DAUPHIN (Lat. Delphinus}, an ancient feudal title in France, borne only by the counts and dauphins of Vienne, the dauphins of Auvergne, and from 1364 by the eldest sons of the kings of France. The origin of this curious title is obscure and has been the subject of much ingenious controversy; but it now seems clear that it was in the first instance a proper name. Among the Norsemen, and in the countries colonized by them, the name Dolphin or Dolfin (dolfr, " a wound ") was fairly common, e.g. in the north of England; thus a Dolfin is mentioned among the tenantsin-chief in Domesday Book, and there was a Dolphin, lord of Carlisle, towards the end of the nth century. It has thus been conjectured by some that the dauphins of Vienne derived their title from Teutonic sources through Germany. But in the south, too, the name not necessarily derived from the same root was not unknown, though exceedingly rare, and was moreover illustrated by two conspicuous figures in the Catholic martyrology: St Delphinus, bishop of Bordeaux from 380 to 404, and St Annemundus, surnamed Dalfinus, bishop of Lyons from c. 650 to 657. Whatever its origin, this name was borne by Guigo, or GuigueIV.(d. 1 142), count of Albon and Grenoble, as an additional name, during the lifetime of his father, and was also adopted by his son Guigue V. Beatrice, daughter and heiress of Guigue V., whose second husband was Hugh III., duke of Burgundy, bestowed the name on their son Andre, to recall his descent from the ancient house of the counts of Albon, and in the charters he is called sometimes Andreas Dalphinus, sometimes Dalphinus simply, but his style is still " count of Albon and Vienne." His successors Guigue VI. (d. 1270) and John I. (d. 1282) call themselves sometimes Delphinus, sometimes Delphini, the name being obviously treated as a patronymic, and in the latter form it was borne by the sons of the reigning " dauphin." But even under Guigue VI. foreigners had begun to confuse the name with a title of dignity, an imperial diploma of 1248 describing Guigue as " Guigo Dalphinus Viennensis."
It was not until the third dynasty, founded by the marriage of Anne, heiress of John I., with Humbert, lord of La Tour du Pin, that " dauphin " became definitely established as a title. Humbert not only assumed the name of Delphinus, but styled himself regularly Dauphin of the Viennois (Dalphinus Viennensis), and in a treaty concluded in 1285 between Humbert and Robert, duke of Burgundy, the word delphinatus (Dauphin6) appears for the first time, as a synonym for comitatus (county). In 1349 Humbert II., the last of his race, sold Dauphine to Charles of Valois, who, when he became king of France in 1364, transferred it to his eldest son. From that time the eldest sons of the kings of France were always either actual or titular dauphins of the Vienncis. The " canting arms " of a dolphin, which they quartered with the royal fieurs de lys, were originally assumed by Dauphin, count of Clermont, instead of the arms of Auvergne (the earliest extant example is appended to a deed of 1199), and from him they were borrowed by the counts of the Viennois. Guigue VI. used this device on his secret seal from his accession, the earliest extant example dating from 1237, but, though no specimens have survived, M. Prudhomme thinks it probable that the dolphin was also borne by Andre Dauphin. It was also assumed by Guigue V., count of Forez (1203-1241), a descendant of Guigue Raymond of the Viennois, count of Forez, in right of his wife Ida Raymonde. It is thus abundantly clear that the name of Dauphin was not assumed from the armorial device, but vice versa.
The eldest son of the French king was sometimes called " the king dauphin " (le roy daulphin), to distinguish him from the dauphin of Auvergne, who was known, since Auvergne became an appanage of the royal house, as " the prince dauphin." The dauphinate of Auvergne, which is to be distinguished from the county, dates from 1155, when William VII., count of Auvergne, was deposed by his uncle William VIII. " the Old." William VII. had married a daughter of Guigue IV. Dauphin, after whom their son was named Dauphin (Delphinus). The name continued, as in Viennois, as a patronymic, and was not used as a title until 1281, when Robert II., count of Clermont, in his will, styles himself for the first time Dauphin of Auvergne (Ahernie delphinus) for the portion of the county of Auvergne left to his house. In 1428 Jeanne, heiress of the dauphin B6raud III., married Louis de Bourbon, count of Montpensier (d. 1486), thus bringing the dauphinate into the royal house of France. It was annexed to the crown in 1693.
See A. Prudhomme, " De 1'origine et du sens des mots dauphin et dauphine " in Bibliotheque de I'fLcole des Charles, liv. an. 1893 (Paris, 1893)-
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)