Is this the most famous Scottish surname? It is certainly near the top of the tree given the exposure of tradition, myth, and Hollywood, who manage to combine both. It is therefore a surprise to most people to know that for many nameholders, the origin may not have been Scottish at all, but English, Welsh or Breton! Recorded in the spellings of Wallace, Wallice, Walles, Wallis and Wallas, and first recorded in England, the surname derivation is from the Norman French word 'waleis', meaning a 'foreigner'. In England this was generally taken to mean a Welshman or a person living in the border counties of England and Wales, or a Celt from Cornwall, or a former Breton who settled in East Anglia after the Norman Conquest of 1066! Quite a range of possibilities. To add to the confusion the old 12th century British kingdom of Strathclyde, which nominally at least owed sovereignty to the king of England, extended north from the west end of what is now the English-Scottish border, upto and beyond the Clyde Valley. The inhabitants of this region were known as 'walensis', and it was here that Sir William Wallace was born. The surname is first recorded in England in the mid 12th Century (see below), and early recordings include Robert Walleis in the Pipe Rolls of Norfolk, in the year circa 1168. The surname is first recorded in Scotland in 1190 when one Richard Waleis witnessed a charter relating to Kelso Abbey. Sir William Wallace (1272 - 1305), the Scottish patriot, hero of romance, and joint Warden of Scotland, (he was also known as the "Terror Anglorum"), organised the Scottish army in 1296 and for ten years kept the invading armies of Edward 1st of England at bay. He was ultimately betrayed, taken prisoner, and executed as a traitor in London on August 24th 1305. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Osbert Waleis, which was dated circa 1156, in the "Book of Seals" of Warwickshire. This was during the reign of King Henry 11nd of England, and known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189.
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