This most interesting surname is of Old French origin, and derives from a term introduced into England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is a regional name given in the first instance to someone from the Champagne region of France. The placename derives from the Old French "Champagne", from the Latin "Campania", from "campus", plain, flat land, while the regional surname is derived from the Anglo-Norman French term "champeneis", a derivative of "Champagne". This is also the name of various villages in France, and in a few cases the French cognate of the name (Champenois, Champagne, Champaigne and Champonnois) may derive from one of these. Rarely, the name may also have referred in general terms, to a dweller in the countryside rather than the town, from the French "campagne", countryside. The surname itself is first recorded in the early 13th Century (see below), and other early recordings include John Champenay mentioned in 1333, in the Register of the Freemen of the City of York, and a John Champness, recorded in the "Archaeological Records of Kent" of 1520. Variants of the surname in the modern idiom include Champness, Champney, and Champniss. A Coat of Arms was granted to Sir John Champneys (deceased 1556), who was Lord Mayor of London in 1534, which depicts per pale silver and black, within a bordure engraved counterchanged, a red lion rampant. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William le Champeneys, which was dated 1219, in the "Curia Rolls of Norfolk", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. 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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