France, or specifically the French language, has had a greater influence on the development of English surnames than any other outside source. From the Norman Invasion of 1066, for three centuries, French was the first language, and this, combined with the growth of personal taxation, hastened the development of surnames. "Pruce", also found in the spellings of Prowse, Prewse, and Prouse, is an excellent example. The derivation is from the old French "Proz" or "Prouz", and is a descriptive nickname originally given to a person considered to be a valiant soldier, the literal meaning being brave or doughty.That the name was considered hightly complimentary can be shown by its early development, and the number of variant spellings. Early recordings include the following examples which appear in the various County Pipe Rolls for the period - Adam Pruce of Somerset in 1225, William Le Prouz of Devonshire in 1275, Roger Le Pruz of Worcester in 1276, and William Prous of Oxford in 1279. The name as "Pruce" appears in the London Register for 1682, Silvester Pruce (also spelt Pruces) being a witness at the Church of St. Martin's in the Field, Westminster on January 28th 1682, in the reign of Charles 11 (1660 - 1685). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Le Pruz, which was dated 1207, the "Curia Regis Rolls of Hereford", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland" 1199 - 1216. 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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