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Category: Education

Moorish Origins of “Flags” As “National Device Standards”

“The most likely source of this knowledge is the First Crusade. During the struggle for the possession of Jerusalem in the summer of 1099, Robert of Normandy, in personal combat, seized from one of the Saracen Emirs an object which is described as a very long pole covers over with silver, having at its top a golden ball or apple (pomum aureum). This was called a standard, a word which was evidently at that time of recent introduction, for the contemporary historians, some of whom had been eye-witnesses of the events they relate, have various ways of spelling it, and usually refer to it such a way as to indicate that the word was not in familiar use.”

“According to Albert of Aix this standard was borne in front of the army of the “King of Babylon” and was the center around which the flower of the army gathered and to which stragglers returned. A few year later Fulcher of Chartres notes the capture of three more “standards,” but does not describe them.”

“We have already noticed the name “standard” appears first applied to a Saracen ensign. Further corroboration of this is supplied by the Chanson d’ Antioche and Le Conquete de Jerusalem. In the poem the author (Richard the Pilgrim) has imagined a wonderful standard carried on an iron chariot and made of ivory and various precious woods, and of an enormous height: L. toises longes I puet on brachoier Onques nus homs de char ne vit si haut clochier.”

Source: British flags, their early history, and their development at sea; with an account of the origin of the flag as a national device. by Perrin, William Gordon, 1874

Flags of maritime nations. Printed by authority by United States. Navy Dept. Bureau of Equipment Publication date 1899

Dark-skinned Muslims found in medieval plasters, paintings, poetry and romances are not always monstrous, but their blackness indicates that they are evil…The monster that encapsulated all three of these entities – Saracen, Jew, and black African – is the Black Saracen. This is a hybrid monster, an African (implicated as Satan by his dark skin), Jewish (depicted executing a saint), and Muslim (by the monker “Saracen” as well as by the turban he often wears)”(Arjana, 2014, p. 49).

Source:   “FEAR OF BLACKNESS SERIES: Guide to the Ethnic Origins of the “Infernal” and “Black Saracen” 

Gloucester Cathedral 13th century effigy of Robert Duke of Normandy William the Conqueror’s eldest son who died in 1134.

“The eighth scene in the series has given rise to much discussion. It portrays a Christian knight in the act of unhorsing a pagan warrior with a mighty thrust of his lance and bears the inscription: R DVX NORMANNORVM PARTVM PROSTERNIT. Robert’s legendary combat with the emir ‘Red Lion’ during the great battle of the Franks against Kerboga, as related in the Chanson d’ Antioch”

“The Chanson d’ Antioch also narrates another spectacular exploit in which Robert overthrew and slew the great emir ‘Red Lion’ during the same battle…..The later compilation of the Godfrey matter, edited by Reiffenberg, contains no mention of Robert’s combat either with Kerboga or with Red Lion; but it relates a very similar exploit in which he overcame a ‘Saracen king of Tabarie.’ With his lance at thrust, and raising the triumphant war cry “Normandy!”, he bore down upon the Saracen with such force that he pierced his shield a full palm’s breadth and a half, and wounded him deeply “between lungs and liver.:” Finally, mention must be made of Robert’s prowess in the legendary battle on the plain of Ramleh before Jerusalem, as told in the fantastic account of the Chanson de Jerusalem. This time it was a Turkish King Atenas whom he slew, and many others besides, so that the ground was strewn with the enemy dead.”

“It may be noted in passing that the battle of Ascalon Robert performed an actual feat of arms (cf. supra, pp. 115-116) which may perhaps form the basis of all legendary exploits which we have been passing in review. The references to the enemy’s ‘standard’ in Wace (supra, p. 190) and in the Chanson d’ Antioch (supra, p. 195) would seem to lend some color to this view. But it should be borne in mind that such exploits of knightly valor are commonplace of the chansons de geste, and are attributed to Godfrey and to other chiefs as well as to Robert.”

