS Oxford Bodleian Library E Museo 93 fol.8v]
When William, duke of the Normans, came to England to acquire the throne, which by right was owed to him, he received from William fitzOsbern the steward sixty ships; from Hugh, who later became earl of Chester, the same [number]; from Hugh of Montfort fifty ships and sixty soldiers;





The duke's wife Matilda, who later became queen, in honor of her husband had a ship prepared called 'Mora' in which the duke went across. On its prow Matilda had fitted [a statue of] a child who with his right hand pointed to England and with his left hand held an ivory horn against his mouth. For this reason the duke granted Matilda the earldom of Kent.
—, van Houten tr.
in Normans in Europe, p.130*3

Speculations have run wild regarding the possible meaning of the name of the ship. As van Houten states:
    There is no satisfactory explanation for the name of the ship. It has been suggested that Mora derives from Morini, the ancient inhabitants of Flanders, and that the name was a reminder of Matilda's Flemish origin.69 As a Latin word it can mean 'delay' or 'pause'; but both seem unlikely names for a ship. Less common is the meaning 'foolish' or 'a foolish woman'. Could the name have been a jest implying that the duchess was a fool to let her husband go on so dangerous an expedition?" 70
69 F. Barlow, William Rufus, London 1983, 9 n. 17.
70 A Latin Dictionary. . . C. T. Lewis and C. Short, Oxford 1879, 1169-4 (Mora, ae), 1167 (Morus, i). [etc.]
—"The Ship List", Anglo-Norman Studies X, p.172

    In fact, her footnote 70 above which I curtailed, went on to suggest Mora might be an anagram of Amor which can hardly be entertained as a serious possibility.

    In my mind, the most plausible explanation was that the ship had the Old French (Anglo-Norman) name "More" (with alternative forms "Mure" or perhaps most familiarly "Morel"), which was frequently applied as the name of a black-coated horse (the best-known example being ⇒the horse of Duke Naimes). The name also signifies "blackberry". And the Latin form of this would be morus, female nominative môrâ "mulberry tree" (or "blackberry").

*1 van Houts, Elizabeth M.C.'The Ship List of William the Conqueror' in Anglo-Norman Studies X; Proceedings of the Battle Conf. 1987, ed. R.A. Brown, pp.159-. The paper includes a facsimile photograph of the manuscript as well as an appendixed transcription of the Latin text.

*2 Lyttelton, George Lyttelton, Baron, 1709-1773, The history of the life of King Henry the Second, and of the age in which he lived : in five books ; to which is prefixed, a history of the revolutions of England from the death of Edward the Confessor to the birth of Henry the Second (London : Printed for J. Dodsley ... , 1769-73.)

*3 van Houts, Elizabeth M.C., The Normans in Europe , p.130 (Manchester University Press 2000).


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