MAGNESS is of French, Swedish and Danish/Norwegian origin, a baptismal name 'the son of Magnus' a name meaning 'great'. This name was born by Magnus the Good (died 1047), king of Norway, who was named after the Emperor Charlemagne, and was derived from the Latin Carolus Magnus 'Charles the Great'. The name spread from Norway to the East Scandinavian royal houses, and became popular all over Scandinavia and thence in the English Danelaw. Magnus Erlendsson (St.Magnus) who died in 1117. He was the Earl of Orkney. Early in the 12th century, the Norse earldom of Orkney was shared by Magnus and his cousin, Earl Hakon; after years of feuding they agreed to hold a peace-meeting on the island of Egilsay just after Easter in 1117. Hakon treacherously broke the terms of the truce and took Magnus prisoner, and had him executed. The manner of Magnus's death suggested martyrdom, and soon miracles were reported. Earl Rognvald Kali, built St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall in his honour. After the Crusades in Europe, in the 11th 12th and 13th century people began, perhaps unconsciously, to feel the need of a family name, or at least a name in addition to the simple one that had been possessed from birth. The nobles and upper classes, especially those who went on the Crusades, observed the prestige and practical value of an added name, and were quick to take a surname. The earliest of the name on record in England appears to be Magnus de Weitecroft, who was documented in the year 1114, London. Hugo Magnus was recorded in the same year in County Surrey. In Shetland Magnus as a font name is tenth in order of frequency, and eleventh as a surname in the form Manson. Other records of the name mention William Magness, listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. William Magnus and Alice Sherman were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in the year 1780. The name has many variant spellings which include Magnuss, Magnass and Magnes.
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