ORSI was originally derived from the Latin 'ursus' meaning bear, and this name was a nickname meaning one who was ferocious and as big as a bear. The name is also spelt ORSINI, ORSO, OURS, HOURS, LOURS, ORSEAU, and URSI to name but a few. The ORSINI were an ancient and powerful Italian family who included three popes; Celestine III (died. 1198), Nicholas III (died 1277), and Benedict XIII (died. 1730). Traditionally, they trace their origin to a certain URSUS de Baro, who was living in Rome in the year 998. The origins of Italian surnames are not clear, and much work remains to be done on medieval Italian records. It seems that fixed bynames, in some cases hereditary, were in use in the Venetian Republic by the end of the 10th century. The typical Italian surname endings are 'i' and 'o', the former being characteristic of northern Italy. The singular form 'o' is more typical of southern Italy. Originally the coat of arms identified the wearer, either in battle or in tournaments. Completely covered in body and facial armour the knight could be spotted and known by the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped garment which enveloped him. Most of the European surnames were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name. Felice ORSINI (1819-58) was the Italian revolutionary, born in Meldola, of an ancient and distinguished family. The son of a conspirator, he was early initiated into secret societies, and in 1844 was sentenced at Rome to the galleys, amnestied and again imprisoned for political plots. In 1848 he was elected to the Roman Constituent Assembly. He took part in the defence of Rome and Venice, agitated in Genoa and Sardinia, and in 1853 was shipped to England, where he joined the Young Italy movement. In 1857 he went to Paris and ORSINI and three others threw bombs under Napoleon III's carriage on 14th January, 1858. 10 persons were killed and 156 wounded but Napoleon and the empress were unhurt. ORSINI and another were guillotined.
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