Recorded as Martel and Martell (English & French), Marteau, Martelier, Martellier, Martelet, Marteret (French), Martelli, Martello, Martellio, Martellini, Martellino, Martelotti, Martelotto (Italian), this is an historic surname. It derives originally from the Latin (Roman) word 'martellus' meaning a hammer, a spelling found in the earliest known records. The hammer in this case is a battle hammer, as wielded by a warrior, and described in French as 'martel de fer' - the iron hammer. It is said that the first name holder was Charles le Martel, given at the battle of Poitiers in 732 a.d, but this is probably apocryphal. What is certain is that nameholders have always been associated with war and warlike deeds. Perhaps not surprisingly the coat of arms granted in France to Martel de Layet de Savoie, has the blazon of a black field, charged with a silver crescent, between three black battle hammers, although the Martello family of Florence have the blazon of a gold lion rampant on a red field, with no mention of hammers. It has been suggested that the name in England became occupational for a smith, but given the number of knights named Martel(l), this seems unlikely. Sir William Martell and Sir John Martel, were recorded in the Harleian Roll of Chivalry of King Edward 1st, (1272 - 1307). In England the name is associated with the Martello towers built in Napoleonic times (1792 - 1815) to provide defence against French attack. 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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