In the case of Guillot v. France (1),

        The European Court of Human Rights, sitting, in accordance with
Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention for the Protection of
Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") and the
relevant provisions of Rules of Court A (2) as a Chamber composed of
the following judges:

        Mr  R. Ryssdal, President,
        Mr  L.-E. Pettiti,
        Mr  R. Macdonald,
        Mr  A. Spielmann,
        Mr  J. De Meyer,
        Mr  R. Pekkanen,
        Mr  J.M. Morenilla,
        Mr  A.B. Baka,
        Mr  P. Jambrek,

and also of Mr H. Petzold, Registrar, and Mr P.J. Mahoney, Deputy

        Having deliberated in private on 24 April and
23 September 1996,

        Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on the
last-mentioned date:
Notes by the Registrar

1.  The case is numbered 52/1995/558/644.  The first number is the
case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court in the
relevant year (second number).  The last two numbers indicate the
case's position on the list of cases referred to the Court since its
creation and on the list of the corresponding originating applications
to the Commission.

2.  Rules A apply to all cases referred to the Court before the entry
into force of Protocol No. 9 (P9) (1 October 1994) and thereafter only
to cases concerning States not bound by that Protocol (P9).  They
correspond to the Rules that came into force on 1 January 1983, as
amended several times subsequently.


1.      The case was referred to the Court by the European Commission
of Human Rights ("the Commission") on 29 May 1995, within the
three-month period laid down by Article 32 para. 1 and Article 47 of
the Convention (art. 32-1, art. 47).  It originated in an application
(no. 22500/93) against the French Republic lodged with the Commission
under Article 25 (art. 25) by two French nationals,
Mrs Marie-Patrice Guillot, née Lassauzet, and Mr Gérard Guillot on
28 March 1987.

        The Commission's request referred to Articles 44 and 48
(art. 44, art. 48) and to the declaration whereby France recognised the
compulsory jurisdiction of the Court (Article 46) (art. 46).  The
object of the request was to obtain a decision as to whether the facts
of the case disclosed a breach by the respondent State of its
obligations under Article 8 of the Convention (art. 8).

2.      In response to the enquiry made in accordance with
Rule 33 para. 3 (d) of Rules of Court A, the applicants stated that
they wished to take part in the proceedings.  The President gave the
applicants leave, as lawyers, to present their own case to the Court
(Rule 30 para. 1).

3.      The Chamber to be constituted included ex officio
Mr L.-E. Pettiti, the elected judge of French nationality (Article 43
of the Convention) (art. 43), and Mr R. Ryssdal, the President of the
Court (Rule 21 para. 4 (b)).  On 8 June 1995, in the presence of the
Registrar, the President drew by lot the names of the other
seven members, namely Mr R. Macdonald, Mr A. Spielmann, Mr J. De Meyer,
Mr R. Pekkanen, Mr J.M. Morenilla, Mr F. Bigi and Mr P. Jambrek
(Article 43 in fine of the Convention and Rule 21 para. 5) (art. 43).
Subsequently, Mr A.B. Baka, substitute judge, replaced Mr Bigi, who was
unable to take part in the further consideration of the case (Rule 22
para. 1).

4.      As President of the Chamber (Rule 21 para. 6), Mr Ryssdal,
acting through the Registrar, consulted the Agent of the
French Government ("the Government"), the applicants and the Delegate
of the Commission on the organisation of the proceedings (Rules 37
para. 1 and 38).  Pursuant to the order made in consequence, the
Registrar received the Government's memorial on 27 November 1995.  On
30 January 1996, the Secretary to the Commission indicated that the
Delegate did not intend to reply in writing.

5.      On 7 February 1996 the Registrar received a letter from the
applicants requesting that their daughter be heard by the Court.  On
21 February 1996 the Chamber decided not to grant this request
(Rule 41 para. 1).

6.      On 17 August 1995 the Commission had produced the documents of
the proceedings before it, as requested by the Registrar on the
President's instructions.

7.      In accordance with the President's decision, the hearing took
place in public in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on
23 April 1996.  The Court had held a preparatory meeting beforehand.

        There appeared before the Court:

(a)  for the Government

     Mrs M. Dubrocard, magistrat, on secondment to the Legal
        Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,       Agent,
     Mrs M.-H. Hurtaud, magistrat, on secondment to the
        Department of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Justice,
     Mr  G. Bitti, member of the Human Rights Office,
        European and International Affairs Department,
        Ministry of Justice,                                 Counsel;

(b)  for the Commission

     Mr  F. Martínez,                                       Delegate;

(c)  one of the two applicants, Mr Guillot.

