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Dauphin of France
Portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1697
Born(1661-11-01)1 November 1661
Château de Fontainebleau, France
Died14 April 1711(1711-04-14) (aged 49)
Château de Meudon, France
Burial28 April 1711
(m. 1680; died 1690)​
FatherLouis XIV
MotherMaria Theresa of Spain
SignatureLouis's signature

Louis, Dauphin of France (1 November 1661 – 14 April 1711), commonly known as le Grand Dauphin, was the eldest son and heir apparent of King Louis XIV and his spouse, Maria Theresa of Spain. He became known as the Grand Dauphin after the birth of his own son, Louis, Duke of Burgundy, the Petit Dauphin. He and his son died before his father and thus never became kings. Instead, his grandson became King Louis XV at the death of Louis XIV, and his second son inherited the Spanish throne as Philip V through his grandmother.


Louis was born on 1 November 1661 at the Château de Fontainebleau, the eldest son of Louis XIV of France and Maria Theresa of Austria (who were double first-cousins to each other). As a Fils de France ("Son of France") he was entitled to the style of Royal Highness. He was baptised on 24 March 1662 at the chapel of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye and given his father's name of Louis. At the ceremony, the Cardinal de Vendôme and the Princess of Conti acted as proxies for the godparents, Pope Clement IX and Queen Henrietta Maria of England. The latter was Louis's great-aunt. It was for this occasion that Jean-Baptiste Lully composed the motet Plaude Laetare Gallia.

Louis by Jean Nocret, c. 1668

He was initially under the care of royal governesses, among them being Julie d'Angennes and Louise de Prie de La Mothe-Houdancourt. When Louis reached the age of seven, he was removed from the care of women and placed in a society of men. He received Charles de Sainte-Maure, as his governor and was tutored by the great French preacher and orator Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, the Bishop of Meaux, seemingly without acceptable results.

Philippe Erlanger writes the following in his book about the life of Louis XIV:

Louis XIV secretly nursed the same suspicious jealousy of the Grand Dauphin that Louis XIII had once shown to himself. No prince could have been less deserving of such feelings.

The Monseigneur, as the heir to the throne was now known to have inherited his mother's docility and low intelligence. All his life he remained petrified with admiration of his formidable father and stood in fear of him even while lavish proofs of 'affection' were showered upon him. The best way for the Monseigneur to do someone an injury was to commend him to the royal favour. He knew it, and did not conceal it from his rare petitioners.

Louis XIV saw to it that his son's upbringing was quite the opposite of his own. Instead of a devoted mother and an affectionate and likeable tutor, the Dauphin had the repellent and misanthropic Duc de Montausier, who ruthlessly applied the same methods that had so disturbed Louis XIII. They annihilated his grandson.

Bossuet overwhelmed his backward pupil with such splendid lessons that the Dauphin developed a lasting horror of books, learning and history. By the age of eighteen, the Monseigneur had assimilated almost none of the knowledge amassed to so little purpose, and the apathy of his mind was second only to that of his senses.[1]

He was very indolent. As an adult, his favorite amusemnt was laying stretched in a sofa tapping the point of his shoes with a cane[2]. Nonetheless, his generosity, affability, and liberality gave him great popularity in Paris and with the French people in general. Louis was one of six legitimate children of his parents. The others all died in early childhood; the second longest-lived, Marie Thérèse of France, died at the age of five when Louis was 11.

According to John B. Wolf, Louis XIV had a low opinion of his son, writing:

...indolent, fatuous, and dull, only the saving grace of his bourgeois morals kept him from outraging the pious people about him. Like his father he enjoyed the hunt, but that was about the only way in which this disappointing son resembled his father.[3]

Being especially interested in geopolitical ties his son could help him form, the King considered various European royal daughters as possible wives for his heir, such as Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici and Louis' cousin Marie Louise d'Orléans, daughter of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans and Henrietta of England. According to various sources, Marie Louise and Louis were in love and had grown up with each other. However, Louis XIV decided to use Marie Louise to instead forge a link with Spain and made her to marry the invalid Charles II of Spain, the Dauphin's half-uncle.

