vel exuviae triumphans

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by Scholiast, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Salvete omnes

    One of the oldest regiments in the British army, the Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey), has this motto:

    pristinae virtutis memor vel exuviae triumphans


    I am composing a funeral oration for a veteran, a fellow-parishioner at my parish church. Of course I understand "Mindful of ancient courage", and the general sense of exuviae triumphans ("triumphant even in defeat") is clear, but can anyone please explain the syntax, or suggest a source whence this motto might have been found?

  2. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Literally: triumphant even as booty (exuviae, -arum)
  3. XiaoRoel

    XiaoRoel Senior Member

    Vigo (Galiza)
    galego, español
    It is poorly constructed. Exuviae is a "pluralia tantum" and the slogan is suffix-e in the nominative (plural) and this makes no sense. What they did was invent a singular *exuvia behind this way genitive *exuviae, complement of triumphans. The right thing would exuuiarum triumphans. Exuviae designated body offal and figuratively destruction left after the war
  4. asanga Member

    This 1849 newspaper article gives the moto pristinae virtutis memor, vel exuviae triumphant translated as "mindful of ancient valour---even the offshoots triumph", so it appears triumphans is a hypercorrection for triumphant, wrongly reading it as an English adjective rather than a Latin finite verb:

    Apparently the moto was given to commemorate the regiment's heroic defence of Tongeren in 1703:

    As the regiment was captured and held prisoner by the French for 3 months, exuviae must refer to the soldiers themselves, metaphorically taken as spolia/praedae: "although captured, they triumph." A quick search of perseus doesn't yield a classical source.
  5. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    From the above information, the intended sense must be 'triumphant even as the captured remnants [of their unit]'.

    The Latin does not work, though: Lewis and Short show that exuviae always means something stripped or taken from the body (clothes, weapons, hair, skin); and requiring the plural noun exuviae to stand in apposition to the implied singular subject seems awkward.
  6. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Salvete iterum

    My thanks to all who have expressed interest in this,especially to asanga for his (her?) detailed research on the origins of the motto. Of course (pace Schimmelreiter and Xiao Roel) I knew what exuviae meant. And wandle,
    , this was precisely the reason for my perplexity.

    It may not be wonderful Latin, but I am now convinced that exuviae here is indeed a nominative plur., and that someone in was using the 1703 edition of Google Translate to render "triumphant [or defiant] even when taken as spoil" - and probably did not recognise the inconcinnity between the plural exuviae and the singular triumphans.

    And of course there are numerous concepts in Latin which are grammatically plural but conceptually singular, exuviae among them, but also e.g. castra, divitiae, res novae. But that would lead to another thread...

    Thanks all round,

  7. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Pace Scholiast ;), the numerical congruence is with the elliptical "cohors" for Queen's Royal Regiment. Had the Regiment excelled in Latin as it did in combat, it would, however, have thought of itself as plural: pristinae virtutis memores vel exuviae triumphantes
  8. relativamente Senior Member

    catalan and spanish
    vel usualy is translated as "or" rather then even, and also "or rather"
    I think here exuviae although it is a pural is thought poetically as a singular.
  9. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    It seems to me that the singular more probably represents the individual thought of as representative of the regiment. That certainly makes good sense of pristinae virtutis memor, which would not disgrace Cicero. 'Mindful of our original courage' expresses an idea which both commemorates the former and motivates the present members of the regiment.

    The unfortunate second part seems to have been added by, shall we say, a less good scholar.
  10. asanga Member

    I'm a little confused by all the confusion about number: as mentioned in my first post, it seems the correct form of the motto is vel exuvae triumphant, not triumphans, and the 3rd person plural present active indicative agrees perfectly with nom. plural exuviae. The 1849 newspaper's translation "even the offshoots triumph" clearly reads triumphant as a finite verb, and not a present active participle. The reading triumphant is also supported by the entrance grille of the regiment's chapel in Guildford Cathedral:

    Lewis & Short does list vel as an instensifying particle; the example from Plautus Si arte poteris accubare. --- Vel inter cuneos ferreos is quite similar.