Source: Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy By Charles Wendell David

“Tabarie. The identity of this name has a number of possibilities. Perryman observers “Tabarie may refer to a famous battlefield near the sea of Galilea…but it is common in romances as a Middle Easter kingdom” (p. 114n1117). Like the name of the kings, it is likely just an exotic flourish, though there may be some connection to the brief romance “Hugh of Tabarie.”

Source: The King of Tars edited by John H Chandler

“The Emperor of Persia, named Barbaquan, whom one of the Tartar princes had overthrown, as I have already described, came with his army into the kingdom of Jerusalem, and took the fort of Tabarie, which had been by Monseigneur Eudes de Montbeliard, the constable, who was the lord of Tabarie through his wife”

Source: Saint Louis, King of France

“Henceforth I wish to put my effort into rhyming and relating a tale I have heard told, of a king who was of great lordship in pagan lands, and who was a very loyal Saracen: his name was Saladin. In the time of this king, the Saracens inflicted much damage on the people of our faith, by their pride and by their outrage, until on one occasion a prince came to the battle. His name was Hue of Tabarie, and he had with him a great company of the kings of Galilee, for he was lord of that country. They did great deeds of arms that day, but it did not please the Creator, Him who is called the King of Glory, for our men to have the victory, for Prince Hue was taken there, and led through the streets straight before Saladin.”

Portia & the Prince of Morocco Essay By Ungerer, Gustav

It is likely that such facts are omitted for the purposes of suppressing other realities that exist. For example, England entered into several treaties with Morocco in the 16th century prohibiting slavery long before the British implemented a public ban on the slave trade and before the United States enacted the Thirteenth Amendment.

Most discussions about Black History in America revolve around the expeditions taken after those that follow the adventures of the Barbary Company and the practices of English merchants in Andalusia preceding the formation of that company.

Questions about where the destination of slaves sold in Andalusia to English merchants is often not asked by African Americans because of the omissions of the English role in the Barbary aspect of the Atlantic Slave Trade which preceded English activity further south into West Africa.

“All the concerns of this essay begin in Andalusia. Slavery was a matter, raised by Shylock at his trial, in the Merchant of Venice narrative. This topic is of cultural relevance to early modern English audiences.” 

“The bottom lines become clear in the earliest records of the English slave trade to which English American historiographers often omit from the discussion.” 

“Records show that the first English slaveholders and traders of “enslaved Moors” were the English merchant’s resident in Andalusia in the last decades of the fifteenth and early decades of the sixteenth centuries, and further, that the English were the pioneers of the English slave trade with Morocco. … “

Black Skin – 16th Century English Literature

Ieremiah, in The Bible and Holy Scriptures, i.e. the Geneva Bible, trans. William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, Thomas Sampson (Geneva, 1560):

Can the blacke More change his skin? or the leopard his spottes? (then) maieye also do good, that are accustomed to do euil. (13.23)

Thomas Elyot, Bibliotheca Eliotae (London: Thomae Bertheleti, 1542): Aethiopem lauas, thou washest a Moren, or Moore, A prouerbe applied to hym that praiseth a thyng that is nought, or teacheth a natural fool wisdom. This prouerb grew of one that bought a Mooren, and thynkynge that the blackness of his saynne happened by the negligence of his fyrste mayster, he ceased not to wasshe the Mooren continually with suche thinges, as he thought wold make him whyte, by the which labour and washynge he so vexed the poor slave, that he brought him into a great sickness, his skynne remainynge styll as blacke as it was before.

