This most unusual and interesting name is ultimately of Old Germanic origin, and was introduced into England by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066. The surname derives from the Old French male personal name "Riulf", which was adopted from an ancient Germanic compound personal name composed of the elements "ric", power, and "wulf", wolf. The personal name is first recorded in England in 1210, when one Richolf de Gamelton is listed in the Yorkshire Curia Rolls; the name also appears in its Latinized forms of "Riculfus" and "Ricolfus" in 1212 (Yorkshire) and 1219 (Sussex), respectively.That the given name enjoyed a certain amount of popularity in the Middle Ages is borne out by the variety of modern surnames it has generated; these range from Rolf and Relfe to Relph, Realph and Realff. One John Relf is recorded in the Sussex Subsidy Rolls of 1327, and among the examples of the name in London Church Registers is the christening of William Relf at St. Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, on 28th February 1582. A Coat of Arms granted to a Relf family in Sussex depicts two ermine chevrons between three silver greyhounds' heads erased, collared red, on a black shield. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robert Reolf, which was dated 1296, in the "Subsidy Rolls of Sussex", during the reign of Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. 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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