The surname of COUTES is of territorial origin, from Cults in Aberdeenshire, a common surname in Upper Deeside. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land and indicated where he actually lived. Early records of the name mention Richard de Cotis, who appears as a landowner in Elgin in 1343. In 1392, John de Cowtis and Ronald de Cowtis were part guilty of the slaughter of Sir Watler de Ogilvy, sheriff of Angus. Alexander Kowtis was burgess of Aberdeen in the year 1470, and William Cottis was the master of the ship 'Le James' of Scotland in 1473. Thomas Cowltis was the vicar of the parish church of Abirkerdowr in 1526, and John Couttis was 'master massoun' of the burgh of Stirling in 1529.
An eminent member of the name was Thomas Coutts (1735-1822) who was the Scottish banker, son of an Edinburgh merchant and banker John Coutts, who was lord provost. He founded the London banking-house of Coutts and Co. with his brother James, on whose death in 1778 he became sole manager. He had three daughters by his first wife (a servant of his brother's) who married the Earl of Guildford, the Marquis of Bute, and Sir Francis Burdett; in 1815 he married the actress Harriott Mellon.
The principal family of the name were established in the earldom of Mar, Aberdeenshire, by a crown charter in 1433 of the lands of Ochtercoull. A family of the name settled in Montrose at the close of the 16th century. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. 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.
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