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Dauphin of France

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Coat of arms of the Dauphin of France.
Arms of the Dauphin of France, depicting the fleur-de-lis and the dolphin.

Dauphin of France (/ˈdɔːfɪn/, also UK: /dɔːˈfɪn, ˈdfæ̃/ US: /ˈdfɪn, dˈfæ̃/; French: Dauphin de France [dofɛ̃ fʁɑ̃s] ), originally Dauphin of Viennois (Dauphin de Viennois), was the title given to the heir apparent to the throne of France from 1350 to 1791, and from 1824 to 1830.[1] The word dauphin is French for dolphin and was the hereditary title of the ruler of the Dauphiné of Viennois. While early heirs were granted these lands to rule, eventually only the title was granted.


Guigues IV, Count of Vienne, had a dolphin on his coat of arms and was nicknamed le Dauphin. The title of Dauphin de Viennois descended in his family until 1349, when Humbert II sold his seigneury, called the Dauphiné, to King Philippe VI on condition that the heir of France assume the title of le Dauphin. The wife of the Dauphin was known as la Dauphine.

The first French prince called le Dauphin was Charles the Wise, later ascending to the throne as Charles V of France. The title was roughly equivalent to the Spanish Prince of Asturias, the Portuguese Prince of Brazil, the English (thence British) Prince of Wales, and the Scottish Duke of Rothesay. The official style of a Dauphin of France, prior to 1461, was par la grâce de Dieu, dauphin de Viennois, comte de Valentinois et de Diois ("By the Grace of God, Dauphin of Viennois, Count of Valentinois and of Diois"). A Dauphin of France united the coat of arms of the Dauphiné, which featured dolphins, with the French fleurs-de-lis, and might, where appropriate, further unite that with other arms (e.g. Francis, son of Francis I, was ruling Duke of Brittany, so united the arms of that province with the typical arms of a Dauphin; Francis II, while Dauphin, was also King of Scots by marriage to Mary I, and added the arms of the Kingdom of Scotland to those of the Dauphin).

Originally the Dauphin was personally responsible for the rule of the Dauphiné, which was legally part of the Holy Roman Empire, and which the emperors, in giving the rule of the province to the French heirs, had stipulated must never be united with France. Because of this, the Dauphiné suffered from anarchy in the 14th and 15th centuries, since the Dauphins were frequently minors or concerned with other matters.

During his period as Dauphin, Louis, son of Charles VII, defied his father by remaining in the province longer than the king permitted and by engaging in personal politics more beneficial to the Dauphiné than to France. For example, he married Charlotte of Savoy against his father's wishes. Savoy was a traditional ally of the Dauphiné, and Louis wished to reaffirm that alliance to stamp out rebels and robbers in the province. Louis was driven out of the Dauphiné by Charles VII's soldiers in 1456, leaving the region to fall back into disorder. After his succession as Louis XI of France in 1461, Louis united the Dauphiné with France, bringing it under royal control.

The title was automatically conferred upon the next heir apparent to the throne in the direct line upon birth, accession of the parent to the throne or death of the previous Dauphin, unlike the British title Prince of Wales, which has always been in the gift of the monarch (traditionally conferred upon the heir's 21st birthday).

The sons of the King of France held the style and rank of fils de France (son of France), while male-line grandsons were given the style and rank of petits-enfants de France (Grandson of France). The sons and grandsons of the Dauphin ranked higher than their cousins, being treated as the king's children and grandchildren respectively. The sons of the Dauphin, though grandsons of the king, were ranked as Sons of France, and the grandsons of the Dauphin ranked as Grandsons of France; other great-grandsons of the king ranked merely as princes of the blood.

The title was abolished by the Constitution of 1791, which made France a constitutional monarchy. Under the constitution the heir-apparent to the throne (Dauphin Louis-Charles at that time) was restyled Prince Royal (a Prince of the Blood retitled prince français), taking effect from the inception of the Legislative Assembly on 1 October 1791. The title was restored in potentia under the Bourbon Restoration of Louis XVIII, but there would not be another Dauphin until after his death. With the accession of his brother Charles X, Charles' son and heir Louis-Antoine, Duke of Angoulême automatically became Dauphin.

