Recorded in over one hundred spelling forms ranging from the German Reichardt, Richardi, and Richar, the English Richard, the French Ricard, the Flemish Rickaert, and diminutives or patronymics such as Riccardi, Liccardi, Richards, Richardson, Richardeau, Riggert, Riggott, Rickertssen and many others, this ancient surname is of pre 7th century Germanic origins. Deriving from the twin elements of 'ric' and 'hard', and translating as "powerful ruler", the name spread throughout Europe in the early medieval period.It was no doubt considerably helped in its popularity by its meaning, but the greatest impetus to its success came in the 12th century with the legendary exploits of King Richard 1st of England, (and much of France). He was the most prominent leader of the famous Crusades to free the Holy Land, and he became known throughout Christendom as 'Coeur de Leon'. Despite his 'title', Richard, Coeur de Leon, was unsuccessful in his attempts to suppress the Muslims, but by his efforts he achieved more than the other leaders, who in the manner of the human race far and wide, were not pleased. Early examples of the surname recording taken from authentic European rolls and registers of the period include: Nicol Richart of Basle, Switzerland, in the year 1260, Richardus Richardi of Pfullingen, Germany in 1273, and Thomas Richard, in the Oxfordshire 'Hundred Rolls' of England in 1276. Other recordings from these ancient times include Thomas Richardes of Worcester, England in 1327, and Olbrecht Reichart of Dresden, Germany, in 1396. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop", often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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