This interesting surname is of Old French origin, and is an ethnic name for someone from France. The country was so named from the Franks (i.e. the "free men"), a confederacy of German tribes who fought with the Romans over a long period before finally settling in Gaul in the 5th Century. The Franks boasted that they were the only "free men" among the civil-service - ridden Gauls of the Roman Empire, and their name in Latin was Francus". The Old French adjective "Franceis, Francois", from the Latin "Franciscus", originally meant "a Frank", but was later used to denote a Frenchman, and became very popular as a given name in medieval times. The modern surname France may also derive from "Fraunce", a pet form of the male given name Francois (Old French), Francis (Middle English). This personal name is particularly well recorded in Cornish Christening Registers, entries including: Fraunce Fysher (November 9th 1550), and Fraunce Hawke (January 29th 1589). Early examples of the surname include: Roger Franceis (Hampshire, 1177), and Jenyn de Fraunce (Yorkshire, 1379). On April 9th 1549, Johana, daughter of Willmi France, was christened at Wensley, Yorkshire. A Coat of Arms granted to the France family is a silver shield with a hurst proper on a mount in base, on an azure chief wavy, three gold fleurs-de-lis. Crest: A mount, thereon a hurst as in the arms, from the centre tree a red shield pendant, charged with a gold fleur-de-lis, strap azure. The Motto, "Virtus semper viridis", translates as, "Virtue is ever green". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Hugo Francus, which was dated 1135, in the "Cartulary of Oseney Abbey", Oxfordshire, during the reign of King Henry 1, known as "The Lion of Justice", 1100 - 1135. 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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