The surname of LARSEN is of Danish origin, a baptismal name 'the son of Lars or Lawrence' a name meaning laurel, which is the symbol of victory. The name was borne by a saint who was martyred at Rome in the 3rd century AD; he enjoyed considerable cult throughout Europe, with the consequent popularity of the given name. Sir Robert Lawrence of Aston Hall, County Lancashire, accompanied Richard I (1188-1199) to the Holy Land. The practice of adopting surnames spread to Denmark and Norway from Germany, during the late Middle Ages, but until the 19th century, they were neither fixed nor universal. The Danish state has in recent years been encouraging the adoption of a wider range of surnames. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets in Britain were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that 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. A notable member of the name was Carl Larsson (1853-1919) the Swedish born artist. He was a talented draughtsman, and financed his studies at the Acadamy of Arts by illustrating newspapers and magazines. He visited Paris in 1877 and lived from 1882 to 1884 in Grez-sur-Loing where he was the centre of the Scandinavian artist's colony. He returned to Sweden and after some years teaching he settled in the idyllic province of Dalarna. He produced monumental historical paintings and was an outstanding illustrator of books. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.
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