Why were the crown princes of France called “Dauphin”, literally, a dolphin?

Photo by jurvetson – CC-BY

Between 1350 and 1791 there were 28 Dauphin de France, the title of the heir apparent to the French throne, similar to the title Prince of Wales in England. But why should he be the “dolphin” of France?

Strictly, the correct title was Dauphin de Viennois, the dolphin of Vienne, a town in Département Isère. But that does not make any more sense until one learns that the coat of arms of the count of Vienne in the 14th century bore a dolphin, and that families were often referred to by what was on their coat of arms. Thus the counts of Vienne were called Dauphin de Viennois, and the independently ruled region in SE France was called the Dauphiné.

In 1349, Count Humbert II sold the Dauphiné to King Philippe VI on the condition that the crown prince be given the title of Dauphin de Viennois. Until 1461, the Dauphiné remained independent of France, also a stipulation of the sale, despite its being ruled by the crown prince. In that year, the Dauphin was crowned Louis XI of France and united the Dauphiné with France, ending its political independence. Henceforth, the crown prince was by birth Dauphin de France, rather than being given the title, as until then and as is the case for the Prince of Wales.

That was fine until the 1791, when France became a constitutional monarchy and the then (27th) Dauphin was retitled Prince Royal, and the same year restyled prince français. Then for a while, Napoleon ruled France.

The Bourbons were restored in 1824 and the title re-established, the 28th and last Dauphin.

That is a great simplification of the historical events, but that is how the title came into existence.

This is a guest post by myoarin. Thanks!

Related questions:

  • What is Aquitaine famous for?What is Aquitaine famous for? Aquitaine is the most south-westerly region of France, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west, and Spain to its south. Aquitaine is famous for its history, with evidence of prehistoric […]
  • What is a “house law?”What is a “house law?” House law is not really an English expression, rather just a literal translation of the German Hausgesetz. Nonetheless, it is understandable if one thinks of an old fashioned household […]
  • Could I be a descendent of Charlemagne?Could I be a descendent of Charlemagne? You could indeed be a descendent of Charlemagne, but if so, then probably so is everyone else you know (but you don't have to tell them). Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas […]
  • Where Can I Find Free Newspaper Archives Online from France and Other French-Language Areas?Where Can I Find Free Newspaper Archives Online from France and Other French-Language Areas? The French people have an amazing history, a beautiful language, and a justifiable pride in their culture.  But they've done a surprisingly poor job of preserving these things in the […]
  • What’s in a name?What’s in a name? What's in a name? This answer intentionally avoids any reference to the myriad of websites that tell about the meaning of names. Mothers and fathers want their child to have the […]

  Need research? Quezi's researchers can answer your questions at

Written by | 3,672 views | Tags: , , , ,

No Comments

Comments are closed.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Privacy Policy | Acknowledgements