This interesting surname is a diminutive of the Old French "Bret" which is principally a diminutive of the Old French "Bret" a Breton, "man from Brittany". The Bretons were originally Celts driven from South West England to North West France in the 6th century by invading Anglo-Saxons. Some returned in the army of William the Conqueror and many of those then settled in East Anglia where the English surname is now widespread. Occasionally the name may derive from the "Britons" of South West Scotland (the Strathclyde region) who were Norman-English settlers there. It is also possible that native Welsh in the English border counties may have been referred to as "Brets" or "Brits". The surname is first recorded in the early half of the 11th Century (see below). One Reginald Bretel is noted in the Pipe Rolls of Huntingdonshire (1169). In the modern idiom, the surname can be spelt Brettel, Brettell, Brettle and Bretelle. A notable namebearer was Jacob Charles Brettell (1817 - 1867), a lawyer, who became a Roman Catholic and went to America, where he tutored and was minister of a German church. He published poetical, religious and other works. A Coat of Arms granted to the Brettell family of Shropshire is an azure shield with two chevronels between in chief two eagles displayed and in base a crescent, all gold. The Crest depicts an azure demi eagle displayed upon a gold millrind, holding in the beak an ear of golden corn. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Godwine Brytael, which was dated 1035, in the "Old English Byname Register", during the reign of King Canute, the Dane, 1016 - 1035. 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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