This unusual and interesting name is of early medieval origin, and is an occupational surname for an ambassador or deputy. The derivation is from the Old French and Middle English word "legat", itself derived from the Latin "legis", meaning to appoint or ordain, but ultimately from lex, meaning law. In addition to being an official name for a legate, an official elected to represent his village at the manor court, the surname may derive from a pageant-name similar to the medieval surnames of official position such as Lord, Knight, King and Bishop, these being frequent characters in medieval pageants. The actors that played thus came to be called by their character parts. The modern surname is recorded in many forms including: Leggat, Legate, Leggett and Leggitt. Early examples of the surname recordings include the christening of John Legate at St. John's church, Hackney, city of London London, on March 14th 1565, although the first recorded spelling of the family name is probably that of Peter Legat. This was dated 1199, in the "Pipe Rolls" of the county of Cornwall, during the reign of King Richard 1st of England and known as "The Lionheart', 1189 - 1199. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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