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Cansell Family Crest / Cansell Coat of Arms

This English and Scottish surname of CANSELL was an occupational name for a secretary or administrative official. The name is also spelt CANCELLOR, CHANCELIER and CANCELLARIO. The name was originally derived from the Anglo-Norman French word CHANCELIER, and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form CANCELLARIUS (usher of a law court, from 'cancelli' dividing the court officials from the general public). The king's Chancellor was one of the highest officials in the land, but the term was also used to describe the holder of a variety of offices in the medieval world, such as the secretary or record keeper in a minor manorial household. In some cases, however, the name is found referring to people in very humble circumstances, including serfs, who are unlikely to have been chancellors or descended from chancellors, in any sense of the word. This suggests the origin as a nickname. 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 member of the name was Richard CHANCELLOR (died 1556), the English seaman. He was brought up in the household of the father of Sir Philip Sidney, and was chosen in 1553 as 'pilot-general' of an expedition in search of a northeast passage to India. The ships were parted in a storm off the Lofoten Islands and CHANCELLOR, after waiting seven days at Vardohus, proceeded alone into the White Sea and travelled thence overland to the court at Moscow, where he concluded a treaty giving freedom of trade to English ships. Next spring he returned to England, where his optimistic reports led to the establishment of the Muscovy Company. In 1555 he made a second voyage to the White Sea and to Moscow. He was lost at sea on the way home in Aberdour Bay, Fife.

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Last Updated: Dec. 1st, 2021

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