The surname LANT is an ancient name of English origin, pre-dating the Norman conquest. In English genealogy, most attention has in the past been given to tracing Norman ancestry. Many English surnames can be traced to the Normans, who, invaded England in the year 1066 under William the Conqueror. Although greatly outnumbered, (estimated at between eight to ten thousand Normans among a population of 1.5 to 2 million in the British Isles at that time), they soon took over complete control of the government, administration of all land and institutions, including the church, and changed the language and customs of the country.
For several centuries after the Norman conquest, French, instead of English, was the language spoken in the English court and among the nobility. English, however, remained the language of the common people. Although overshadowed like the Celts before them, the Anglo-Saxon people, with their names and language, were not wiped out; instead, the language and the people of England eventually became a blend, using many words from both languages, and borrowing from several other languages as well, thus giving us our modern English language with its large vocabulary and variety of styles.
The Normans in England became the royalty and nobility, the landed gentry: the Lords, Barons, Knights, etc. However, the Saxon, or pre-conquest stock, has lately been given more notice. They were mainly the common people, the majority who bore the hard work and labor of tilling the ground and tending the flocks to sustain life. Vital records were not kept until centuries after the conquest, and by this time the Normans and Saxons had largely intermarried and blended together. "The number of proven cases of Saxon descent back to the time of the conquest are few indeed, and it is extremely doubtful if there are half a dozen families who can rightfully trace such descent. There are, however, families who possess Saxon names but who are unable to claim unbroken descent. The name LANT is pure Saxon, meaning 'of the land' or 'a dweller at lands, or launde,' the Old English (Saxon) for a lawn or lawny glade in a woodland; and men of that name were residents in the English Midlands many years before the Norman Conquest."
Someone has said, "To start the national history of England at the year of the conquest is to ignore the fact that several hundred years of recorded history took place before William the Conqueror landed at Pevensey. Prior to 1066 there was an extensive literature in the native tongue in poetry, history, theology, and in translations. The Normans had nothing to compare with this, and we should remember our Saxon ancestors also and give them due credit and appreciation. Perhaps someday we will know more about them. It was a German philosopher who remarked that ancestry is like a potato, the best part being underground. And we should remember that our roots and heritage are not just American, but they go back to Europe and elsewhere. Some years ago Britain's colonial secretary addressed an American audience and said, "Your forefathers sleep in our churchyards. They helped to make our institutions, our literature, and our laws, and these things are your heritage as much as they are ours."
The first mention of the name LANT occurs in the year A.D. 851. The family originated in Bedfordshire, Northhamptonshire, and Warwickshire, and from these counties other members moved to Devonshire, Staffordshire, and Northumberland. The name Lant has been in the distant past sometimes spelt Lante, Lande, Lany or Laney. It was originally a first or personal name, and it also forms part of other old Saxon names such as Landwolf, Landfranc, and Landric. The name is found in the Domesday Book, 1086, as LAND (a personal or given name). It also occurs in the famous "Victoria History of the Counties of England." It reads (in its volume devoted to Bedfordshire) Vol. III, page 168: "In the year 1086 the tenant (owner) of Wymington Manor was Osbert who succeeded LANT of Levenot." A Wm. de la Lande is recorded elsewhere, in the year 1273 A.D.
THOMAS LANT (1556-1600), held the post of Windsor Herald from 1597 until his death. (By this time the Normans and Saxons had blended and intermarried so that there was really no distinction between the two.) Beginning in the twelfth century, heraldry was very important in England, especially in the conduct of knightly tournaments, those colorful events that adorned the Age of Chivalry. To learn the names of knights taking part in these tournaments, it was necessary to know them from the device on their shield or banner, their coat of arms, crest or insignia. The knowledge and advice of the heralds was eagerly sought, for they were experts on all of the symbols, families, rules, and protocol. Later, during the wars between France and England, the heralds were extensively employed on both sides as messengers and negotiators under the equivalent of a flag of truce.
By the turn of the fifteenth century, the King of England had a staff of heralds. In the Elizabethan Age and the period of the budding empire there were six heralds -- Windsor, Lancaster, York, Somerset, Richmond, and Chester; and the Windsor Herald of that time, as we have mentioned, was Thomas Lant. He was also the author of several works of heraldry and genealogy. One of these was "The Array of Nobility". He was a friend of Sir Philip Sidney, a popular and well-known poet, courtier, and soldier of Elizabethan times.
Thomas Lant's portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery in London. A medallion shaped like a miniature shield with the Lant coat of arms is hanging on the upper left side of the picture frame, and the Lant crest of a serpent and dove decorates the top of the frame.

Today the College of Heralds is still a part of the royal household, sharing with the Lord Chamberlain's department the duties of organizing royal ceremonies. The heralds attend the sovereign on great occasions of state, wearing their richly embroidered tabards with the royal arms.


Information Compiled
by Karen Bray Keeley

INTERNET Adaptation
by Sandra Shuler Bray