This is a surname most associated with Scotland, and yet is of French origins. Recorded in the modern spellings of Mouat, Mouatt, Muat, Mowat and Mowatt, the name derives from the place name 'Mont Haut', of which there are several examples in France. It was introduced into England by followers of William, known as The Conqueror, in 1066, the original nameholders being granted lands in Wales, then known as the Monte Altos. The town of Mold, in Flintshire is a much reduced version of the surname. Be that as it may the first recognizable hereditary recordings are in Scotland, see below, with Yorkshire a close second, Robert de Muhaut being registered in the rolls of the abbey of Reivaulx, Yorkshire, in the year 1250 a.d. In Scotland the nameholders quickly made their mark, and in the reign of William, The Lyon, they were granted lands in Angus, including the lordship of the manor of Ferne. Michael de Monte Alto was sheriff of Inverness in 1234, and William de Monte Alto, sheriff of Cromarty in 1263. In 1289 William de Muhart was a signatory of a letter to King Edward 1st of England, whilst in 1305 Bernhard de Mohaut was sentenced by the same king to be 'hung, drawn, and quartered' for murdering the kings valet! The name change to the modern form seems to have taken place over the next century as the Mowats were settled in Ayrshire by the year 1450. Examples of recordings include Mathew Mowatt, who was christened at Kilmarnock, on October 13th 1659, whilst Margaret Muat was christened at Ayr on January 1st 1671, and Heugh Mouat was a witness at Kilmarnock on September 29th 1684. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert de Montealto. This was dated 1130, when he was a courtier in attendance at the royal court in Edinburgh, during the reign of King David 1st of Scotland, 1124 - 1139. 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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