The surname of NIKOLAI was a baptismal name 'the son of CLAUSEN' a form of NICHOLAS, which was a name meaning 'people's victory'. The name was popular among Christians throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, largely as a result of the fame of a 4th century Lycian bishop, about whom a large number of legends grew up, and who was venerated in the Orthodox Church as well as the Catholic. East European forms of this name are spelt with the initial M, as Mikulas in Poland. The name was sometimes borne by women in the Middle Ages. 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 name may also have denoted someone who farmed land belonging to a monastery, and who paid rent in the form of provisions for the monks. The name has numerous variant spellings which include NICOLAS, NICKLESS, NICHOL, NICKOL, NICKEL, NICKLE, NICOLAU, NICCOLAI, NICHOLS and NICOLLIC, to name but a few. Notables of the name include NICHOLAS I (The Great) (circa. 820-867) pope from 858 to 867. He asserted the supremacy of the church against secular rulers such as Lothair, king of Lorraine (whose divorce he forbade) and church leaders like the archbishop of Reims. His feast day is 13th November. NICHOLAS II, originally Gerard of Burgundy (circa. 980-1061), pope from 1058 to 1061. NICHOLAS V, originally Pietro Rainalducci (died. 1033) antipope from 1328 to 1330. Otto NICOLAI (1810-49) the German composer, born in Konigsberg. In 1847 he became kapellmeister at Berlin, where his opera 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' was produced before he died. William NICOL (circa.1744-1797) was the Scottish schoolmaster, a classics master in the High School of Edinburgh. He was a friend of Robert Burns, who immortalized him in the poem 'Wllie Brewed a Peck O'Maut'. The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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