This is a truly ancient surname. Recorded in various spelling forms including Legatte, Leggate, Leggett, Leggitt, Legott and even it is said, Legwood, its origins are French and English, but ultimately Roman. In the early days of history a legate was a Roman official ambassador, and this status is still maintained in for instance a Papal Legate, an ambassador for the Roman Catholic Church. However in England and France it was said to been a medieval nickname surname for an actor, one who played the part of a legate in the famous travelling theatres and pageants of the Middle Ages. It may also have been nickname descriptive for somebody who was rather "ambassadorial" in his attitudes. The word legate originally meant "to appoint or ordain" and derived from the Latin legis meaning law or command. The surname is one of the earliest ever recorded and the first example may be that of Peter Legat. This was dated 1199, in the Pipe Rolls of the county of Cornwall, during the reign of King John of England, 1199 - 1216. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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