This famous and interesting surname is of Old French origin, and is an occupational name for a chamberlain, that is an official in charge of the private chambers of his master; the term was later a title of high rank. The derivation of this name is from the Old French and Anglo-Norman French "c(h)ambrelain, cambrelane, cambrelen(c)", chamberlain. The Italian cognate "camerlengo" was given to a manager of a pontifical court.
The surname itself first appears in records in the mid 12th Century (see below), while other early examples include: Geoffrey le Chaumberleng, mentioned in the 1194 Curia Rolls of Wiltshire; Robert Canberlenc, recorded in the Feet of Fines in 1195; Martin le Chamberleyn in the Feet of Fines of Cambridgeshire of 1232; and Thomas le Chaumberlyn, who appears in the Assize Court Rolls of Staffordshire in 1293. Sir Leonard Chamberlain (died 1561) was sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire (1547 and 1552), M.P. for Scarborough (1553) and Oxfordshire (1554), and Governor of Guernsey (1553 - 1561).
A Coat of Arms granted to a family of the name in London depicts on a red shield with a silver orle charged with eight blue mullets a gold armillary sphere. Neville Chamberlain (1869 - 1940) was Conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain (1937 - 1940) who pursued a policy of appeasement toward Germany.
The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Henry le Camberlain, which was dated circa 1154, in "Documents illustrative of the Social and Economic History of the Danelaw", by Stenton (London), 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.