Earl - what does Earl surname mean?
Recorded in many forms including Earl, Hurl, Harle, Hearle, Earle, Earles, Hurles and no doubt others, this is a surname of English pre 7th century origins. In its earliest form it indicated a freeman who was also a chief, and probably a successful warrior. Later after the Norman Invasion of 1066 it was introduced as an English rank of nobility, and seems to have been equivalent to the French rank of Count. However where it is recorded as a surname, it must be said that rarely were the original namebearers holders of the rank in question, although this may apply to the first nameholder. Surnames which appear to originate from the nobility are rarely what they seem, except in the case of Knight or Squire. These were terms that described a horse soldier. Those such as King, Queen, Prince, Earl and Bishop as examples, were given as an occupational name to an actor, one who played such a part in the popular travelling theatres or the annual pageants which wereheld in every town. The word `earl` is probably from the Germanic `jarl`, although the same word in more or less the same spelling, is found in all early European languages. Early examples of the name recordings include Hervicus Herl of Cambridge in the year 1210, William Erl of Hampshire in 1230, and Hugh le Erl in the Fines Court of Suffolk county in 1255. On December 22nd 1679, Thomas Earls is listed as a landholder in the parish of Christchurch, Barbados, making him one of the earliest colonists in the New World. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Lefuin Eorl. This was dated 1095, in the records of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, during the reign of King William 11nd, known as `Rufus`, 1087 - 1100. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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