Louis was eventually engaged to his second cousin, Maria Anna Victoria of Bavaria, when he was seven. She was a year older than Louis and, upon arriving at the French court, was described as being very unattractive. Nonetheless, she was a very cultured princess, and made a good first impression as she was able to speak French fluently.

They were married by proxy in Munich on 28 January 1680; the couple met for the first time on 7 March 1680 in Châlons-sur-Marne.

Political and military role

Although he was permitted at first to attend and later to participate in the Conseil d'en haut, Louis did not play an important part in French politics. Nonetheless, as the heir to the throne, he was constantly surrounded by cabals battling for future prominence. Apart from the minor political role that he played during his father's reign, Louis engaged in more leisurely pursuits and was esteemed for his magnificent collection of art at Versailles and Meudon. Louis XIV purchased Meudon for him from the widow of Louvois. The Dauphin employed Jules Hardouin Mansart and the office of the Bâtiments du Roi but most particularly his long-term "house designer", Jean Bérain, head of the Menus Plaisirs, to provide new decors. He lived quietly at Meudon for the remainder of his life and was surrounded by his two half-sisters Marie Anne de Bourbon and the Princess of Condé, both of whom he loved dearly. The three made up the main part of the Cabal de Meudon , which opposed the Dauphin's son Louis and his Savoyard wife, the Duchess of Burgundy.

During the War of the Grand Alliance, he was sent in 1688 to the Rhineland front. Before leaving the court, Louis was thus instructed by his father:

In sending you to command my army, I am giving you an opportunity to make known your merit; go and show it to all Europe, so that when I come to die it will not be noticed that the King is dead.

There, Louis succeeded, under the tutelage of Marshal de Duras and Vauban, in taking one of the bridgeheads across the Rhine, Philippsburg, which was surrounded by marshes. Louis's courage was shown when he visited the soldiers in the inundated trenches under heavy fire to observe the progress of the siege.[4] Montausier, his former governor, wrote to him:

I shall not compliment you on the taking of Philippsburg; you had a good army, bombs, cannons and Vauban. I shall not compliment you because you are brave. That virtue is hereditary. But I rejoice with you that you have been liberal, generous, humane, and have recognised the services of those who did well.[5]

The Grand Dauphin

Louis's capture of Philippsburg prevented the large gathering Imperial Army from crossing the Rhine and invading Alsace.

Louis's position in the Conseil d'en haut gave him an opportunity to have his voice heard in the years and in the crises leading up to the War of the Spanish Succession. From his mother, Louis had rights and claims to the Spanish throne. His uncle Charles II of Spain had produced no descendants and, as he lay dying, had no heir to whom he could pass the throne. The choice of a successor was essentially split between the French and Austrian claimants. To improve the chances of a Bourbon succession, Louis gave up his and his eldest son's rights in favour of his second son, Philip, Duke of Anjou (later Philip V of Spain), who, as the second son, was not expected to succeed to the French throne, which would thus keep France and Spain separate. Moreover, in the discussions in the Conseil d'en haut regarding the French response to Charles II's last will and testament, which indeed left all Spanish possessions to Anjou, Louis persuasively argued for acceptance. He opposed those who advocated a rejection of the will and the adherence to the Partition Treaty, which was signed with William III of England, even though the treaty had awarded Naples, Sicily and Tuscany to him.

Louis died of smallpox on 14 April 1711, at the age of 49, and so predeceased his father.

Literary tribute

  • The Delphin Classics were a large edition of the Latin classics, edited in the 1670s for Louis (Delphin is the adjective derived from dauphin) and known for being written (unlike some other treatments) entirely in that language. Thirty-eight scholars contributed to the series, which was edited by Pierre Huet, with assistance from several co-editors including Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet and Anne Dacier.


