The Italian and French surname of MONTANA was a topographic name for someone who lived on or near a hill. The name was originally derived from the Old French word MONTAINE, and rendered in medieval documents in the Latin form MONTANEA. The name has numerous variant spellings which include MONTAIGNE, MONTAGNIER, MOUNTAIN, MUNTEANU and MONTAGNON, to name but a few. Surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. Habitation names are derived from pre-existing names denoting towns, villages and farmsteads. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries. French, or rather Norman French, was the language of the aristocracy and the upper classes in England at the time fixed surnames were being developed, it is therefore not surprising that many of our well-known family names are derived from French words. Originally only Christian or personal names were used, and although a few came into being during the 10th century, surnames were not widely used until much later, when people began to realize the prestige of having a second name. Michel Eyquem de MONTAIGNE (1533-92), the French essayist, was born at the Chateau de Montaigne de Bordeaux, which had been bought by his grandfather. The family had a number of estates in the area, but they were of very recent nobility, and are said to have been of English origin. The essayist's mother came of a Sefardic Jewish family which had fled the Iberian peninsular. In the Middle Ages the Herald (old French herault) was an officer whose duty it was to proclaim war or peace, carry challenges to battle and messages between sovereigns; nowadays war or peace is still proclaimed by the heralds, but their chief duty as court functionaries is to superintend state ceremonies, such as coronations, installations, and to grant arms. Edward III (1327-1377) appointed two heraldic kings-at-arms for south and north, England in 1340. The English College of Heralds was incorporated by Richard III in 1483-84.
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