Recorded in many forms including Ralph, Ralphs, Ralfe, Rafe, Raff, Ralls, Rave, Rawle, and Rawles (English), Raoul, Raoult, Rault, and Raoux (French), Radou and Razoux (Provencal), Radolf, Radloff, Rahl and Rahlof (German), and many others, this is a surname of ancient Norse origins. It derives from the personal name "Radulf," composed of the elements "rad", meaning counsel or advice, and "wolf", a wolf, an animal much admired at the time for its ferocity and cunning. The personal name was introduced thoughout Northern Europe and the British Isles by the famous "Viking" invaders of the 7th century. After the Norman-French conquest of England in 1066 , the French form of "Raoul" also made its appearance. In early English records, the original surname was invariably Latinized as "Radulfus", as in the first recording below. The surname, however spelt, is one of the earliest recorded anywhere in the world, and its development since the late 12th century has included such examples as: Richard Rau of the county of Norfolk in the year 1212, Simon Raulf of Sussex in 1296, and in Germany Johan Radolfi, given as being a burgher of the city of Hannover, in 1310. Recordings in France are generally much later, and many did not survive the Revolution of 1789 - 1794, when they were regarded as instruments of the secret police, and hence destroyed. The known recordings include Louis Raoul of Saintonge, Aulnay, in the department of Charente-Maritime on July 1st 1636, and Jean Rault, and his wife the former Marie Anne Gasbled, at Germain-en-Laye, Seine -et-Oise, on May 3rd 1788. The first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere is believed to be that of Johannes Radulphus. This was dated 1186, in the surviving charters of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, in the county of Suffolk, England, in the reign of King Henry 11nd, 1154 - 1189. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to develop, often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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