There are some surnames who are well recorded, but whose origins are open to conjecture. This is one of them! Recorded in the spellings of Maskelyne, Masculine, Maskaline, and Maskiline, it is our opinion that there are three possible options. The first is as a diminutive of the Scottish surname Masculus, itself a Latinised version, or so it is claimed, of the French (de) Maule, from Seine et Oise, one William Masculus being recorded as a charter witness in Traquair, Peebles, as early as 1147. The second possibility is again as a diminutive this time of Maskell, itself a short form of the French 'marescal', of which the usual spelling is now Marshall.This was a name given to a keeper of the kings horses, in medieval times it assumed its high status as second only to the ruler. The last option and the one to which we incline, is again French, and an anglicised spelling of 'masquelier'. This was an occupational surname for a promoter of the 'masque' theatres, or possibly an actor in them, and from the Languedoc region, the centre of protestantism. Early English church recordings include Nevell Maskaline, the son of William, christened at St Benets, Pauls Wharf, London, on Christmas Day, 1661, whilst on May 24th 1664, Sarah the daughter of the same William, was christened at the same church, although the surname spelling was now recorded as 'Masculine'! Edward Maskiline was recorded at St Andrew Undershaft, London, on October 10th 1680, whilst the Rev Nevill Maskelyne was Astronomer Royal from 1764 to his death in 1811. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Jacques Masquelin, which was dated May 22nd 1659, a witness at Threadneedle Street French Huguenot Church, during the reign of Richard Cromwell, known as 'The Lord Protector', 1658 - 1659. 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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