Recorded in many spellings as shown below, this is a surname which is much associated with Saxon England, although in fact was equally popular throughout Northern Europe. Pre 5th century Germanic in origin, it translates literally as "powerful ruler" from the elements "ric", meaning power and "hard", hardy or brave. The name was found in pre 1066 Norman Conquest England, but was greatly popularised by King Richard 1st (1189 - 1199) the famous Crusader, whose prowess was celebrated thoughout the Christian world. Curiously although there were twelve crusades to free the Holy Land from Muslim control, all were ultimately unsuccessful. It was not until 1918 when an expeditionary force of British supported by Arabs under Colonel Lawrence of Arabia, finally drove the Turks from Jerusalem. The surnames spellings include Richard, Ritchard, Riccard, Rickard, Rickerd, Rickert (England) Ricard, Riguard, (France) Rechart, Rechert, Reichardt, Reichert, Richardt, (Germany), Rykert (Flemish) as well as patronymics Richards, Ritchardson, Richardes, Riceards, Ricarde, and many others. The surname is first recorded anywhere in the world in the Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire, England, in the year 1276 with that of Thomas Richard. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the 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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