Fils de France

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Heraldic coronet of a fils de France

Fils de France (French pronunciation: [fis fʁɑ̃s], Son of France) was the style and rank held by the sons of the kings and dauphins of France. A daughter was known as a fille de France (French pronunciation: [fij fʁɑ̃s], Daughter of France).

The children of the dauphin (a title reserved for the king's heir apparent, whether son, grandson or great-grandson of the monarch) were accorded the same style and status as if they were the king's children instead of his grandchildren or great-grandchildren.[1]


The king, queen, queen dowager, enfants de France (children of France) and petits-enfants de France (grandchildren of France) constituted the famille du roi (royal family).[2] More remote legitimate, male-line descendants of France's kings held the designation and rank of princes du sang (princes of the blood) or, if legally recognised despite a bar sinister on the escutcheon, they were customarily deemed princes légitimés (legitimated princes).[3]

The dauphin, the heir to the French throne, was the most senior of the fils de France and was usually addressed as Monsieur le dauphin.[4] The king's next younger brother, also a fils de France, was known simply as Monsieur, and his wife as Madame.[5]

Daughters were referred to by their given name prefaced with the honorific Madame, while sons were referred to by their main peerage title (usually ducal), with the exception of the dauphin. The king's eldest daughter was known as Madame Royale until she married, whereupon the next eldest fille de France succeeded to that style.

Although the children of monarchs are often referred to in English as prince or princess, those terms were used as general descriptions for royalty in France but not as titular prefixes or direct forms of address for individuals (with the exception of Monsieur le Prince for the senior prince du sang) prior to the July Monarchy (1830–1848). Collectively, the legitimate children of the kings and dauphins were known as enfants de France ("children of France"), while examples abound in reputable works of fils de France and fille de France being converted into other languages as "Prince/Princess of France" (however the same works, as cited, leave the Spanish equivalent, Infante/Infanta de España, untranslated).[6][7][8][9] The illegitimate children of French kings, dauphins, and princes du sang were not entitled to any rights or styles per se, but often they were legitimised by their fathers. Even then, however, they were never elevated to the rank of fils de France, although they were sometimes accorded the lower rank and/or privileges associated with the princes du sang.

All enfants de France were entitled to the style of Royal Highness (altesse royale) from the reign of Louis XIII.[10] However, in practice that formal honorific was less often used than the more traditionally French styles of Monsieur, Madame or Mademoiselle.[4][10] The styles of the royal family varied as follows:


Under the Valois monarchs, the titles borne by the sons of kings became regularized. Philip VI made his eldest son Duke of Normandy and his second son Duke of Orléans. Normandy would have become the regular title of the heirs apparent of kings, but the acquisition of Dauphiné and the request of its last count ensured that the heirs apparent would be called Dauphin instead.

John II made his eldest son Duke of Normandy, and his younger sons dukes of Anjou, Berry, and Burgundy. Anjou and Burgundy established long-lived dynasties, while the Duke of Berry lived for a long time. Orléans was reused for the younger son of Charles V, while Berry was reused for the younger son of Charles VII. By the accession of Francis I, all of the cadet branches descended from Valois kings had either succeeded to the throne or become extinct. Thus the king had a wide selection of traditional titles to choose from. Orléans was the most preferred, followed by Anjou.

The Bourbon kings followed the traditional titling, with Berry used for the third son. As lifespans extended, Burgundy was used for the eldest son of the Dauphin, and Brittany for the eldest son of the eldest son of the Dauphin. But as fortune would have it, only the title of Orléans would be transmitted hereditarily until the Revolution.

Monsieur le Dauphin[edit]

This was a form of address for the dauphin. The dauphin de France (strictly speaking the dauphin de Viennois), was the title used for the heir apparent to the throne of France from 1350 to 1791 and then from 1824 to 1830.

  • Louis de France (1661–1711), the only surviving legitimately born son of Louis XIV (1638–1715), was usually not addressed by this style as he was usually referred to at court as either Monseigneur (see more below) or, informally, as le Grand Dauphin.[4]
  • Louis de France, (1682–1712), son of the preceding, who became the dauphin in 1711, was informally known as le Petit Dauphin.[4]


This was another way of addressing Le Grand Dauphin, the only legitimate son of Louis XIV. After the death of le Grand Dauphin, the heir apparent to the throne of France for half a century, the style of Monseigneur was not used again to describe the dauphin himself. Rather, it became the style used by his sons as prefix to their peerages. During the lifetime of the Grand Dauphin, his three sons were addressed as:

Madame la Dauphine[edit]

This was the style of the dynastic wife of the dauphin. Some holders of the honorific were:

