This unusual and interesting surname is a patronymic of Cousin, which is of early medieval English and French origin, and is from a nickname, derived from the Middle English (1200 - 1500), Old French "co(u)sin, cusin", from the Latin "consobrinus", which in the Middle Ages, as in Shakespearean English, had the general meaning "relative, kinsman". The surname would thus have denoted a person related in some way to a prominent figure in the neighbourhood. In some cases it may be also have been a nickname for someone who used the term "cousin" frequently as a familiar term of address. A sizeable group of early European surnames were gradually created from the habitual use of nicknames; these were given in the first instance with reference to a variety of characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, mental and moral characteristics, supposed resemblance to an animal's or bird's appearance or disposition, or to habits of dress, and occupation. Today the patronymics constitute the most frequent forms of the name. An interesting namebearer was Alexander Cozens (d. 1786), a landscape painter in water-colours, who was born in Russia, and was reputed to be the son of Peter the Great. He studied art in Italy and settled in England in 1746. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Cusin, which was dated 1166, in the "Pipe Rolls of Norfolk", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.