Misogonus (Kettheringe: Laurentius Bariwna, 1577):

[Cac.]  I am, by my country and birth, a true Egyptian; I have seen the black Moors and the men of Cyne. My father was also a natural Ethiopian. I must needs be very cunning, I have it by kind. (3.3)

Duarte Lopes, A Report of the Kingdome of Congo (London: John Wolfe, 1597): 

The inhabitantes of this coast, which dwell betweene these two points, are of colour blacke, although the Pole Antarctike in that place be in the eleuation of thirtie and fiue degrees, which is a very strange thing: yea the rude people that liue among the most colde mountains of the Moore  are blacke also. This I write of purpose, to aduise and moue the Philosophers  and such as search the effectes of nature, that they would fall into their deepe contemplation and speculation, & thereupon teach vs, whether this blacke colour be occasioned by the Sunne, or by any other secrete and vnknowne cause: Which question I for this time doe meane to leaue vndecided. (188)

Richard Barckley, The Felicitie of Man (London: R. Young, 1631): 

Black is no deformitie among the Moores. (28)

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great, Part II (London: Richard Jones, 1590):

“Tech.  And, mighty Tamburlaine, our earthly God, Whose looks make this inferior world to quake, I here present thee with the crowne of Fesse, And with an hoste of Moores trainde to the war, Whose coleblacke faces make their foes retire, And quake for feare, as if infernall Ioue, Meaning to aid them in this Turkish armes, Should pierce the blacke circumference of hell, With vgly Furies bearing fiery flags, And millions of his strong tormenting word. (1.6)”

William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus (1593-94), in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):  

[Aar.] “O how this villainy Doth fat me with the very thoughts of it! Let fools do good, and fair men call for grace, Aaron will have his soul black like his face. (3.1.202-05)”

George Peele, The Battell of Alcazar (London: Edward Allde for Richard Bankworth, 1594): 

“Enter the Presenter.    Honor the spurre that pricks the princely minde, To followe rule and climbe the stately chaire, With great desire inflames the Portingall, An honorable and couragious king, To vndertake a dangerous dreadfull warre, And aide with christian armes the barbarous Moore, The Negro Muly Hamet that with-holds The kingdome from his vnkle Abdilmelec,Whom proud Abdallas wrongd, And in his throne instals his cruell sonne, That now vsurps vpon this prince, This braue Barbarian Lord Muly Morocco. The passage to the crowne by murder made, Abdallas dies, and deisnes this tyrant king, Of whome we treate sprong from the Arabian moore Blacke in his looke, and bloudie in his deeds, And in his shirt staind with a cloud of gore, Presents himselfe with naked sword in hand, Accompanied as now you may behold, With deuils coted in the shapes of men. (A2)”

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (1596-97), in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):

 “[Serv.]  There is a forerunner come from a fift, the Prince of Morocco, who brings word the Prince his master will be here to-night.”


Por.  “If I could bid the fift welcome with so good heart as I bid the other four farewell, I should be glad of his approach. If he have the condition of a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me. (1.2.124-31)”

George Chapman, The Blinde Begger of Alexandria (London: J. Roberts for William Iones, 1598):

 Enter a messenger. Arme arme my Lord, my Lords to instant armes,Foure  mightie kinges are landed in thy coast, And threaten death and ruine to thy land, Blacke Porus the Aethiopian king, Comes marching first with twentie thousand men.”

Attributed to Thomas Dekker, Lust’s Dominion (ca. 1600), ed. Francis Kirkman (London: Francis Kirkman, 1657):

 Eleaz. I cannot ride through the Castilian streets But thousand eies through windows, and through doors Throw killing looks at me, and every flave At Eleazar darts a finger out, And every hissing tongue cries, There’s the Moor, That’s he that makes a Cuckold of our King,there go’s the Minion of the Spanish Queen; That’s the black Prince of Divels. (1.1)”

King Port.  “Poor Spain, how is the body of thy peace Mangled and torn by an ambitious Moor! (4.1)”

Phil. “And for this Barbarous Moor, and his black train, Let all the Moors be banished from Spain! (5.6)”

Source: Black Skin in Early English Literature 

Source: Black Skin on the Elizabethan Stage

“By the later Middle Ages, Europeans used the word “Saracen” as a pejorative term for any Muslim. However, there was also a racial belief current at the time that Saracens were blackskinned. The Muslims didn’t take this insulting name lying down, however. They had their own none-too-complimentary term for the European invaders, as well. To the Europeans, all Muslims were Saracens. And to the Muslim defenders, all Europeans were Franks (or Frenchmen) — even if those Europeans were English.”