    I don't think 2nd motto was lifted from Caesar or Sallust (who both use variations of pristinae virtutis memor), but whatever officer came up with it didn't entirely fail his Latin composition class at Eton.
  11. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    That image does not in fact support the topic phrase. It shows vel exuviae triumphant as a complete motto on its own.
    It does not support either the phrase offered originally in post 1, pristinae virtutis memor vel exuviae triumphans, or the revised version suggested in post 7, pristinae virtutis memor vel exuviae triumphantes.

    If we take vel exuviae triumphant on its own, that would never have passed muster in my prose class, I am afraid. Exuviae, according to L&S, only means 'things stripped or taken from the body', be it clothes, weapons, skin, hair etc. Toenail clippings would fit the bill: captured soldiers, however, would not.

    However, perhaps we should exercise some poetic or transcultural licence and try to take exuviae not in a concrete, but in a generalised sense. Well, in that case it means 'off-strippings'. With the best will in the world, it cannot be made less specific than that (as long as we wish to remain in touching distance of Latin). Thus the best sense we could derive from vel exuviae triumphant would be 'even as off-strippings they triumph'. This does not make sense in itself, nor does it represent the idea that captured soldiers maintain their honour or virtue even in defeat. All we can say for it is that it represents a bold, though failed, attempt at the latter meaning.

    At a funeral service or a veterans' gathering, we should of course maintain a polite pretence that it means what it is supposed to mean.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  12. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    vel exuviae triumphant

    Even our weapons and other equipment which our seeming conqueror has taken away from us triumph over him.
  13. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    How, I wonder? Do our muskets loyally fire backwards when he tries to use them?
  14. asanga Member

    All the regimental history websites, including the one linked in the OP, agree that the two phrases are in fact separate mottos.
    The main body of the British and Dutch allied force was scattered around Maastricht; the delaying action by the regiment at Tongeren saved the army as a whole, at the cost of the capture of its offshoot. It doesn't seem too far-fetched to describe these captured soldiers poetically as the exuviae of the Duke of Marlborough's army, even if this isn't licensed by classical usage.

    But if you insist on a literal reading: perhaps an officer, rushing to the relief of the regiment at Tongeren, but finding only their abandoned arms and supplies as witnesses to their victorious defeat, was moved to declare "vel exuviae triumphant!" I can imagine Livy recounting a story of that sort to illustrate the pristina virtus of the early Republic.
  15. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    It is certainly a relief to hear that they are separate mottoes.
    This and the suggested translation 'even the offshoots triumph' seem to be saying that the soldiers of the Queen's Royal regiment were offshoots of the main force, and that that is what exuviae is supposed to mean. I can only say that exuviae does not bear that meaning. An offshoot is a living extension of an organism. It is not just that such a sense is not literal, or not licensed by classical usage: it is simply unconnected with the meaning of the word. exuviae does not represent people, plants or other organisms, literal or metaphorical.
    In this case, even if we allow that abandoned arms and supplies are exuviae (when applied to weapons etc., it typically means those taken away as spoils), the sense will not match the idea that the captured troops had triumphed in defeat. The motto should be honouring the men, not their abandoned equipment.

    The idea to be expressed is that the men who had been taken prisoner were in reality the victors, as they had defeated the enemy's purpose.
    victi sed victores (Defeated, but victorious) or etiam capti vicerunt (Even though captured, they conquered) would do it.

    However, as mentioned, no one would wish to raise the point at a funeral service.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  16. relativamente Senior Member

    catalan and spanish
    I think exuviae could remember of the death, and this motto could be compared with other motoes or combat screams that some special elite soldiers use like Spanish Legionarios that say "viva la muerte" "soy el novio de la muerte" and so on.
    If you search in google images exuviae you will confirm this.

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