Mrs Conqueror a.k.a Duchess Matilda was an organised sort of woman – which was probably just as well given her spouse. In the run up to the Norman conquest she and William handed over their daughter Cecilia to God as a nun at La Trinite in Caen. She went on to become the abbess.
Having made her investment with the Almighty Mrs Conqueror moved on to the practicalities of sailing across the Channel and capturing England. She commissioned a new ship to be built in Barfleur in the Viking style with a figurehead of a golden child holding an ivory horn in one hand and pointing onwards with the other- which as Borman says was unusual. The more normal figurehead usually had an animal or perhaps a dragon head. Hilliam says that the child was ten-year-old William Rufus but Borman speculates that the duchess might well have fallen pregnant just before the whole conquest project. The prow bore a lion’s head and the banner on the masthead had been consecrated in Rome. You can see the golden child in this picture of the Mora from the Bayeux Tapestry. And, ladies and gentleman should you be wondering what to give the significant other in your life, the Mora was a surprise present. William only found out about it in the summer of 1066 and immediately made it his flagship (sensible man).
It would have to be said that William’s entire family seem to have gone slightly to town on the boat giving that year. Harkins’ comment that his mother’s family donated one hundred and twenty small boats to William’s project (Harkins:32) but that they were largely small boats capable of carrying not more than forty men.
Just in case you’re wondering what you give the woman who gives you a nice new flagship – the answer is Kent.
As to the meaning of the name Mora I direct you to a guest post on the Freelance History Writer dating from 2014 which explores some of the possible meanings of the name and directs its readers to William’s royal Nordic past. Click on the blue link to open a new window on a very interesting article.
Borman, Tracy. (2011) Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror. London: Jonathan Cape
Harkins, Susan S and Harkins, William H.(2008) The Life and Times of William the Conqueror. Mitchell Lane Publishers
Hilliam, Paul. (2005) William the Conqueror: First Norman King of England. The Rosen Publishing Group