Citing Szczepanski, Kallie. “Who Were the Saracens?” ThoughtCo, Jul. 5, 2018,


Shakespeare Studies, Volume 31 edited by Leeds Barroll, Susan Zimmerman


“The English, lagging behind for about half a century, cashed in on the slave trade as early as the 1480s. Various records kept in several Spanish archives disprove the received view that the English as a slaving nation was late coming in the 1550s.  Moors and Mooresses of Morocco constituted colonial targets only for the Portuguese and the Spaniards, they were also victims of the English who bought the captured slaves at the slave markets of Andalusia. The trade with enslaved Moroccans led to a serious depopulation of the coastal regions of Morocco.” 

The Anglo-Moroccan merchants made the painful discovery that they were interacting with Moroccan Muslims not from an overwhelming position of strength, but from a position of near impotence and vulnerability. The centralized rule of the Saadian sharifs had infused a sense of nationhood into the Moroccan tribes, and its mercantile policy, relying on exports to European countries, was conducted on Morocco’s own terms. Thus the English merchants were often at the mercy of the Moroccan sultans and their marabouts. The sultans dictated the fiscal terms of the trade and the marabouts banned the export of saltpeter and the famous Barbary horses. It is true that the trade had unilaterally been pioneered, in chronological order, by the Genoese, Portuguese, French and English merchant adventurers who had the advantage of the superior sailing technology of ocean-going vessels, but once the trade had been established, the sultans, on the whole, gained the upper hand.” 

Source: Shakespeare Studies. Columbia: 2003.Vol. 31


“The first Englishmen to settle along the Christian/Muslim or Hispano/African border were the merchants stationed in Seville, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Huelva, Cadiz, and Valencia. Their early encounters with the Moors in Andalusia and across the Straits of Gibraltar were the result of a concerted campaign launched by their company’s expansionist commercial policy. A shroud of silence has been cast over the history of early English slave-holding in Spain by Gordon Connell-Smith’s study of the English Andalusia Company. It is time to recognize as a historical fact that the majority of the English merchants resident in Andalusia–I mention only some of the prominent figures such as Robert and Nicholas Thorne, the geographer Roger Barlow, and Thomas Mailliard–were slave owners. Alfonso Franco Silva, the medievalist of the University of Cadiz, has provided ample evidence that some of them were also slave dealers.” 


“Malliard’s inventory, drawn up after his death on 29 August 1522 by his English business partners and executors Robert Thorne, Thomas Bridges, and Roger Barlow, list sixteen slaves, among them three Moroccan Moors, five Mooresses, four mulattoes (“loros”), and five negroes. The Mallards must be ranked among the leading slave owners in the Iberian Peninsula considering that the average number of slaves owned by the landed nobility was fifteen.” 

English trade with Morocco was a natural extension of the existing trade established by the Andalusia company in Spain and in the Levant. Individual voyages can be traced as far back as the 1520s or 1530s when Roger Barlow visited Agadir, which then was still in the hands of the Portuguese. Regular trade, however, began after the Portuguese had withdrawn from Agadir and Safi in 1541, and it increased after 1549 when Charles V forbade Spanish merchants to trade with North Africa, Morocco included, which by them had emerged as an independent sovereign state under the Saadian sharifs. The following years until 1603 were a period of experimentation when the merchants sought the ideal form into which the trade should be cast.” 

“Trade was maintained by the Barbary merchants for more than a generation without control or regulation. Then in 1585, under the pressure of the earl of Leicester, it was subjected to the control of a regulated company. Leicester saw in the Barbary Company a vehicle for selling strategic goods, munitions, iron, lead, tin, timber, and oars for the professional army and navy of Ahmad al-Mansur. The monopoly of the Barbary Company came to an end in 1597 when the trade reverted to its former freedom, giving way to uncontrollable deregulation, damaging rivalry, and fraudulent practices; its demise caused heavy losses among the English merchants.” 

