The surname of KEENE was originally a nickname 'the keen, the sharp, one who was quick and eager'. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans. Other spellings of the name include Keene, Kene, and Kein. Early records of the name mention Hugh le Kene, recorded in County Oxford in the year 1273. Gilbertus Kene of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. William Keyne of County Dorset, registered at Oxford University in the year 1587. Richarde Fludde and Hester Keane were married at St. Michael, Cornhill, London in 1598. John Keen and Katherine Andrews were married at St. Michael's. Cornhill, London in the year 1617. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. They were not in use in England or in Scotland before the Norman Conquest, and were first found in the Domesday Book.
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. It was not until the reign of Edward II ( 1307-1327 ) it became general practice amongst all people. 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.
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