With the removal of the Bourbons the title fell into disuse, the heirs of Louis-Philippe being titled Prince Royal. After the death of Henri, comte de Chambord, Carlos, Duke of Madrid, the heir of the legitimist claimant, Juan, Count of Montizón, made use of the title in pretense, as have the Spanish legitimist claimants since.

Gallery of Arms[edit]

List of Dauphins[edit]

Name as Dauphin Heir of Birth Became Dauphin Ceased to be Dauphin Death Other titles before or while Dauphin Name as King Dauphine
John II 21 January 1338 22 August 1350 8 April 1364

Became King
16 September 1380 Duke of Normandy Charles V Joanna of Bourbon
Charles V 3 December 1368 16 September 1380

Became King
21 October 1422 Charles VI
3 Charles Charles VI 26 September 1386 28 December 1386
6 February 1392 13 January 1401 Duke of Guyenne
22 January 1397 13 January 1401 18 December 1415 Duke of Guyenne Margaret of Burgundy
31 August 1398 18 December 1415 5 April 1417 Duke of Touraine Jacqueline of Hainaut
22 February 1403 5 April 1417 21 October 1422

Became King
22 July 1461 Count of Ponthieu Charles VII
Charles VII 3 July 1423 22 July 1461

Became King
30 August 1483 Louis XI Margaret of Scotland;
Charlotte of Savoy
9 François Louis XI 4 December 1466
30 June 1470 30 August 1483

Became King
7 April 1498 Charles VIII
Charles VIII 11 October 1492 16 December 1495
8 September 1496 2 October 1496
13 François July 1497
Francis I 28 February 1518 10 August 1536 Duke of Brittany
31 March 1519 10 August 1536 31 March 1547

Became King
10 July 1559 Duke of Orléans, Duke of Brittany Henry II Catherine de' Medici
Henry II 19 January 1544 31 March 1547 10 July 1559

Became King
5 December 1560 King-consort of Scotland Francis II Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry IV 27 September 1601 14 May 1610

Became King
14 May 1643 Louis XIII
Louis XIII 5 September 1638 14 May 1643

Became King
1 September 1715 Louis XIV
Louis, le Grand Dauphin
Louis XIV 1 November 1661 14 April 1711 Duchess Maria Anna of Bavaria
Louis, le Petit Dauphin
16 August 1682 14 April 1711 18 February 1712 Duke of Burgundy Princess Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy
8 January 1707 18 February 1712 8 March 1712 Duke of Brittany
15 February 1710 8 March 1712 1 September 1715

Became King
10 May 1774 Duke of Anjou Louis XV
Louis XV 4 September 1729 20 December 1765 Infanta Maria Teresa Rafaela of Spain;
Duchess Maria Josepha of Saxony
23 August 1754 20 December 1765 10 May 1774

Became King
21 January 1793 Duke of Berry Louis XVI Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria
Louis XVI 22 October 1781 4 June 1789
27 March 1785 4 June 1789 1 October 1791

Retitled as "Prince-royal"
8 June 1795 Duke of Normandy Louis XVII
Charles X 6 August 1775 16 September 1824 2 August 1830

3 June 1844 Duke of Angoulême Louis XIX Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France

In literature[edit]

A lineographic representation of the arms of the Dauphin. Designed by Jean de Beaugrand in 1604.

In Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck encounters two odd characters who turn out to be professional con men. One of them claims that he should be treated with deference, since he is "really" an impoverished English duke, and the other, not to be outdone, reveals that he is "really" the Dauphin ("Looey the Seventeen, son of Looey the Sixteen and Marry Antonet").

Louis, Duke of Guyenne, the Dauphin of Viennois, is a character in Shakespeare's Henry V.

In Baronness Emma Orczy's Eldorado, the Scarlet Pimpernel rescues the Dauphin from prison and helps spirit him from France.

Alphonse Daudet wrote a short story called "The Death of the Dauphin", about a young Dauphin who wants to stop Death from approaching him.

The Dauphin is also mentioned in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.

"The Dauphin" is a 1988 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. As the titular character is female, the episode title gets the gender incorrect (the French female equivalent is "Dauphine").

Robert Pattinson portrays the Dauphin of Viennois in The King.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "dauphin | French political history". Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  2. ^ "Louis, Dauphin of France Biography". biography.com. A&E Television Networks. 2 April 2014. Archived from the original on 21 March 2019. Retrieved 3 September 2016.