This surname ORLOW has spread widely into Europe, in many forms, but was originally a Russian patronymic from the nickname 'Oryol' 'Eagle', a nickname to denote the king of birds. It was adopted by the Orthodox clergy in reference to the eagle as a symbol of St. John the Evangelist. Other spellings of the name include ORLOV, ORLOVSKI, VOREL, VORLICKY, VORLICEK and ORLINSKI, to name but a few. They were a powerful Russian family who were close advisers to Catherine the Great and Nicholas I. They gave their name to the Orlov Diamond, a 200 carat stone acquired by Count Gregory Orlav (1734-83) in an attempt to win back Catherine's favour. He and his brother, Aleksei Orlov (1737-1808) had been closely involved in the coup which brought her to power. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. 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 flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. Oov Osip Orlov in 1651 was an owner of fiefdoms. Many other descendants of this family served the Throne in noble positions. Yakov Seliverstov Orlov and his descendants were confirmed in the rank of the nobility of their forebears on December 11, 1796, by a decree of His Highness Emperor Paul I. Heraldry appeared later in Russia than in most other Western European countries. It is generally agreed that it was copied from the west sometime in the late 17th century, and quickly achieved state significance. In 1722 Emperor Peter I (The Great) established an official Heraldry Office headed by a Master of Heraldry under the jurisdiction of the Senate. The eagle depicted in the arms is emblematical of fortitude and magnaminity of mind. The Romans used the figure of an eagle for their ensign, and their example has been often followed. It is the device of Russia, Austria, Germany and the United States of America.
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