        The Court heard addresses by Mr Martínez, Mr Guillot and
Mrs Dubrocard.


I.      Circumstances of the case

8.      Mr Gérard Guillot and his wife, Mrs Marie-Patrice Guillot,
née Lassauzet, chose to give their daughter, born on 7 April 1983, the
forenames "Fleur de Marie, Armine, Angèle".  After consulting
State Counsel at Nanterre, the registrar of births, deaths and
marriages for Neuilly-sur-Seine, to whom the child's birth had been
declared, refused to register the first of these names on the ground
that it did not appear in any calendar of saints' days.

        The birth certificate drawn up at the time mentions only
"Armine, Angèle".

   A.   Proceedings in the Nanterre tribunal de grande instance

9.      In a judgment of 7 February 1984 the Nanterre tribunal de
grande instance dismissed the applicants' main application for an order
that the forename "Fleur de Marie" be added as their daughter's first
forename, but granted their application made in the alternative for the
addition of "Fleur-Marie".  It held as follows:

        "State Counsel objected to the application on the grounds that
        whereas 'Fleur' and 'Marie' are, when taken separately,
        acceptable first forenames under French law, that is not the
        case with 'Fleur de Marie'.

        The applicants submit that 'Fleur de Marie' is composed of two
        forenames recognised by French law, which when linked by the
        preposition 'de' form the name of the heroine of Eugène Sue's
        Mystères de Paris, a work which is world-famous.

        However, although a forename may be composed of up to two
        names already in use, it cannot, as in the present case,
        consist of a combination of two names linked by a preposition
        since it would cease to be a mere reuse of a traditional boy's
        or girl's name and become an image invented at the whim of
        individuals, for all that they might possess as lively an
        imagination as Eugène Sue.

        In any event, this was not the intention of the legislature
        when it regulated the choice of forenames.  Consequently, the
        main claim in the application must be dismissed but there is
        no reason not to grant the claim made in the alternative
        relating to the forename 'Fleur-Marie'.

        For these reasons,


        Dismisses the applicants' application for an order that the
        forename 'Fleur de Marie' be added as the first forename of
        the child born on 7 April 1983 and already called
        Armine Angèle.

        Declares, on the other hand, that the forename 'Fleur-Marie'
        is acceptable under French law and orders that it be added as
        the first forename of the above-mentioned child.

        Orders that the operative provision of this judgment ordering
        the addition of the first forename be entered in the margin of
        the child's birth certificate.

        Orders that no certified copy of the certificate shall be
        delivered without the said addition.


   B.   Proceedings in the Versailles Court of Appeal

10.     Mr and Mrs Guillot appealed to the Versailles Court of Appeal,
which on 18 September 1984 upheld the judgment of the court below in
the following terms:


        Although in spite of the mandatory requirements of the
        Law of 11 Germinal Year XI, which provides that forenames must
        be chosen from the various calendars in use, case-law is
        tending towards a more liberal approach in order to take
        account of changes in social mores, local customs and family
        traditions, it is necessary to prevent parents from choosing
        forenames which are excessively whimsical and so eccentric
        that the child is likely to be the first victim.  This is the
        case with the forename 'Fleur de Marie', notwithstanding that
        it was the name of the heroine of a famous literary work.

        On the other hand, there is no reason not to allow the claim
        made in the alternative that the forename should consist of
        the two forenames 'Fleur' and 'Marie' juxtaposed.


   C.   Proceedings in the Court of Cassation

11.     Relying in particular on Articles 8, 9 and 14 of the Convention
(art. 8, art. 9, art. 14), the applicants appealed on points of law to
the Court of Cassation (First Civil Division), which dismissed their
appeal on 1 October 1986 on the following grounds:


        ... the provisions of section 1 of the Law of
        11 Germinal Year XI are not contrary to ... Articles [8, 9 and
        14] (art. 8, art. 9, art. 14) of the European Convention for
        the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which
        merely establish general principles relating to respect for
        private and family life, freedom of conscience and the
        prohibition of discrimination between individuals;


        ... the Court of Appeal, which was not obliged to go into the
        finer detail of the parties' reasoning, held, in the exercise
        of its unfettered discretion, that the chosen forename,
        because it was eccentric and excessively whimsical, and
        notwithstanding that it was the name of the heroine of a
        famous literary work, was likely to harm the interests of the
        child; in so doing, the Court of Appeal justified its decision
        in law...


