This interesting and unusual name is either a metonymic occupational name for a banker or money lender, one who dealt in gold coins, or else a nickname for a rich man! It derives from the Old French 'besan', Middle English 'besant', a gold coin, so called because the original 'Byzaneius' were minted at Byzantium, thus it is probable that the name received some impetus from the Crusades. In the modern idiom the variants include Bessant, Bessent, Bez(z)ant, and the first name bearers actually manufactured the coin. One Robert Besant is recorded in the 'Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London', to have held the office of Sheriff of London in 1194. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Lefwin Besant, which was dated 1168, St. Batholomews Rolls, London, during the reign of King Henry II, Builder of Churches, 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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