East Friesland – Is there an EZARD connection?

Did the name EZARD originate in East Friesland? I do not know. But there are indications that suggest that East Friesland would be a good place to look for connections. The name EDZARD is the Frisian cognate of the German name Eckehard. (1) (Please also refer to: Origins of the Name.)

The area known as East Friesland/East Frisia/Ostfriesland borders the North Sea in the northern part of the country we know as Germany; it is part of Lower Saxony/Niedersachsen. West Friesland is mainly in The Netherlands and North Friesland is on the seaboard of the Jutland peninsula. (2)  Originally, they were three separate states, and fiercely independent; during the centuries of migration, c500AD to c1000AD, many folk from this area arrived in England as invaders or settlers – in particular, they came to North-East England, and most notably to Yorkshire. (3, 4)

Edzard the Great
Edzard the Great, 1462-1528 Attributed to Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen

In the 15th century, the Cirkensas became the most powerful family in East Friesland.

The most famous of the line was Edzard Cirkensa, 1462-1528, who became known as Edzard the Great because of his efforts to increase the power of this area (or, as Wikipedia has it: “his energetic approach against his opponents”). He was created a Count/Graf, extended the influence of East Friesland, and encouraged the Protestant Reformation. (5)

Edzard II
Edzard II, 1532-1599 (Unsigned portrait)

His grandson, Edzard II, ruled East Friesland in the later years of the 16th century. In English documents surviving from the reign of Elizabeth I, this Edzard is referred to as ‘Count Edzard’ or ‘Count Ezard’. (6)

Though the family name was Cirkensa, these prominent people were known by their first name, as were other ‘royal’ and high-ranking families, e.g. the Plantagent kings of England were known as Henry II, Richard I, John and so on.

I therefore conclude that it would be productive to investigate further possible links to East Frisia. Perhaps there is a German researcher out there who could assist with the development of German names and migration from the historic area of Frisia? If so, please contact me.

If nothing comes from these East Friesland researches, at least, here are examples of Edzard as a first name and the Anglicisation of the name in English records – important, because this is a study of Ezard as a name and the history of the name itself.


(1)  Oxford Names Companion, Oxford, Oxford University Press 2002; Patrick Hanks, Flavia Hodges, A D Mills and Adrian Room.
(2) See East Frisia: http://wiki-en.genealogy.net/East_Frisia
(3) See paper by Heinrich Härke: https://www.academia.edu/1178275/Anglo-Saxon_immigration_and_ethnogenesis._Medieval_Archaeology_55_2011._1-28
(4) East Friesland: http://www.wilcuma.org.uk/pattern.asp?pageid=50
(5) Edzard the Great: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edzard_I,_Count_of_East_Frisia The painting reproduced here is attributed to Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, c1470-1533, and is located in Niedersächisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Oldenburg. The photograph is licensed under Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/. It was accessed via Wikimedia.

(6) For a brief biography of Edzard II: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edzard_II%2C_Count_of_East_Frisia. There are numerous references to Count/Earl E(d)zard in Calendar of  State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, digitised and accessible via British History Online.  Edzard is the usual form of the name; see this example: ‘Treaty Papers: Miscellaneous 1586’, in , Volume 20, September 1585-May 1586, ed. Sophie Crawford Lomas (London, 1921), p. 702 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/foreign/vol20/p702. In transcriptions of his letters to the Queen, he signs his name ‘Ezardus’. But the man is also referred to as ‘Count Ezard’; see ‘Queen Elizabeth – Volume 244: January 1593’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Elizabeth, 1591-94, ed. Mary Anne Everett Green (London, 1867), pp. 303-312 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/edw-eliz/1591-4/pp303-312.. Late 16th century references to Edzard, Count of East Friesland, can be found at The National Archives: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_q=(East%20Friesland%20AND%20Edzar*)&_p=1500&search=r

The unsigned portrait of Edzard II reproduced here is located in the Historical Museum, Aurich.  The photograph was taken by Matthias Süßen – ‘Thank you’. It was accessed via Wikimedia.