Mortimer is an English surname.

Norman origins

The origin of the name is Norman.[1]

One version is that it derives from "Mortemer", site of the Cistercian L'Abbaye de Mortemer at Lisors near Lyons-la-Forêt and close to Rouen in Normandy. The land was granted to the Cistercians by Henry II of England in the 1180s. Finding the land to be a marshland area of the Lyons Forest around the running Fouillebroc stream, the monks dug out a large drainage lake and built the Abbaye de Mortemer. The ruins and lake can still be visited, and the later 16th century abbey hosts tours. According to François de Beaurepaire,

"There are two possible explanations: 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.).[2] 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'."

The village of Mortemer, further north in the Seine-Maritime area, bears the same name and predates the abbey at Lisors by more than one hundred years.

Another version, which appears at least as far back the Elizabethan era, (see, for instance, Edward II by Christopher Marlowe, Scene 7 Line 21ff) attributes 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), but this is unsubstantiated and almost certainly a romanticised myth.

Medieval magnates

In the Middle Ages, the Mortimers were a powerful magnate family or dynasty of Marcher Lords in the Welsh Marches, centered on Wigmore Castle in Herefordshire, and from the 14th century holding the title of Earl of March.

Through marriage, the Mortimers came during the reign of Richard II to be close to the English throne, but when Richard II was deposed in 1399, the claims of the Mortimers were ignored and the throne vested in the usurper Henry of Lancaster instead. The Mortimer claims were later (1425) transmitted to the House of York, which ultimately claimed them in the Wars of the Roses.

Members of the noble Mortimer family included:

Other people

Fictional characters

See also


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