Louis married Duchess Maria Anna of Bavaria on 7 March 1680. She was known in France as Dauphine Marie Anne Victoire. Although the marriage was not a close one, the couple had three sons. The Dauphine died in 1690 and in 1695 Louis secretly married his lover Marie Émilie de Joly de Choin. His new wife did not acquire the status of Dauphine of France, and the marriage remained without surviving issue. Pregnant at the time of her marriage, de Choin gave birth to a son, who was secretly sent to the countryside; the child died aged two, in 1697, without having been publicly named.[6]


Thus, through his two older sons Burgundy and Anjou, Louis ensured respectively the continuation of the senior Bourbon line on the throne of France and the establishment of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty.

Besides his unnamed child with Mme de Choin, Louis had two illegitimate daughters with Françoise Pitel:[7][8]

  • Anne Louise de Bourbon (1695 – August 1716) – wife of Anne Errard d'Avaugour;
  • Charlotte de Fleury (6 February 1697 – 1750) – wife of Gérard Michel de La Jonchère.

With another mistress, Marie Anne Caumont de La Force, he had one daughter:[8]


Louis's paternal grandparents were Louis XIII of France and Anne of Austria; he was descended, on his mother's side, from Philip IV of Spain and Élisabeth of France. Louis XIII and Élisabeth de Bourbon were siblings (the children of Henry IV of France and Marie de' Medici), as were Anne of Austria and Philip IV, who were the children of Philip III of Spain and Margaret of Austria. That means that he had only four great grandparents instead of the usual eight, and that his double cousin parents had the same coefficient of coancestry (1/4) as if they were half-siblings.


  1. ^ Erlanger, Philippe, Louis XIV, translated from the French by Stephen Cox, Praeger Publishers, New York, 1970, p. 177. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 79-109471
  2. ^ Pardoe, Julia (1855). Louis the Fourteenth, and the Court of France in the Seventeenth ..., Volumen2. Harper & brothers. p. 269. Retrieved 20 March 2024.
  3. ^ John B. Wolf, Louis XIV (1968) p 606
  4. ^ Dunlop, Ian, Louis XIV, Pimlico London, 2001, p.309
  5. ^ Dunlop, 309.
  6. ^ Genealogy Database by Daniel de Rauglaudre
  7. ^ Genealogy Database by Daniel de Rauglaudre
  8. ^ a b Marek, Miroslav. "Complete Genealogy of the House of Capet". Genealogy.EU.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Anselm de Guibours (1726). Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de France [Genealogical and chronological history of the royal house of France] (in French). Vol. 1 (3rd ed.). Paris: La compagnie des libraires.
  10. ^ a b Wurzbach, Constantin von, ed. (1860). "Habsburg, Anna von Oesterreich (Königin von Frankreich)" . Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich [Biographical Encyclopedia of the Austrian Empire] (in German). Vol. 6. p. 152 – via Wikisource.
  11. ^ a b Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Philip IV., king of Spain" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Further reading

  • Tricoire, Damien. "Attacking the Monarchy’s Sacrality in Late Seventeenth-Century France: The Underground Literature against Louis XIV, Jansenism and the Dauphin’s Court Faction." French History 31.2 (2017): 152–173.
  • Wolf, John B. Louis XIV (NY: 1968).

In French

  • Lahaye, Matthieu, Louis, Dauphin de France. Fils de roi, père de roi, jamais roi, DEA directed by Joël Cornette, University of Paris VIII, 2005.
  • Lahaye, Matthieu, Louis Ier d'Espagne (1661–1700) : essai sur une virtualité politique, Revue historique, Numéro 647, PUF, Paris, Novembre 2008.
  • Lahaye Matthieu, Le fils de Louis XIV. Réflexion sur l'autorité dans la France du Grand Siècle, thèse sous la direction de Joël Cornette à l'Université Paris VIII, 2011.
  • Lahaye Matthieu, Le fils de Louis XIV. Monseigneur le Grand Dauphin, Seyssel, Champ Vallon, 2013.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.