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Mortimer is an English surname.

Norman origins[edit]

The surname Mortimer has a Norman origin, deriving from the village of Mortemer, Seine-Maritime, Normandy. A Norman castle existed at Mortemer from an early point; one 11th century figure associated with the castle was Roger, lord of Mortemer, who fought in the Battle of Mortemer in 1054.[1] The name derives from the latin words "mort" meaning die and "mer" meaning sea, and presumably related to the stagnant water of the marshland that existed in the Pays de Bray region of Normandy in the Early Middle Ages.[2] The 12th century abbey of Mortemer at Lisors near Lyons-la-Forêt is assumed to share the same etymological origin, and was granted to the Cistercian order by Henry II in the 1180s. According to the 17th century writer François de Beaurepaire, there were two possible explanations for such a place name:

First, a small pond must have already existed before the land was given to the monks and have already been called Mortemer like the two other Mortemers, because the word mer "pond" was not used anymore beyond the Xth century. This word is only attested in North-Western France and of Frankish or Saxon origin mari/meri "mere", "lake" (in Cambremer, Blingemer, etc.); mort(e) "dead" is also quite common to mean "stagnant" (in Port-Mort "the port with stagnant water", Morteau "dead water", etc.).[3] Second, the monks could have given the name Mortemer to their drainage lake to remember the other Mortemer for any kind of reason we don't know, making a pun at the same time with Mer Morte "Dead Sea".

A later myth dating to the Elizabethan era attributed the name to a Norman knight who fought in the Crusades and was distinguished in battle by the shores of the Dead Sea (Mer Morte in French), as suggested in Edward II by Christopher Marlowe (Scene 7 Line 21ff).

Medieval magnates[edit]

Arms of Mortimer (Mortimer of Wigmore): Barry or and azure, on a chief of the first two pallets between two base esquires of the second over all an inescutcheon argent

In the Middle Ages, the Mortimers became a powerful dynasty of Marcher Lords in the Welsh Marches, first as barons of Wigmore Castle, Herefordshire and later as Earl of March from 1328 to 1425. Through marriage, the Mortimers came close to the English throne during the reign of Richard II, though their royal claim was ignored after Richard II's deposition by his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke in 1399. The Mortimer claims were later inherited by the House of York, which claimed the throne upon the Earl of March Edward IV's victory in the Battle of Towton, 1461.

Members of the noble Mortimer family included:

Other people[edit]

Fictional characters[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ C. P. Lewis, Mortimer Roger (I) de (fl. 1054-c. 1080) in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  2. ^ "Mortimer History".
  3. ^ François de Beaurepaire, Les noms des communes et anciennes paroisses de la Seine-Maritime, éditions Picard, 1979. ISBN 2-7084-0040-1.