Recorded in a number of spelling forms including Breakspear, Brakespear and Braksper, this is a rare English surname of probably pre medieval origins, and the name of the only British pope, Nicholas Breakspear, elected in 1159, and known as Adrian 1V. Rather unpopishly the meaning is believed to relate to success in combat or more likely in the famous tournaments, where the victor usually succeeded by either unhorsing his opponent, or by breaking his spear. In the 12th century there were similar surnames. Richard Brekesward (break sword) being recorded in Lincoln in 1195, whilst Stephen Bruselance (break lance) appears in the register of the abbey of Ramsey in Suffolk in the year 1308, and Martin Briselaunce in the register of the landowners of the county of Devon in 1312. More recent research by the late Professor P H Reaney has however suggested that the origin (like that of Shalespeare) may in some instances at least, be more Chaucerian. It seems that the Olde English pre 7th century word 'speare' can have at least two meanings, one of which is highly personal! What is certain is that this surname is one of the earliest recorded and early examples include Alexander Brekespere in the rolls of Lincoln known as the Curia Regis, for the year 1199, and Geoffrey Brekesper in the Curia Regis rolls for Surry in 1206. These rolls were essentially used to record and collect the necessary tax to enable firstly Richard, the Lionheart, (1189 - 1199) to continue his 'crusades' in the Holy Land, and for his successor, his brother King John, (1199 - 1216) to pick up the debt.
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