This famous surname is generally considered to be a 'Huguenot' 17th century import into Britain. Whilst it is true that many refugees of the name were accepted from France between the years 1700 and 1760, who fled the persection of the protestants, it is now considered that the origin of the name in England was much earlier. What is certain is that it has a long and honourable history both in France and later abroad. The very first name holder (as shown below) was one of a chosen band of French knights sent by the king of France and commanded by Bertrand du Guesclin into Spain to avenge the death of Blanche of Bourbon, his sister-in-law, and Queen of Castile. It seems that in the time honoured tradition of the age of chivalry, she was poisoned by her husband who rejoiced in the name of 'Peter - The Cruel'. De Portal distinguished himself on the expedition to the point that his achievements are celebrated in a poem which is still on record today. The name is locational and describes one who guarded the gate of a fortress or city, or who lived in such a place. The name seems to have undergone dialectal changes in England being recorded as 'Portam' in Lincoln in 1275 and as Pordal(l) in London in 1608, when Thon Pordall was christened at St Stephans Church, Coleman Street, on February 5th of that year. Later recordings include Anthony Portal, christened at Christ Church, Southwark, on June 30th 1697, and Louis Portail, son of Louis and Hester Portail, who was christened at the French Huguenot Church, Threadneedle Street, London, on April 22nd 1716. The coat of arms has a black field charged with a gold lion rampant whilst in a blue chief are six gold knights spurs. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Raymond de Portal, which was dated 1366, a knight of Toulouse, in France, during the reign of King Charles V of France 1364 - 1386. 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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