Looking for a name classic and elegant enough not just for a princess, but a princesse? We’ve scoured France’s old royal family trees for names with regal style and the history to match. These names range in popularity and sound, but each one dazzles with femininity and a certain je ne sais quoi.
While many of the names here are often written with diacritical marks to indicate pronunciation (Joséphine instead of Josephine, for instance), the spellings have been simplified for Americans’ sake – many states don’t currently allow diacritical marks on birth certificates.
Antoinette. Used as far back as the fifth century for French nobility, the most famous bearer of this quintessentially pretty name is Marie Antoinette, of course. Despite her notorious reputation, Antoinette remained fairly popular in the United States and France until the early twentieth century. Far from the spotlight today, this substantial feminine choice is worth a second look.
Blanche. An early queen of France, Blanche of Castile’s roles of devoted mother, pious Christian, and determined leader made her a paragon of womanhood for later generations. Her name is now more associated with mid-century styles, thanks to Tennessee Williams and The Golden Girls, but Blanche continues to balance retro and ancient connections gracefully.
Josephine. This “classic” name became popular after the rise of Napoleon, who gave his wife Marie Josèphe Rose the nickname during their courtship. Now a charming standard, Josephine can be found everywhere, from the pages of Little Women to the halls of Downton Abbey – and it currently ranks at #114 on the US Top 1000.
Sophie. A rare choice for French royalty, sweet Sophie was first bestowed upon one of the granddaughters of the Sun King (Louis XIV) in the eighteenth century. This timeless name meaning “wisdom” is a bit more down-to-earth than today’s mega-popular variant Sophia. Sophie can be found just outside the top 100, beloved by modern parents for its friendliness and vintage vibe.
Amelie. Now rising in use thanks to similar-sounding Emily and Amelia, Amelie is unique for its distinctly French feel (and its link to the eponymous recent film). It gained usage in the nineteenth century, thanks to Marie-Amelie, the Duchess of Orleans, as well as writers like Balzac. Amelie is distinguished yet pleasant, the sort of name that works for all kinds of personalities.
Henriette. With Henry and Hattie among the darling noms du jour, why not Henriette? It’s long been a favorite in many monarchies throughout Europe, even inspiring adoption of the variant Henrietta in England in the seventeenth century. Henriette is both cheeky and cosmopolitan, a memorable name for a little girl.
Christine. Though this name rose to great heights in the United States in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Christine’s legacy extends further backwards, through centuries of religious French nobles. Prominent in pop culture – Stephen King’s eponymous book, the hit musical Phantom of the Opera, the television series Bones – Christine is attractive and enduring.
Therese. Derived from the Greek verb therizo (“to harvest”), Therese is the sophisticated Gallic version of age-old Theresa. Once used far and wide, the only variants of this name currently in the US Top 1000 include Tessa and Teresa, making the French form all the more unusual: Therese has a truly unparalleled air of refinement and respectability.
Marguerite. Since at least the thirteenth century, countless Marguerites have filled the genealogies of European royal families – this old-fashioned name is dignified yet dainty. In fact, the French word for “daisy” is “marguerite”! This beautiful name has yet to be rediscovered today, despite its appearance on popularity charts over 100 years ago.
Louise. The number one name for baby girls in France, Louise is getting attention in the anglophone world as parents seek alternatives to Lucy, Luna, and Lucille. It’s well-known without feeling dated, and lends itself to all kinds of nickname ideas. One prominent namesake is Louise of Savoy, a strong and dedicated queen of France in the sixteenth century.
Helene. A few princesses in history wore this gorgeous, mythological name, but its popularity peaked in the early twentieth century. While the “Hel-EEN” pronunciation has been common in the United States, the French “El-ENN” is far more compelling. Heidi Klum’s daughter Helene uses the nickname Leni, and other short forms like Lena or Ellie would work well.
Charlotte. The most popular name on this list and a favorite around the globe, Charlotte is now associated with the modern British princess. But this sensational pick dates back to the fourteenth century at least, with a great many French- and English-speaking Charlottes of note. Whether you’re inspired by women of the past or women of the future, Charlotte is a fantastic choice.
Marie. One of the most historically popular names for women, along with Mary and Maria, Marie is now at its lowest point in the past decade – ideal for those who want a name that’s unexpected in a kindergarten class. Marie has often been used in tandem with other French names, like Marie-Christine or Marie-Sophie, which may interest Americans looking for something more uncommon.
Adelaide. Alluring Adelaide has been climbing the charts steadily over the past decade, along with other Addie picks like Adeline, Adriana, and Addison. The name comes from Old German for “noble” (an apt derivation) and has been used for European nobility for over 1000 years. At #258 in the United States, Adelaide remains just outside the trends – but won’t be there long!
Jeanne. A simple and elegant choice, Jeanne is the French feminization of John that dipped in and out of the top 100 in the twentieth century. A bit dated – especially when pronounced as “Jeen” instead of “Zhahn” – Jeanne is still worth considering today. There’s the honorific angle, being that Jeanne is connected to all types of John/Jane/Joan names, and its vintage personality will stand out on twenty-first century playgrounds.