Recorded in many forms including Maurice, Morice, Morrice, Moris, Morris, Morriss, Morrisse, Morys, Moorish, patronymics Morison, Morrison, and Morrisson and others, this is regarded as an Anglo-French surname, but in fact is one of Roman origins. It derives from the Latin word 'maurus' meaning dark or swarthy and was originally applied to the Moors from Morocco and Algeria. They invaded Spain in the 11th century and inflicted pain and punishment on much of the Mediterranean Sea region and even the English Channel until the 17th and 18th centuries. In the end the fire power and size of the Royal Navy proved too much for the slave galleys. By transposition 'maurus' could be said to describe almost anybody who was of dark appearance, but its use was much broader than that. Certainly by the Middle Ages both as a first name and a surname it does not seem to have had any racial or ethnic overtones. The earliest surviving, although almost certainly not the first recording, seems to be in England in the time of King Henry 11nd 1154 - 1189 with that of Mauricus de Edlingtona. He appears in the Danelaw rolls for the city of London in 1176, whilst John Morice appears in the Hundred Rolls of Buckinghamshire in 1275. As it happens in the 1660's Prince Maurice of Bohemia who with his brother the famous English cavalry leader Prince Rupert of the Rhine and Duke of Cumberland, were serious 'it' men' of the 17th century. Both as it happens were 'dark and swarthy,' and Prince Maurice popularised the name again. Sadly he was drowned whilst trying to capture Spanish treasure galleons in the West Indies, as one did in those days. It was an early form of lottery, and few got paid out. The surname spelling as Maurice appears to be associated with Wales, with at least three coats of arms being granted to Welsh families with that spelling. As Morrice it is usually English, and there are at least six coats of arms for the name in that spelling, the earliest being in the reign of King Henry V111th (1510 - 1547). Perhaps not surprisingly Morris is the most popular spelling, and has over forty grants of coats of arms of which perhaps the earliest dates from 1619.
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