Source: Shakespeare Studies. Columbia: 2003.Vol. 31 pg. 89.”


Moors In The New World

“In 1494, a Papal decision, followed by the Treaty of Tordesillas, had already divided Morocco into a Spanish and a Portuguese sphere of influence ( as we should say nowadays). The Spanish half was the Moorish Kingdom of Tlamsan (Tlemcen) or Eastern Morocco; the Portuguese division was the western portion of the country, the Moorish kingdom of Fez or Al-gharb (Algarve); and the boundary between the two spheres commenced on the north coast at Velez, in the Riff country. As the Portuguese domain in Morocco was that which was best supplied with negro slaves (because most accessible to the Senegal country and Western Nigeria, Spain was additionally dependant on Portugal for negro workers in Southern Spain as in America. Under this arrangement of Tordesillas, Melilla, first occupied in 1490, remained finally ceded to Spain until 1688. The long connection of Portugal with Morocco (not terminated until the loss of Mazaga in 1770) resulted in a brisk trade in slaves for Brazil and the Spanish Indies and was one of the routes by which Bornuese and Songhai slaves–many of whom were superior types of negroid—-reached America.” 

“The Moorish conquest and occupation of Western Nigeria between 1590 and about 1730 greatly stimulated the slave trade with America through Saffi, Tangier, and Mazagan. But after 1590, the Moroccan oversea slave trade gradually passed into English hands.” “The Turks and Arabs in the Crusades and the Moors of Spain and North Africa had introduced to the mind of medieval Europe the idea of negro slaves, of “black Moors” who were strong, willing, and faithful servants to their white employers. Although Moor enslaved Christian and Christian attempted to enslave Moor from the eighth to the eighteenth century, neither found it a paying game. 

“The two races were too near akin mentally and physically, too nearly equal in endowments to reign over each other. When the Portuguese discoverers, urged on by Prince Henry of Portugal, had rounded Cape Bojador, and after reaching the Rio d’Ouro in 1435, had, in 1441, captured some Moors on that desert coast and brought them back to Portugal to become slaves; the latter soon attracted the attention of the Portuguese notabilities by their noble hearing. They explained that it was impossible for persons of their race and religion to pass into servitude; they would either die of a broken heart or commit suicide. On the other hand, there was a race cursed by God–the race of Ham and Canaan–the blackskinned people who were predestined slaves and who dwelt in enormous numbers to the south of the great desert. If their Portuguese captors would release them (the Moors of Sahara coast) they would show the Christians the way to a river of crocodiles and sea-horses, to the south of which dwelt the black people who might justifiably and conveniently be imported as slaves into Portugal.” 

“It was not, therefore, until the middle of the seventeenth century, when Portugal was once more independent and seeking alliances against Spain, that the English were able to set up in a permanent fashion slavetrading establishments on the Gambia River (1618, 1664) and on the Gold Coast, (1618, 1626, and 1668). Before that, they generally bought the slaves they required from the Dutch; or exported them from Morocco. The Sharifian Empire in that country had felled the Portuguese dominion of Al Gharb by the Battle of Kasr-al-Kebir (1578), and soon afterward (1590-5) had conquered Timbuktu, Jenne, Gao, and the Upper Niger, thus affording a great impetus to the overland slavetrade between Nigeria and Morocco. The English began to establish a trade with Morocco in 1577, owing to the embassy sent in that year by the canny Elizabeth, who saw her way to building up a Mediterranean trade for England by allying herself in friendship with the Moors and Turks. In 1588 a patented or chartered company-the Company of Barbary Merchants–was founded an included on its “Board” the Earls of Warwick and Leicester. From that time to the middle of the eighteenth century the British had almost the monopoly of Morocco trade and exported numbers of slaves thence to the British and Spanish American.”

Source: The Negro in the New World by Harry Johnston