Clan Fraser - History - Origins of The Surname

Origins of The Surname

The exact origins of the surname 'Fraser' can not be determined with any great certainty, although there is little doubt that it came from France.

The first reputed record is that of "Frysel" (vowels were at the time often interchanged), recorded on the Battle Abbey Roll – supposedly a list of William the Conqueror's companions, preserved at Battle Abbey, on the site of his great victory over Harold. However, the authenticity of the manuscript is seriously doubted.

The first definite record of the name in Scotland occurs in the mid-12th century as "de Fresel", "de Friselle", and "de Freseliere", and appears to be an Angevin name. Although there is no known placename in France that corresponds with it, the French surname "Frézelière" or "de la Frézelière" or "Frézeau de la Frézelière", apparent in France to this day, corresponds with Scottish version in spelling and traditional area of origin – Anjou. Indeed, apparently while in exile in France Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat "entered into a formal league of amnity" and "declared an alliance" with the French Marquis de la Frézelière and claimed common origin from the "les seigneurs de la Frézelière". The first annual gathering of the Clan Fraser in Canada in 1894 also recalls this connection. Finally, this ancient connection with Anjou is described in detail in the 18th century document La Dictionnaire de la Noblesse. This document states that a Simon Frezel was born to the knightly Frezel family from Anjou and, sometime after the year 1030, established himself in Scotland. It also states that Simon Frezel's descendants multiplied and eventually became known as Frasers. This would also explain the prevalence of the name Simon throughout clan history, as all Frasers would have the knight Simon Frezel as a distant but common ancestor.

Another tradition claims derivation from a Frenchman called "Pierre Fraser, Seigneur de Troile", who came to Scotland in the reign of Charlemagne to form an alliance with the mythical King Achaius. Pierre's son was then to have become thane of the Isle of Man in 814.

Yet another explanation for the surname is that it is derived from the French words fraise, meaning strawberry (the fruit), and fraisiers, strawberry plants. There is a fabled account of the Fraser coat of arms which asserts during the reign of Charles the Simple of France, a nobleman from Bourbon named Julius de Berry entertained the King with a dish of fine strawberries. De Berry was then later knighted, with the knight taking strawberry flowers as his Arms and changing his name from 'de Berry' to 'Fraiseux' or 'Frezeliere'. His direct descendants were to become the lords of Neidpath Castle, then known as Oliver. This origin has been disputed, and seen as a classic example of canting heraldry, where heraldic symbols are derived from a pun on similar sounding surname: (strawberry flowers – fraises).

Read more about this topic:  Clan Fraser, History

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