Madame Royale[edit]

This was the style of the eldest surviving daughter of the king. Those who held this honorific were:

Between the death, in 1672, of Marie-Thérèse of France, the longest living daughter of Louis XIV and his Queen, and the birth, in 1727, of Louise Élisabeth of France, the eldest daughter of Louis XV, there were no legitimate daughters of a French king. Because of this, the style was occasionally used by the most senior unmarried princess at the French Court during that period. It was briefly used by the eldest niece of Louis XIV, Marie Louise d'Orléans (1662–1689), later known as just Mademoiselle. After her marriage to King Charles II of Spain (1661–1700), in 1679, the style was assumed briefly by her younger sister, Anne Marie d'Orléans (1669–1728), before she married Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia (1666–1732).


This honorific belonged to the oldest living brother of the King. Among those who held this style were:


This was the style of the wife of Monsieur. Examples of this were:

Madame Première[edit]

King Louis XV and his wife, Marie Leszczyńska, had ten children, eight of whom were girls. To distinguish between these eight princesses, the daughters were known in birth order as Madame 'number', such as Madame Première, Madame Seconde, etc. This style was not a traditional right and was merely a way the court used to distinguish between the many daughters of Louis XV.

Petit-fils de France[edit]

Monseigneur le Duc de Berry.

Petit-fils de France ("Grandson of France"). This was the style and rank accorded to the sons of the fils de France, who were themselves the sons of the kings and dauphins of France. However, as surnames, they used the paternal main peerage title. Females had the style petite-fille de France ("Granddaughter of France").

The petits-enfants de France, like the enfants de France, were entitled to be addressed as son altesse royale ("His/Her Royal Highness"). Additionally, they traveled and lodged wherever the king did, could dine with him, and were entitled to an armchair in his presence.

Yet as hosts, they only offered armchairs to foreign monarchs—whom they addressed as Monseigneur rather than "Sire". Nor did they pay visits to foreign ambassadors, nor extend to them a hand in greeting. They only wore full mourning for deceased members of the royal family.

When entering a town, they were greeted with a presentation of arms by the royal garrison, by the firing of cannon, and by a delegation of local officials. However, only the sons and daughters of France were entitled to dine au grand couvert, that is, alone on a canopied dais amidst non-royal onlookers.[12]


This style was usually held by the eldest daughter of Monsieur and his wife, Madame.[13] Those who held this style were:

Younger daughters of Monsieur were named after one of his appanages, e.g. Mademoiselle de Chartres (1676–1744), the third surviving daughter of Philippe I, duc d'Orléans.

This custom was not confined to the royal family. Even untitled noble families followed the same habit.

La Grande Mademoiselle[edit]

After 1662, Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Duchess of Montpensier, who was originally called Mademoiselle as the eldest daughter of Gaston duc d'Orléans, became known as la Grande Mademoiselle at court, in order to distinguish her from her younger cousin, Marie Louise d'Orléans, now also called Mademoiselle, as the daughter of Anne's first cousin, the new Monsieur. After her death in 1693, the style of Grande Mademoiselle was not used again. Thus, this was not an official style but simply a means the court used to distinguish between the two princesses who held the style of Mademoiselle at the same time.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spanheim, Ézéchiel (1973). Émile Bourgeois (ed.). Relation de la Cour de France. le Temps retrouvé (in French). Paris: Mercure de France. p. 70.
  2. ^ ib. Spanheim, Ézéchiel, pp. 81, 87, 313-314.
  3. ^ ib. Spanheim, Ézéchiel, pp. 100-105, 323-327.
  4. ^ a b c d Velde, François. "The French Royal Family: Titles and Customs — Forms of Address". Retrieved 2009-02-16.
  5. ^ ib. Spanheim, Ézéchiel, p. 72.
  6. ^ The Descendants of Louis XIII. Daniel Willis. 1999, p.3
  7. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Band VIII. C.A. Starke. 1968, p. 200
  8. ^ Le Royaume d'Italie, vol. 1. C.E.D.R.E. 1992, p.131
  9. ^ L'Allemagne Dynastique, tome V. Michel Huberty. 1988, p. 572
  10. ^ a b c Velde, François. "The French Royal Family: Titles and Customs — Formal Styles". Retrieved 2009-02-16.
  11. ^ Nagel, Susan, Marie-Thérèse, Child of Terror, Bloomsbury USA, 2008, p.277, ISBN 978-1-59691-057-7.
  12. ^ ib. Spanheim, Ézéchiel, pp. 87, 313-314.
  13. ^ ib. Spanheim, Ézéchiel, pp.76, 80.