This most interesting and unusual surname is of Norman French locational origins, and yet holds some of the earliest claims to nobility in England. It was first introduced by close companions of William the Conqueror at the invasion of 1066, and they were rewarded for their efforts with large estates, particularly in the North of England. The original spelling should have been 'Montbrai' from the village in La Manche, Normandy, but no such form has been found. The name translates as literally as 'the muddy place on the hill', a humble beginning for an aristocratic surname.Now variously recorded world-wide as Mowbray, Mowbury, Moubray, Mumbray, Membry, Momery, Mummery, Me(m)mory, Mulb(e)ry, and Mulberry, the move away from the original 'Montbrai' is truly remarkable. Early examples of the recordings include Roger de Mulbrai in the 1130 Rolls of Whitby, Yorkshire, where the family held great estates, Paganus de Moubrai (1150, Oxfordshire), and Roger de Munbrai of Lincolnshire in 1185, both being 'Crusaders' and as such members of the Knights Templar. Joseph Memory is recorded in London in 1584, whilst the Friary Rolls of Leicestershire include the recordings of John Mowbray in 1714, John Mumory in 1725, and John Membry in 1748. Amongst the many famous name holders was Thomas de Mowbray (1366 - 1399), Earl Marshall of England, and the first Duke of Norfolk. The original coat of arms, granted in 1297, one of the most ancient ever recorded and predating the College of Arms by two centuries, has the highly distinctive and unmistakeable blazon of a red field, charged with a silver lion rampant. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Rodbeard a Mundbraeg, which was dated 1087, in the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicles', 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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