The surname of GIESKE originally a Norman personal name composed of the elements GISIL (hostage, noble youth) and BERHT (bright, famous). The name meant 'the son of Giselbert'. This given name enjoyed considerable popularity in England in the Middle Ages, partly as a result of the fame of St. Gilbert of Sempringham (1085-1189) the founder of the only native monastic order. This at one time had over twenty houses, but became extinct on the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The name has numerous variant spellings which include GILBERD, GILBEART, JELBART, GIESEBRECHT, GELBERT, GIJSEN and GIBBE to name but a few. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. A notable bearer of the name was Sir Humphrey GILBERT (1539-83) the English navigator and discoverer; founded (1583) in Newfoundland the first British Colony in North America. Sir William Schwenck (1836-1911) Librettist of light satiric operas for which Arthur Sullivan composed the music. The Devon family of GILBERT can be traced to Geoffrey GILBERT (died 1349) who represented Totnes in Parliament in 1326. In the Middle Ages the Herald (old French herault) was an officer whose duty it was to proclaim war or peace, carry challenges to battle and messages between sovereigns; nowadays war or peace is still proclaimed by the heralds, but their chief duty as court functionaries is to superintend state ceremonies, such as coronations, installations, and to grant arms. Edward III (1327-1377) appointed two heraldic kings-at-arms for south and north, England in 1340. The English College of Heralds was incorporated by Richard III in 1483-84.
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