This French, Spanish, German, Italian and English surname of WILLENS was originally from the Norman form of an Old French personal name, composed of the Germanic element WIL (will, desire). The name was introduced into England at the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066, and within a very short period it became the most popular given name in England, in the form WILLIAM, no doubt in honour of the Conqueror himself. The name has also enjoyed considerable popularity in Germany as WILHELM, France as GUILLAUME, Spain as GUILLERMO and Italy as GUGLIELMO, with numerous other variants which include WELLIAM, GILLHAM, WILLHAUME, WILLEME, WILLAME, GILLUM, GUILHEM, WILLMET, VUILLAUME and WILM to name but a few. For nearly eight centuries, William and John have raced for first place in popularity as a font name. The name dates to Robertus filius Willelmi, listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. John filius Willelmi of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. It was the name of four Kings of England, William I (1066-1087), the Conqueror, and the Duke of Normandy. William II (1087-1100). William III (1650-1702), and William IV (1765-1837). 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 member of the name was William of Newburgh (1135-1200) the English chronicler, perhaps a native of Bridlington. He was a monk of Newburgh Priory (Coxwold), and his 'Historia Rerum Anglicarum' is one of the chief authorities for the reign of Henry II.
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