Fleur De Lis

Religious / Political / Dynastic / Artistic / Emblematic

Literally – Fleur = Flower; de = of; lis or lys =  Lilly or Lilly Flower

History

fdl2The fleur de lis has been used in European iconography since the first civilizations started to pop up in that part of the world.  Over time this symbol tied itself to the Frnech monarchy in particular and though it is seen just as much in other parts parts of Europe it is still to the French that we look to whenever we see the fleur de lis.   Pierre-Augustin Boissier de Sauvages, a French lexicographer and historian gives a very concise view of the history and form of the fleur de lis (this thanks to wikipedia):

“The old fleurs-de-lis, especially the ones found in our first kings’ sceptres, have a lot less in common with ordinary lilies than the flowers calledflambas [in Occitan], or irises, from which the name of our own fleur-de-lis may derive. What gives some colour of truth to this hypothesis that we already put forth, is the fact that the French or Franks, before entering Gaul itself, lived for a long time around the river named Luts in the Netherlands. Nowadays, this river is still bordered with an exceptional number of irises —as many plants grow for centuries in the same places—: these irises have yellow flowers, which is not a typical feature of lilies but fleurs-de-lis. It was thus understandable that our kings, having to choose a symbolic image for what later became a coat of arms, set their minds on the iris, a flower that was common around their homes, and is also as beautiful as it was remarkable. They called it, in short, the fleur-de-lis, instead of the flower of the river of lis. This flower, or iris, looks like our fleur-de-lis not just because of its yellow colour but also because of its shape: of the six petals, or leaves, that it has, three of them are alternatively straight and meet at their tops. The other three on the opposite, bend down so that the middle one seems to make one with the stalk and only the two ones facing out from left and right can clearly be seen, which is again similar with our fleurs-de-lis, that is to say exclusively the one from the river Luts whose white petals bend down too when the flower blooms.”

fdl1So, as you can see it has changed very little over time and it has been used in so many different places and for so many different things that trying to pin it to one place of theme is tough.

  • French monarchy – before they were disbanded by the French Revolution, the fleur de lis was the symbol of the monarchy in France, emblazoned on all of their heraldric symbols.
  • Christianity – Christianity usurped the fleur de lis after it became one of the biggest concerns in Europe, the three petals of the flower were the three parts of the trinity and the band at the bottom was a representation of Mary.
  • Scouting – The world over, the fleur de lis is a symbol of scouting, from the World Scouting organization to the Boy Scouts here in America fleur de lis is all over there symbols from their neckerchiefs to their patches.
  • The Saints – The professional football team the New Orleans Saints use the fleur de lis as their logo and a symbol of the team.  Who Dat!

Looking for a great symbol that survived the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the fleur de lis is a great way to make your garb stand out in the crowd.  Go for that Frenchy look, and maybe even become royalty.