Recorded in wide range of spelling forms including Provost, Provest, Prevost, Privost (English) and the French and later 17th century Huguenot, Provis, Provist, Pruvost and Preuvost, this was originally a pre medieval status surname. It described either a civil or a military post, in effect that of the officer responsible for keeping order, and was vaguely similar to a modern police chief. The origin is French, and the introduction into England came with the various provost's in the army of William of Normandy, in his successful conquest of England in 1066. The surname is equally well recorded in both France and England, although the loss of many early French records during the famous Revolution of 1792, has meant that it is from English records that we have had to obtain our early recordings. In the medieval times the title was given to such varied professions as bailiffs and superintendants, although in the military the status of Provost Marshall, was often second only to the commander himself. With this name there was a second entry of the name into Britain in the late 17th century, when Huguenots refugees of the name fled France, and the persecution of the protestants by King Louis X1V. Early examples of the name recording include Geoffrey le Provost of Lincoln, in the year 1206, and William le Pruvost of Hampshire in 1219. The first recording of the surname is probably that Gosclein Provost of Oxford, in the rolls of the university for the year 1200. This was during the reign of King John of England, 1199 - 1216.
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