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!
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