II.     Relevant domestic law and practice

   A.   The rules applicable at the material time

        1.  Civil Code

12.     Article 57 of the Civil Code provided:

        "The birth certificate shall state the date, time and place of
        birth, the sex of the child and the forenames to be given it,
        the forenames, surnames, ages, occupations and addresses of
        the father and mother and, if applicable, those of the person
        registering the birth ...


        The forenames which appear on a child's birth certificate may,
        where there is a good and lawful reason, be amended by an
        order of the tribunal de grande instance made on an
        application by the child or, during the child's minority, by
        the child's legal representative.  The order shall be made and
        published in accordance with the conditions set out in
        Articles 99 and 101 of this Code.  The addition of forenames
        may likewise be ordered."

        2.  The Law of 11 Germinal Year XI and its application

13.     Section 1 of the Law of 11 Germinal Year XI provided:

        "... only names in use in the various calendars, and those of
        known figures of ancient history may be entered as forenames
        in birth registers; registrars shall not enter any other names
        in their registers."

        The ministerial circular of 12 April 1966 amending the
general circular on civil status (Official Gazette of 3 May 1966) laid
down in particular:

        "...              CHOICE OF FORENAMES


                          General principles


                         Practical application

        (a) It should, however, be observed that the impact of custom
        in this field has considerably reduced the restrictions which
        were initially placed on the acceptance of forenames by the
        provisions of the Law of 11 Germinal Year XI taken literally.

        It is true that these provisions are of practical value in
        that they provide registrars of births, deaths and marriages
        with a bulwark against innovations which appear to them to be
        such as might later harm children's interests and which would
        therefore be unacceptable.

        In practice, registrars of births, deaths and marriages, who
        have to take the immediate decision whether a forename is
        acceptable, can hardly be expected to compile a list of the
        exact resources of the calendars and of ancient history in
        order to determine whether a given forename is included in
        this heritage or not.  In practice they are required to use
        common sense when exercising their discretion, so as to ensure
        that the law is applied with a measure of realism and
        liberality, in other words in such a way that the changes in
        social mores which have hallowed certain usages are not
        ignored and that surviving local characteristics and even
        family traditions which can be shown to exist are respected.
        Registrars must not lose sight of the fact that it is for
        parents to choose forenames and that, to the fullest extent
        possible, any wishes they may have expressed should be taken
        into account.


        (b) In addition to the forenames normally allowed within the
        strict limits of the Law of Germinal, the following may
        therefore possibly be accepted, having regard to the foregoing
        considerations and, where applicable, subject to appropriate
        evidence being produced:

        1. certain forenames of mythological origin (such as Achille,
        Diane, Hercule, etc.);

        2. certain forenames peculiar to local languages of the
        national territory (Basque, Breton, Provençal, etc.);

        3. certain foreign forenames (such as Ivan, Nadine, Manfred,
        James, etc.);

        4. certain forenames which correspond to words that have a
        specific meaning (such as Olive, Violette, etc.) or even old
        surnames (such as Gonzague, Régis, Xavier, Chantal, etc.);

        5. compound forenames, provided that they do not include more
        than two simple names (such as Jean-Pierre or Marie-France but
        not, for example, Jean-Paul-Yves, which would be a combination
        of three forenames).

        (c) Exceptionally, registrars of births, deaths and marriages
        may also accept, but with some caution:

        1. certain diminutives (such as 'Ginette' for Geneviève,
        'Annie' for Anne, or even 'Line', which is derived from
        feminine forenames containing that ending);

        2. certain shortened forms of double names (such as 'Marianne'
        for Marie-Anne, 'Marlène' or 'Milène' for Marie-Hélène,
        'Maïté' for Marie-Thérèse, 'Sylvianne' for Sylvie-Anne, etc.);

        3. certain variations in spelling (for example Michèle or
        Michelle, Henri or Henry, Ghislaine or Guislaine, Madeleine or
        Magdeleine, etc.).

        (d) Ultimately, it would appear that registrars of births,
        deaths and marriages should only refuse to enter names chosen
        by parents which have not been demonstrably established as
        forenames in France by sufficiently widespread use.  Thus, in
        particular, registrars should systematically refuse to enter
        forenames which are purely whimsical or names which, by reason
        of their nature, meaning or form cannot normally constitute
        forenames (surnames, names of objects, animals or qualities,
        words used as stage names or forenames or as pseudonyms, names
        that are onomatopoeic or recall political events).


        In a judgment of 10 June 1981 the Court of Cassation stated
that "parents can in particular choose as forenames, subject to the
general reservation that, in the child's interest, they are not found
to be ridiculous, names in use in the various calendars; and while no
official list of permitted forenames exists, there is no ground for
requiring that the calendar relied on emanate from an
official authority" (First Civil Division, 10 June 1981,
Recueil Dalloz Sirey 1982, p. 160).

