The surname was derived from the Old French word 'maistre', a superior, a teacher. The name was originally rendered in the Latin form MAGISTER. In early instances this name was often borne by people who were franklins or other substantial freeholders, presumably because they had labourers under them to work their lands, and unlike smaller free tenants did not just till their property themselves. In Scotland the eldest sons of barons had this title, and the name may also have been acquired as an occupational nickname by a servant who worked in the household of the eldest son of a baron. 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. 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 Robert de Meistre, 1202 Berkshire. Hamund le Mester, was documented in the year 1273 in County Cambridge. Johannes Mastere of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Thomas le Mayster, 1379, ibid. Edward Raby married Mary Masters at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in 1746.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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