This most interesting and unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and derives from the Olde English pre 7th Century word "styrne", Middle English "sterne", strict, severe, which was a nickname for a particularly strict or severe person. Variants of the surname in the modern idiom include Stern, Sterne, Sterns, Stearn and Stearns, while the surname itself was first recorded in the late 13th Century (see below). Other early recordings include Aubri Steryn, recorded in the Hundred Rolls of Cambridgeshire in 1273, as was William Sterne; and one Henry Sterne mentioned in the Feet of Fines of Norfolk in 1460. Interesting namebearers include Richard Sterne (1556 - 1682), Archbishop of York, 1664 - 1683, who founded scholarships in Cambridge University; and John Stearne (1624 - 1669), founder of the Irish College of Physicians, having studied medicine in Cambridge; and John Stearne (1660 - 1745), bishop of Clogher, who was a close friend of Swift's. A Coat of Arms depicting a chevron between three black crosses crosslet, and a Crest consisting of a cock starling proper, was granted to Richard Sterne, Bishop of Carlisle (1660 - 1664) and Archbishop of York (1664 - 1683). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry Sterne, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Cambridgeshire", during the reign of King 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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