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Dauphiné (Traditional province, France)

Last modified: 2016-11-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: dauphine |
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Flag of Dauphiné - Image by Pierre Gay, 6 July 2000

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History of Dauphiné

Dauphiné was inhabited by the Allobroges and the Voconces. After the Roman conquest in the 2nd century BP, several Roman colonies developed, especially Valentinopolis (Vienne).
Later invaded by the Burgundians, Dauphiné was allocated to Lothair after the share of the Carolingian Empire. Included in the short-lived Kingdom of Burgundy, the area was subsequently shared among several feudal and ecclesiastic lords.
In the 11th century, count Guigues I ofAlbon incorporated to his domain Lower Dauphiné, Grésivaudan (the rich valley of river Isère, upstream from Grenoble), Champsaur (the upper valley of river Drac), which were all ceded by the Bishop of Vienne, and Briançonnais (the upper valley of river Durance, including the town of Briançon). In the 11th-12th 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 of Albon took the title of Dauphin. He incorporated the region of Embrun and Gap to his domain, as well as Faucigny, a province of Savoy, after his marriage with the daughter of Count of Savoy Peter 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. An ambitious spendthrift, Humbert supported several religious foundations, founded the University of Grenoble and sponsored a rich court. He went on the Crusade and came back bankrupted, his wife and son having died during his leave. He decided to resign and to sell his state.
King of France Philip of 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 ing, who would 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 Francis 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 Francis I asked him (Bayard) to knight him (the King) on the battlefield 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 means that it was placed under the direct administration of an Intendant appointed by the King. In 1763, the Parliament of Grenoble refused to approve the Royal Decrees that increased the taxes.
In 1788, the Tiles' Day (Journées des Tuiles) took place in Grenoble, an event considered as the first significant mass action of the French Revolution. A session of the States Generals scheduled in Grenoble for 21 July 1788 was immediatly forbidden. The assembly, composed of 50 clergymen, 165 nobles and 325 representatives of the third estates, met in the neighbouring town 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 is therefore sometimes considered as one of the cradles of the French Revolution.

Ivan Sache, 12 January 2003

Flag of Dauphiné

The flag of Dauphiné is a banner of the arms 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 (Quarterly first and fourth azure three fleurs-de-lis or second and third or a dolphin azure), assigned to the province by Jacques Meurgey in his Notice historique sur les blasons des anciennes provinces de France (Historical note on the coats of arms of the ancient French provinces, 1941).

These arms, a combination of the Royal banner of France and the former arms of Dauphiné, were adopted after the transport of Dauphiné to France.

Ivan Sache, 12 January 2003

Dauphiné, the Dauphin and the dolphin

The complex relations between the province of Dauphiné, the title of Dauphin and the dolphin are outlined by M. Pastoureau [pst98] as 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. In documents, its ruler was named 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 13th 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 fish.
In 1343, Dauphin Humbert II 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 Philip VI, became Dauphin du Viennois. Charles used a shield with quartered arms of France and the 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 the 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 formally.
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 claiming to be the Dauphin, the most famous of them being Naundorff, a watchmaker of German origin.
The word dauphin is used as a common name in French to designate the putative successor of someone of importance, especially in politics, and to nickname the team ranked second in a championship.

Ivan Sache, 9 August 1999

Bicolor flag of Dauphiné

[Simplified flag?]

Bicolor flag of Dauphiné - Image by Stefan Schwoon, 30 August 2001

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, that is the municipal flag of Grenoble, and vertically divided blue-yellow flags.
I guess that the latter flags represent Dauphiné, since those colours occur prominently in the banner of arms of the province.

Stefan Schwoon, 30 August 2001