Hall of Names

Information from the Hall of Names

The Hall of Names Ltd.

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London, SW11 1st.

"The Ancient History of the Distinguished Lyon Surname"

The ancient chronicles of Scotland reveal the early records of the name Lyon as a Norman surname which ranks as one of the oldest. The History of the name is finely interwoven within the tapestry of Scottish tartans dominating the panorama of the history of Scotland.

Skilled historical analysts have researched manuscripts such as the Domesday Book (compiled in 1086 by William the Conqueror), the Ragman Rolls, the Wace poem, the Honour Roll of the Battel Abbey, The Curia Regis, Pipe Rolls, the Falaise Roll, tax records, baptismals, family genealogies, local parish and church records. This research has shown the first record of the name Lyon was found in Norfolk where they were seated from very early times and were granted lands by Duke William of Normandy, their liege Lord, for their distinguished assistance at the Battle of Hastings in 1066AD.

Many Scottish Clans and families trace their origins to Normandy. Your name Lyon, occurred in many references, from time to time, including Lyon, Lions, Lyons and these changes in spelling occurred, even between father and son. Scribes recorded and spelled the name as it sounded, phonetically. It was not unlikely that a person would be born with one spelling, married with another and buried with another. All three spellings related to the same person. Sometimes preference for different spelling variations either came from a division of the family, or, for religious reasons, or sometimes nationalistic reasons.

Believed to be descended from the Norman race, the Norman’s were frequently but mistakenly assumed to be of French origin. They were more accurately of Viking origin. The Vikings landed in the Orkneys and Northern Scotland about the year 870AD. under their King, Stirgud the Stout. Thorfinn Rollo, his descendant landed in Northern France about the year 940AD. The French King, Charles the Simple, after Rollo laid siege to Paris, finally conceded defeat and granted Northern France to Rollo. Rollo became the first Duke of Normandy, the territory of the north men. Rollo married Charles’s daughter and became a convert to Christianity. Duke William who invaded and defeated England in 1066, was descended from the first Duke Rollo of Normandy.

By 1070, the Norman nobles in the north of England were in rebellion. Duke William took an Army north and laid waste most of the northern counties. King Malcolm Canmore of Scotland invited many of the displaced nobles to his court and gave them grants of land. About 1130, the Earl of Huntingdon, heir to the Scottish throne, later to become King David of Scotland also offered land to his Norman friends in England, particularly in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and the Lower Midlands.

The surname Lyon emerged as a notable Scottish family name in the county of Norfolk where they were recorded as a family of great antiquity seated with manor and estates in that shire. Randolph and William Lyon settled in Norfolk in 1066. Hugh Lyon was deprived of his estates in 1203 and moved north to Scotland where he was granted the lands of Rostinot. They were elevated to the peerage to the Lords Lyon and Glamis of Forfar, and the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorn. They flourished in Scotland and they became involved in the political affairs. From this source was Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Queen Mother of the present Queen Elizabeth. Prominent amongst the family at this time was Lord Lyon of Scotland.

The surname Lyon contributed much to the affairs of England and Scotland. Later in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries Scotland was ravaged by religious and political conflict. The Monarchy, the Church and Parliament, fought for supremacy. During these times of tyranny and exodus began. Highlanders joined the Highland Regiments, Lowlanders were shipped to Ireland. Families sought favourable alliances, with powerful clans, either by marriage or contract. Choosing the wrong loyalty could be disastrous to a family name, and their viable future. Since a succession of Monarchs had tried to subdue Ireland, it was very fashionable to become loyal to that cause.

The settlers in Ireland became known as the "Adventurers for land in Ireland". They "undertook" to keep the Protestant faith, both within their family and among their workers. There is no evidence that the family name migrated to Ireland, but this does not preclude the possibility of their scattered migration to that country.

The democratic freedom of the New World attracted many. They sailed aboard the fleet of sailing ships known as the "White Sails". The stormy Atlantic, small pox, dysentery, cholera and typhoid took its toll on the settlers and many of the overcrowded ships arrived with only 60 to 70% of their passenger list.

In North America, migrants who could be considered kinsmen of the family name Lyon, or variable spellings of that same family name included John Lyon settled in the Barbados in 1634, Matthew Lyon settled in North Carolina with his wife Mary in 1775, William Lyon settled in Boston in 1635, Bernard, George, James, Jane, John, Matthew, Patrick Lyon all settled in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860. Cornelius Lyon settled in Virginia in 1663, Andrew, Charles, Denis, Edward, Henry, James, John, Michael, Patrick, Thomas and William Lyons all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860, to name a few. Settlers joined the wagon trains westward. During the War of Independence some declared their loyalty to the Crown and moved northward into Canada and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.

Meanwhile, the family name was active in the social stream. There were many notables of this name Lyon, Dame Enid Lyon, Australian Politician. Alexander Lyon, British Politician. Cecil Lyon, American Diplomat. Bernard Lyons, British Company Director. Denis Lyon, Scientist. Eugene Lyons, American Writer. Sir William Lyons, Automobile Manufacturer of Jaguar.

In the process of researching this distinguished family name we also traced the most ancient grant of Arms from the branches which developed their own Arms.

The Most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was:

Silver with a blue lion. The Crest was: A lady holding a royal thistle.

The ancient family Motto for this distinguished name was:

"in Te Domine Speravi"

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