Martel or Martell is one of both Britains and Frances most famous and historic surnames. It derives from the French word 'martel' meaning 'hammer', a spelling found in the earliest known records of the pre 8th century. The hammer in this case is one wielded by a warrior, and was originally described 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, 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 originally granted in France to Martel de Layet de Savoie, of a black field charged with a silver crescent, signifying defeat of the infidels, between three black battle hammers, sums it all up. 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. These include Sir William Martell and Sir John Martel, both recorded in the Harleian Roll of Chivalry for King Edward 1st, (1272 - 1307), Richard Martel in the Dering Roll of the same period, and Sir John Martell of Essex, recorded in the Parly and St George Rolls of Chivalry. Early examples of the name recording include William Martel of Eynsham, Oxford in 1148, William Martell in the 'Placita quo Warranto' Rolls of 1293, and Ricardus Martyll in the 1379 Poll Tax Rolls of York. Later recordings are those of John Martill of Dublin, in the Oxford University Register of 1574 - 75, and Sarah Martel, who married Henry Kelsey at Canterbury on January 6th 1685. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Goisfridus Martel, which was dated 1086, in the Domesday Book for the county of Essex, during the reign of King William 1, known as 'The Conqueror', 1066 - 1087. 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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