John Dykeman Blog

aimless ramblings of a humble gentleman from Montreal. Urban Gardening, Travel, Flight, Art, Science

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Location: Kirkland, QC, Canada

Sharing some images and thoughts from travel, local area, garden. Family roots in USA.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Stevens family ancestors; wreck of White Ship : 1120 AD

Our immigrant ancestor to England, Airard Fitz Stephen was born probably about 1036 and was in command of the ship Mora in the fleet conveying the Norman forces to England in 1066 for the Battle of Hastings. 1 
A son of Airard Fitz Stephen was Thomas Fitz Stephen who died 1120 in the wreck of the White Ship or Blanche Nef, of which he was in Command. It was said to have been the finest ship in the Norman navy. While Dante Gabriel Rossetti is perhaps better known for his somewhat naughty poem entitled "Jenny", he also wrote the "Ballad of the White Ship"2 which is historically accurate. An abstract from it follows: 
"The rowers made good cheer without check; 
The lords and ladies obeyed his beck; 
The night was light and they danced on the deck. 
But at midnight's stroke they cleared the bay. 
And the White Ship furrowed the water-way. 
As white as a lily glimmered she 
Like a ship's fair ghost upon the sea. 
And under the winter star's still throng 
From brown throats, white throats, merry and strong. 
The knights and ladies raised a song; 
A song, - nay a shriek that rent the sky 
Of three hundred living that now must die. 
An instant shriek that sprang to the shock 
As the ship's keel felt the sunken rock. 
Pale Fitz-Stephen stood by the helm 
`Mid all those folk that the waves must whelm; 
A great King's heir for the waves to whelm, 
And the helpless pilot pale at the helm! 
With prayers in vain and curses in vain, 
The White Ship sundered on the mid-main, 
And what were men and what was a ship 
Were toys and splinters in the sea's grip. 
He clutched the yard with panting stare, 
And we looked and knew Fitz-Stephen there. 
He clung, and `What of the prince?' quoth he, 
`Lost, lost' we cried. He cried, `Woe on me!' 
And loosed his hold and sank through the sea." 
-(Dante Gabriel Rossetti) 
1 Strickland's Queens of England, I, 116; Taylor's Mss. 
2 The Poetical Works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 192 et seq. 

The invasion by William the Conquerer in 1066AD was carried out by sea crossing, led by Thomas FitzStephen's father Stephen FitzAirard, who captained the MORA, lead ship in the invasion. In the Bayeaux Tapestry, it is the boat with the light standard afixed to the main mast. (far right in the image below).


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