This name of WICKARD is of French origin, but originally from a Germanic personal name composed of the elements 'wig' (war) and 'hard' (brave and strong'. The name is also spelt WEYER, WIECHARD, WEICHERT, WEICKERT, WEIGERT, WIART, WIERT and WYERDA. The earliest French hereditary surnames are found in the 12th century, at more or less the same time as they arose in England, but they are by no means common before the 13th century, and it was not until the 15th century that they stabilized to any great extent; before then a surname might be handed down for two or three generations, but then abandoned in favour of another. In the south, many French surnames have come in from Italy over the centuries, and in Northern France, Germanic influence can often be detected. During the 17th century surnames were brought to Britain, North America and southern Africa by French Huguenot exiles. The Huguenots were French Protestants, and in 1572 large numbers of them were massacred in Paris on the orders of Queen Catherine de'Medici. Many of the survivors sought refuge in England and elsewhere. Although the Edict of Nantes (1598) officially guaranteed religious toleration, persecution continued, and the Edict was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685. It was then the trickle of emigration became a flood. Many migrated to England, while others joined groups of Dutch Protestants settling around the Cape of Good Hope. Others sailed across the Atlantic to establish themselves in North America. A notable member of the name was Johann WIER (or WEYER) (1516-88) the Belgium physician, one of the first opponents of the witchcraft superstition, born in Grave, North Brabant. He studied medicine at Paris and Orleans, and became physician to the Duke of Julich in Dusseldorf to whom he dedicated his 'De Praestigiis Daemonum et Incantationibus ac Veneficiis' (1563) a plea against the folly and cruelty of the witchcraft trials. The book roused the fury of the clergy, but the Duke protected Wier until his death. Over the centuries, most people in Europe have accepted their surname as a fact of life, as irrevocable as an act of God. However much the individual may have liked or disliked the surname, they were stuck with it, and people rarely changed them by personal choice. A more common form of variation was in fact involuntary, when an official change was made, in other words, a clerical error.
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