This Italian, French and English surname was a nickname for a foppish man or a title of respect for a widow. The name was originally rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form DOMINA (mistress). It may also have been an occupational name for someone in the service of a lady. The name has travelled widely in many forms which include DANNE, DONNA, DAMAS, DAMSON, DONNE and DAMASUS. During the 17th century surnames were brought to Britain, North America and southern Africa by French Huguenot exiles. The Huguenots were French Protestants, and in 1572 large numbers of them were massacred in Paris on the orders of Queen Catherine de'Medici. Many of the survivors sought refuge in England and elsewhere. Although the Edict of Nantes (1598) officially guaranteed religious toleration, persecution continued, and the Edict was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685. It was then the trickle of emigration became a flood. Many migrated to England, while others joined groups of Dutch Protestants settling around the Cape of Good Hope. Others sailed across the Atlantic to establish themselves in North America. A notable member of the name was Saint DAMASUS I. (c.304-384) who was Pope from 366 to 384. A Roman deacon, possibly of Spanish descent, his election was violently contested. He restored the catacombs and wrote epitaphs for the tombs of the martyrs. He commissioned St. Jerome, his secretary, to undertake the Vulgate Version of the Bible. His feast day is the 11th December. 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.
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