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Decorative Flowers: The Fleur-De-Lis

Brand, Military Insignia, Flag, Coat of Arms, Insignia, Emblem

The Fleur-de-lis is much more than a simple flower; it is a symbol that has survived the ages. Occasionally spelled fleur-de-lys or fleur-de-lois, it has been traced back as far as Mesopotamia, but is most known from the Middle Ages. It has had several different origin legends behind it, each, while similar, having their own meaning. The first, and most common, belief is that the Merovingian King of the Franks, Clovis, in 496 AD, was lead to victory in battle by water lilies presenting him and his troops to a safe place to travel across a river; this gained them the upper hand as they had acquired the element of surprise. Another, slightly less common legend is that a golden lily was given by an angel or the Virgin Mary, depending on the story, to King Clovis as a symbol of purification for converting to Christianity. Yet another is that the lily sprang forth from the tears of Eve as she left the Garden of Eden. Another is that the shape of the symbolic flower came from the shape of the bottom of a descending dove. While there are many other origins, these are by far, the most common of them all.

Versions of the fleur-de-lis can be found in coats of arms, stained glass, flags, banners, poetry, as logos for schools, earmarks for cattle, sports teams emblems, architecture and so much more. It can signify royalty and did in France from about 1483 to the end of the French Revolution. The end of the Revolution brought about an end to a royal class and privilege among the French. The symbol is most closely associated with France, as it was adopted early in many coats of arms. Finding this flower on a coat of arms could have various meanings. For instance, for a family living abroad, it could indicate their roots from France. On an English King's coat of arms, it could mean that they believe that they had a right to the French throne. It was also used to indicate a 6th son as a mark of cadency. It was always seen, however, to stand for purity, and can also be used to symbolize chastity, based on its close association with the Virgin Mary and the Holy Trinity. The connection of the fleur-de-lis and chastity came from this association.

While King Clovis is said to be the first to have adopted the symbol as his own, the fleur-de-lis was not truly identified with royalty until King Louis VII, when he had his son Philip II wear the insignia on his outfit for his coronation. Joan of Arc is also linked with this symbol, as she is said to have carried a banner with the symbol as she led the French troops into battle for a victory over the English for Charles II. Another famous association is from 800 AD when Pope Leo crowned Emperor Charlemagne, it is said that the Pope bestowed a blue banner sprinkled in golden fleurs-de-lis. The symbol is also seen as a representation of the Cult of the Virgin Mary, which originated in Syria in the 5th century, grew further in Byzantine and the Byzantine became the central basis of the cult.

Today, the fleur-de-lis can be seen as an inspiration and is found in art all over the world. It has found its way onto police badges, current flags, and even school and something as innocuous as a camp name. In fact, the fleur-de-lis can be found on several different versions of the French flag, past years to present. It is a symbol whose influence can be traced through the centuries, and while it is not its original depiction in current day, the general shape has not varied greatly. It is the official symbol of New Orleans, as well as the state symbol of Louisiana from its namesake, King Louis XIV. This flower is a symbol that has touched many lives in its lifetime, and will continue to do so for centuries to come.

For more information on the history of the fleur-de-lis, please see:

Written By Ava Rose.

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