The name BERNS is of French, Italian, Swiss, Spanish and German origin, a name meaning 'bear-brave'. The popularity of this given name among the Normans in the centuries immediately following the Conquest of 1066, was greatly increased by virtue of its having been borne by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (circa 1090-1153) founder and abbott of the Cistercian Monastery at Clairvaux, and in Holland and Germany it vied with Arnold as the most popular given name during the 13th and 14th centuries. Another sanctified bearer of the name was St. Bernard of Menthin (923-1008) founder of Alpine hospices and patron saint of mountaineers, whose cult accounts for the frequency of the name in Alpine regions. Originally the coat of arms identified the wearer, either in battle or in tournaments. Completely covered in body and facial armour the knight could be spotted and known by the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped garment which enveloped him. Between the 11th and 15th centuries it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but were not commonplace in England or Scotland before the Norman Conquest of 1066. They are to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Those of gentler blood assumed surnames at this time, but it was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that second names became general practice for all people. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
The associated coat of arms is recorded in Rietstaps Armorial General. Registered in Bavaria. Granted 29th April 1570.
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