This ancient and distinguished surname belongs to that sizeable group of European urnames that were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames. These nicknames were given with reference to a variety of personal characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, and to habits of dress and behaviour. The derivation, in this instance, is from the Middle English "king", ultimately from the Olde English pre 7th Century "cyning", king, used to denote someone who conducted himself in a kingly manner; one who had played the part of a king in a medieval pageant, or perhaps won the title in some contest. This surname has the rare distinction of being recorded prior to the Domesday Book of 1086 (see below). Further early recordings from England and Scotland include: Geoffrey King (Cambridgeshire, 1177); Wuluricus le King (Suffolk, 1182); and Robertus dictus King (Aberdeenshire, 1247). When found in Ireland, the surname may be either of English origin, introduced following the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1170, or of Gaelic derivation. In the latter case, King is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O'Cionga" or "O'Cingeadh" (first Anglicized O'Kinga), a family which in medieval times were seated on the Island of Inismor in Lough Ree. Robert King, second Earl of Kingston (1754 - 1799), was M.P. for County Cork in 1783, 1790 and 1798. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Aelwine se Cyng, which was dated 1050, in the "Old English Byname Register", Devonshire, during the reign of Edward the Confessor, a Saxon, 1042 - 1066. 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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