        3.  The Law of 6 Fructidor Year II

14.     The Law of 6 Fructidor Year II provided - and still provides:

                               Section 1

        "No citizen may bear a surname or forename other than those
        stated on his birth certificate; those who have abandoned
        their original names shall resume them."

                               Section 2

        "Neither may any nickname be added to the original name,
        unless it has hitherto been used to distinguish members of the
        same family and does not evoke feudal or nobiliary

                               Section 4

        "All public servants are expressly prohibited from referring
        to citizens in documents otherwise than by their surnames, the
        forenames shown on the birth certificate or the nicknames
        permissible under section 2 and from recording any other names
        in the certified copies or short-form certificates which they
        issue subsequently."

   B.   The new rules

15.     Law no. 93-22 of 8 January 1993 on civil status, the family and
children's rights, which created the office of family-affairs judge,
repealed the Law of 11 Germinal Year XI and replaced the last
two paragraphs of Article 57 of the Civil Code by the following

        "A child's forenames shall be chosen by its father and
        mother ...  The registrar of births, deaths and marriages
        shall immediately enter the chosen forenames on the
        birth certificate.  Any forename recorded on the
        birth certificate may be chosen as the usual forename.

        Where the said forenames or any one of them, either taken
        alone or linked to the other forenames or to the surname,
        appear to the registrar to be contrary to the child's
        interests or to the right of third parties to protect their
        surname, the registrar of births, deaths and marriages shall
        immediately so inform State Counsel, who may then refer the
        matter to the family-affairs judge.

        If the judge considers that the forename is contrary to the
        child's interests or infringes the right of third parties to
        protect their surnames, he shall order the name to be deleted
        from the registers of births, deaths and marriages.  If the
        parents fail to choose an alternative name compatible with the
        aforementioned interests, he shall give the child another
        forename of his own choosing.  The decision shall be noted in
        the margin of all documents relating to the child's
        civil status."

        On the other hand, the Law of 8 January 1993 did not repeal the
Law of 6 Fructidor Year II.


16.     Mr and Mrs Guillot applied to the Commission on 28 March 1987.
They alleged that the refusal by the authorities to enter the forename
they had chosen for their child on her birth certificate constituted
a violation of the right to respect for their private and family life
guaranteed in Article 8 of the Convention (art. 8).  They also alleged
an infringement of their right to due process in that the submissions
of State Counsel had not been communicated to them before the
Versailles Court of Appeal gave its judgment, contrary to Article 6 of
the Convention (art. 6).

17.     On 10 October 1994 the Commission declared the application
(no. 22500/93) admissible as regards the first of the complaints.  In
its report of 12 April 1995 (Article 31) (art. 31), it expressed the
opinion by thirteen votes to eleven that there had not been a violation
of Article 8 (art. 8).  The text of the Commission's opinion and of the
two separate opinions contained in the report are reproduced as an
annex to this judgment (1).
Note by the Registrar

1.  For practical reasons this annex will appear only with the printed
version of the judgment (in Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-V),
but a copy of the Commission's report is obtainable from the registry.


18.     In their memorial the Government asked the Court "to reject the
application ... and to find in accordance with the opinion expressed
by the Commission in its report of 12 April 1995 that the complaint
based on a violation of Article 8 of the Convention (art. 8) is not



19.     In the applicants' submission, the refusal of the registrar of
births, deaths and marriages and subsequently of the courts to allow
them to name their daughter "Fleur de Marie" amounted to a violation
of their right to respect for their private and family life.  They
relied on Article 8 of the Convention (art. 8), which provides:

        "1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and
        family life, his home and his correspondence.

        2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with
        the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance
        with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the
        interests of national security, public safety or the economic
        well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or
        crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the
        protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

20.     The Government and the Commission contested that submission.

   A.   Applicability of Article 8 (art. 8)

21.     The Court notes that Article 8 (art. 8) does not contain any
explicit provisions on forenames.  However, since they constitute a
means of identifying persons within their families and the community,
forenames, like surnames (see, mutatis mutandis, the Burghartz
v. Switzerland judgment of 22 February 1994, Series A no. 280-B, p. 28,
para. 24, and the Stjerna v. Finland judgment of 25 November 1994,
Series A no. 299-B, p. 60, para. 37), do concern private and family

22.     Furthermore, the choice of a child's forename by its parents
is a personal, emotional matter and therefore comes within their
private sphere.  The subject matter of the complaint thus falls within
the ambit of Article 8 (art. 8), and indeed this was not contested.

