Recorded in over two hundred spellings and found throughout Europe, this is a surname of Germanic origins. These spellings include: Wilhelm Wilham, Wilharm (German), William, Williams, Welliam, Gilliam, Gwilliam (English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh), Guilaume, Willaume, Willeme (French), Guillermo, Guillen (Spanish), Vielmi, Vigietti, Biglietti, Lemmo (Italian), and many others. It was introduced into England and Scotland around the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066, and was carried by four English kings. The derivation is from the pre 7th century personal name "Wilhelm" composed of the elements "wil", meaning "of strong mind", and "helm", translating literally as helmet, but in this context meaning "protection". As a patronymic the short form of "s", meaning "son of", is often added. Political correctness is not a new phenomena, and after the accession of King William 1st in 1066, the name became the most popular British personal name, and with the creation of surnames from the 12th century, an equally popular surname. The list of prominent holders of the surname is almost endless, but one of the more unusual could be said to be the famous republican Oliver Cromwell, who "reigned" in England from 1650 to 1658, and whose family were formerly called Williams. They held extensive estates in Wales, but under instructions from King Henry V111 (1510 - 1547), the family name was changed to Cromwell. The first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere in the world is believed to be that of Richard William. This was dated 1279, in the "Hundred Rolls" of the county of Oxfordshire, England.
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