The surname of GILLEN was a baptismal name 'the son of Giles'. They were a family of the Cenel Eoghain (the clan name of the O'Neills, descended from Conall Gulban, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages) and were mainly found in Cos. Sligo, Donegal and Tyrone. This is a curious form of Egidius. 13th and 14th Century records have Egidius entered, and thereafter absorbed as Giles. The small villages of Europe, or royal and noble households, even large religious dwellings and monastries, gave rise to many family names, which reflected the occupation or profession of the original bearer of the name. This was the name of a 7th century Provencal hermit, whose cult popularized the name in a variety of more or less mutilated forms: Gidi and Gidy in Southern France, Gilli in the area of the Alpes-Maritimes and Gille elsewhere. This last form was brought over to England by the Normans, but by the 12th century it was confused with the Germanic name Gisel, a shortened form of Gilbert. Following the Crusades in Europe in the 11th 12th and 13th centuries a need was felt for an additional name. This was recognized by those of gentle birth, who realised that it added prestige and practical advantage to their status. 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 draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. Early records of the name mention Egidius Gowell of the County of Lincolnshire in 1273. Jordan filius Egidu, ibid. William Gilis of the County of Kent was recorded in 1317. Nicholas Giles and Christone Newell were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1564. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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