   B.   Compliance with Article 8 (art. 8)

23.     In the present case it is first necessary to determine whether
the refusal to allow Mr and Mrs Guillot to name their daughter
"Fleur de Marie" raises an issue of failure to "respect" their private
and family life under Article 8 para. 1 (art. 8-1).  In this
connection, the degree of inconvenience caused to the applicants is
decisive (see the Stjerna judgment previously cited, p. 63, para. 42
in fine).

24.     Mr and Mrs Guillot stated that they had been disappointed not
to be able to give their daughter the name they had chosen after
careful consideration and to which they were attached.  Convinced that
the French courts had simply substituted their own preference for
theirs, they had, in addition, been left with a feeling of injustice.

        Moreover, they suffered daily from the consequences of the
situation thus created.  Every time they had to go through formalities
concerning the child, they had the painful task of explaining the
difference between her usual forename ("Fleur de Marie") and the one
recorded at the registry of births, deaths and marriages.  They added
that unless her forename was changed by court order, their daughter
would be obliged to go through the same explanatory process throughout
her life.

25.     According to the Government, the consequences of the refusal
to register the forename in issue were too limited to constitute a
failure to respect the applicants' private and family life.  The
applicants' daughter ordinarily went by the forename of
"Fleur de Marie" and nothing prevented her from doing so in all her
private dealings or, other than in official documents, from using it
in her signature.  In addition, in order to take into account both the
wishes of the parents and the paramount interest of the child, the
judicial authorities had held that the forename "Fleur-Marie", which
was very similar to the forename initially chosen, was acceptable.

26.     The Commission agreed with this latter view in substance.

27.     The Court can understand that Mr and Mrs Guillot were upset by
the refusal to register the forename they had chosen for their
daughter.  It notes that this forename consequently cannot appear on
official documents and deeds.  In addition, it finds it probable that
the difference between the child's forename in law and the forename
which she actually uses - she is called "Fleur de Marie" by her family
and is known by that name socially - entails certain complications for
the applicants when acting as her statutory representatives.

        However, the Court notes that it is not disputed that the child
regularly uses the forename in issue without hindrance and that the
French courts - which considered the child's interest - allowed the
application made in the alternative by the applicants for registration
of the forename "Fleur-Marie" (see paragraphs 10 and 11 above).

        In the light of the foregoing, the Court does not find that the
inconvenience complained of by the applicants is sufficient to raise
an issue of failure to respect their private and family life under
Article 8 para. 1 (art. 8-1).  Consequently, there has not been a
violation of Article 8 (art. 8).


1.      Holds unanimously that Article 8 of the Convention (art. 8)
        applies in the present case;

2.      Holds by seven votes to two that there has been no breach of
        it (art. 8).

        Done in English and in French, and delivered at a public
hearing in the Human Rights Building, Strasbourg, on 24 October 1996.

Signed: Rolv RYSSDAL

Signed: Herbert PETZOLD

        In accordance with Article 51 para. 2 of the Convention
(art. 51-2) and Rule 53 para. 2 of Rules of Court A, the joint
dissenting opinion of Mr Macdonald and Mr De Meyer is annexed to this

Initialled: R.R.

Initialled: H.P.



        We regret that we are unable to agree with the present

        There has certainly been an interference with the exercise by
the applicants of their right to respect for their private and
family life, which without any doubt includes the right to choose a
forename.  The freedom to choose was restricted by the refusal to enter
in the register of births, deaths and marriages the forename given to
the child by her parents.

        We have no difficulty in accepting that this interference,
based on the Law of 11 Germinal Year XI in force at the material time,
was lawful and that it pursued a legitimate aim, the protection of the
child's interests.

        However, we consider that it has not been shown that it was
"necessary in a democratic society".  Moreover, we do not see how a
forename such as "Fleur de Marie" could harm the person so named (1).
It would probably be less harmful than the saints' names referred to
in the dissenting opinion of Mr Geus or names such as "Cléopâtre",
"Hérodiade", "Messaline", "Pilate", "Caligula" or "Néron" made famous
in various ways by "known figures of ancient history" and thus
perfectly acceptable under the Law referred to above.
1.  See also on this subject the dissenting opinion of Mr Geus, with
which ten other members of the Commission agreed.

        In addition, we note that under French law anyone who is not
satisfied with his forename may at any time request that it be changed
if he is able to show a "legitimate interest" (2).
2.  The Government's representative himself drew attention to this at
the hearing on 23 April 1996.