This interesting name is of Old French origin, introduced into England at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 by followers of William 1. The surname derives from a martial nickname for a doughty, valiant warrior, derived from the Old French "fort", strong, brave, from the Latin "fortis", with "escu", shield, from the Latin "scutum". The English family of the name Fortescue are traditionally thought to be descended from a notable strong Norman warrior who carried a massively heavy shield in the service of William of Normandy at the Battle of Hastings.One branch of the family who hold the title Earl Fortescue are descendants of the Radulfus Fortescu recorded below, who held lands at Modbury in Devon; the family are still associated with the town. The modern surname has three forms: Fortescue, Foskew and Fortesquieu. One Anthony Fortescue was married to Katherine Poole, in London, on May 20th 1544. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Radulfus Fortescu, which was dated 1086, in the Domesday Book, Devonshire, during the reign of King William 1, known as "William the Conqueror", 1066 - 1087. 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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