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Updated June 9, 2019

Family name origins & meanings

  • French : habitational name from a village in Allier, the site of the (now ruined) castle of Bourbon, or from another place so named, for example one in Saône-et-Loire. The place name is of uncertain origin, according to Dauzat derived from a ‘Celtic and pre-Celtic’ element borb- describing a well or hot spring. Many bearers of the surname claim a connection with the former French royal family, but the name is also derived from residence in these villages and from the Bourbonnais, a former province in central France around Bourbon in Allier.
  • The house of Bourbon, which provided generations of monarchs of France and Spain and other European royalty, takes its name from the castle of Bourbon in Allier, which was held by Adhémar, a 9th-century noble. His descendant Beatrice, heiress of Bourbon, married Robert of Clermont, 6th son of King Louis IX of France, in 1272, and these two are considered founders of the royal house. Robert’s son Louis was created Duke of Bourbon in 1327. By the 16th century they had added much of southern France, the dukedom of Vendôme, and the kingdom of Navarre to their fiefs, and in 1589 a Bourbon succeeded to the throne of France as Henry IV. His grandson, Louis XIV, called ‘the Sun King’, reigned 1643–1715, presiding over a golden age of French literature and art and attempting to establish French supremacy in Europe. The Bourbons ruled France until the Revolution in 1793 and again 1815–48. The present claimants to the French throne are descended from Louis XIV’s brother, Philippe, Duke of Orléans. The Bourbons acquired the Spanish throne in 1700, when a grandson of Louis XIV succeeded as Philip V; they ruled until 1931 and were restored, in the person of King Juan Carlos, in 1975. The Bourbon kings of the Two Sicilies (i.e. Sicily and Naples), 1759–1861, and Bourbon dukes of Parma, 1748–1860, were descended from the Spanish branch of the family.

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