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Dauphiné (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2004-07-03 by ivan sache
Keywords: dauphine | dolphin | fleur-de-lys: 6 (yellow) | dauphin |
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[Dauphiné]by Pierre Gay

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History of Dauphiné

Dauphiné was inhabited by the Allobroges and the Voconces. It was conquered by the Romans in the IInd century BP, and several Roman colonies developed there, especially Vienne (Valentinopolis).
Dauphiné was later invaded by the Burgunds and then allocated to Lothaire after the division of the Carolingian Empire. Included in the short-lived kingdom of Burgundy, the area was then splitted between several feudal and ecclesiastic lords.

In the XIth century, count Guigues I d'Albon incorporated to his domain Lower Dauphiné, Grésivaudan (the rich valley of Isère, upstream from Grenoble), Champsaur (upper valley of the river Drac), which were all ceded by the bishop of Vienne, and Briançonnais (upper valley of the river Durance). During the XIth and XIIth centuries, several monasteries and abbeys were founded in Dauphiné, the most famous being the Great Charterhouse built by St. Bruno in 1084 in the 'desert' of Chartreuse.

In 1192, Guigues VI d'Albon took the title of Dauphin. He added the region of Embrun and Gap to his domain, and Faucigny, a province of Savoy, after his marriage with the daughter of count Pierre II in 1268. In 1343, Faucigny was retroceded to Savoy, whose power was increasing.

In 1349, the last dauphin Humbert II negociated the 'transportation' of Dauphiné to France. Humbert was an ambitious spendthrift: he supported several religious foundations, founded the University of Grenoble and sponsored a rich court. He went on Holy Crusades and came back bankrupted, his wife and son having died during his leave. He decided to resign and sell his state.
King of France Philippe de Valois signed with Humbert three treaties to organize the transfer of Dauphiné to France. The king paid Humbert 300,000 guilders and promised him a life annuity of 24,000 pounds. Dauphiné was granted as his apanage to the elder son of the king, who should bear the title of Dauphin. The bill of sale, called Transport du Dauphiné à la France, was signed on 16 July 1349 in Lyon. Humbert took the cloth of the Dominican order and died in 1355.

In 1515, king François I appointed Bayard, the 'fearless and blameless knight' (chevalier sans peur et sans reproche) lieutenant-general of Dauphiné. Pierre Terrail, lord of Bayard, was born in Pontcharra, near Grenoble in 1476. He fought very bravely during the Italian wars, and François I asked him (Bayard) to knight him (the king) on the battle field of Marignan (1515). Bayard was killed in 1526 by an arquebus stone in Romagnano Sesia.

In 1628, the status of Dauphiné changed from pays d'état to pays d'élection, which meant that Dauphiné was placed under direct administration by an intendant appointed by the king. In 1763, the Parliament of Grenoble refused to acknowledge the royal decrees which increased the taxes.
In 1788, the Tiles' Day (Journées des Tuiles) took place in Grenoble. This event can be considered as the first mass action of the French Revolution. A session of the States Generals was scheduled in Grenoble on 21 July 1788 and immediatly forbidden. The assembly, composed of 50 clergymen, 165 nobles and 325 representatives of the third estates, met in the neighbouring city of Vizille. They voted a resolution requiring the reestablishment of the Parliament of Grenoble; an official convening of the States General of Dauphiné, which should vote the taxes; and the individual freedom for all French citizens. Vizille can therefore be considered as the birthplace of the French Revolution.

Ivan Sache, 12 January 2003

Description of the flag of Dauphiné

The banner of arms of Dauphiné is:

Ecartelé : au premier et au quatrième d'azur aux trois fleurs de lys d'or, au deuxième et au troisième d'or au dauphin d'azur crêté, barbé, loré, peautré et oreillé de gueules (GASO)

In English, the blazon does not explicitely describe the dolphin:

Quarterly first and fourth azure three fleurs de lys or second and third or a dolphin azure (Brian Timms)

These arms are a combination of the royal banner of France and the former arms of Dauphiné. They were adopted after the transport of Dauphiné to France.

Ivan Sache, 12 January 2003

Dauphiné and the dolphin

The complex relations between Dauphiné (as a province), Dauphin (as a title) and dolphin (as an animal) are explained by M. Pastoureau [pst98]. A brief summary follows:

During the feudal period, the county of Viennois, which became later more or less the modern Dauphiné, was not part of the kingdom of France. Its ruler was named in documents count (comes) and sometimes dauphin (delfinus) of Viennois. There was also a dauphin both in Forez and Auvergne, but the origin of the name is obscure.
In the first half of the XIIIth century, the dauphin of Viennois adopted canting arms with a dolphin. This dolphin was a stylized fish with a curved back, a large head and a trunk, and had a spiny dorsal fin. It was also frequently crowned because the dolphin was then considered as the king of the fishes.
In 1343, dauphin Humbert II was bankrupted and had no descendants. He ceded all his possessions to one of the sons or grand-sons of the king of France and received money and a life annuit in exchange.
On 16 July 1349, Charles of France, grand-son of Philippe VI, became Dauphin du Viennois. Charles used a shield with quartered arms of France and county of Viennois (D'or au dauphin d'azur, oreillé, crêté et barbé de gueules), and was progressively named the Dauphin.
Beginning with Charles VI, the county was given to the eldest son of the king, who was also the putative throne heir. When the heir was not the king's son, he was not called Dauphin. Dauphin was an usual abbreviation, the correct title being Premier fils de France et Dauphin du Viennois ('First son of France and Dauphin of Viennois'). The title of Dauphin de France, popularized during the reign of Louis XV, never existed.

The most famous Dauphin was Louis XVII (1785-1795), the son of Louis XVI, who mysteriously died in captivity during the Revolution. His tragic life motivated several romantic legends about him, and several impostors showed up and claimed to be the Dauphin, the most famous of them being Naundorff, a watchmaker of German origin.
The word dauphin is used as common name in French to designate the putative successor of someone important, especially in politics, and even to nickname the team ranked second in a championship.

Ivan Sache, 9 August 1999

Simplified version of the flag (?) of Dauphiné

[Simplified flag?]by Stefan Schwoon

On the place de la Bastille in Grenoble, there is a display of flags of four kinds: the French national flag, the European Union flag, and two other bicolor flags:

  • vertically divided red-yellow flags, i.e. the municipal flag of Grenoble
  • vertically divided blue-yellow flags

I guess that the latter flags might be for the Dauphiné, since those colours occur prominently in the banner of arms of Dauphiné.

Stefan Schwoon, 30 August 2001