World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


A fleur-de-lis

The fleur-de-lis or fleur-de-lys (plural: fleurs-de-lis)[pron 1] is a stylized lily (in French, fleur means "flower", and lis means "lily") or iris that is used as a decorative design or symbol. It may be "at one and the same time, religious, political, dynastic, artistic, emblematic, and symbolic", especially in French heraldry.[4]

The fleur-de-lis is represented in Unicode at U+269C () in the Miscellaneous Symbols block.


  • Usages 1
  • Earliest usage 2
  • Royal symbol 3
    • Frankish to the French monarchy 3.1
    • France Modern 3.2
    • Other European monarchs and rulers 3.3
  • Other continents 4
  • Coats of arms and flags 5
  • Symbolism in religion and art 6
  • Architecture 7
  • Modern usage 8
    • Military 8.1
    • Sports 8.2
    • Education 8.3
    • Scouting 8.4
    • Other uses 8.5
  • In literature 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


The arms of "France Ancienne", Azure, semy of fleur-de lis or.
The arms of "France Moderne": Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or, a simplified version of France Ancienne.

While the fleur-de-lis has appeared on countless European

  • Paintings of Mary, Gabriel, Annunciation and lilies
  • Fleur-de-Lis Flag with 3 gold emblems on purple field
  • Flag with 3 gold emblems on white field
  • Gold emblems on white field, "Kings Flag" popular on warships and fortresses from 1590-1790

External links

  1. ^ Dictionnaire de la Langue Francaise, Lexis, Paris, 1993
  2. ^ Petit Robert 1, Paris, 1990
  3. ^
  4. ^ Michel Pastoureau, Heraldry: Its Origins and Meaning, Francisca Garvie trans. (Thames and Hudson 1997), ISBN 0-500-30074-7, p. 98.
  5. ^ Georges Duby, France in the Middle Ages 987–1460: From Hugh Capet to Joan of Arc
  6. ^ Luciano Artusi, Firenze araldica, pp. 280, Polistampa, Firenze, 2006, ISBN 88-596-0149-5
  7. ^ Hall, James (1974). Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols in Art. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-433316-7. p.124.
  8. ^ "Fleur-de-Lys". Fleur-de-Lys Administrative Committee. 18 November 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  9. ^ "Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1992-1998". Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  10. ^ "Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1992-1998". Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Moncrieffe, Ian, and Pottinger, Don. Simple Heraldry Cheerfully Illustrated. Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. p. 54. 
  13. ^ Moncrieffe, Ian, and Pottinger, Don. Simple Heraldry Cheerfully Illustrated. Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. p. 20. 
  14. ^ Bernardin de Saint-PierreJourney to Mauritius, p. 15, at Google Books
  15. ^ a b "Dictionnaire raisonné de l'architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle - Tome 5, Flore - Wikisource" (in Français). Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  16. ^ Stefan Buczacki The Herb Bible: The definitive guide to choosing and growing herbs, p. 223, at Google Books
  17. ^ McVicar, Jekka (2006) [1997]. Jekka's Complete Herb Book (Revised ed.). Bookmark Ltd.  
  18. ^ Pierre Augustin Boissier de Sauvages (1756). Languedocien Dictionnaire François. p. 154. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  19. ^ Velde, François. "The Fleur-de-lis". Retrieved 2013-09-13. 
  20. ^ Fleur-de-lis
  21. ^ a b Michel Pastoureau, Heraldry: its origins and meaning p.99
  22. ^ [4] Archived 28 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Lewis, Philippa & Darley, Gillian (1986) Dictionary of Ornament
  24. ^ Ralph E. Giesey, Models of Rulership in French Royal Ceremonial in Rites of Power: Symbolism, Ritual, and Politics Since the Middle Ages ed. Wilentz (Princeton 1985) p43
  25. ^ Michel Pastoureau: Traité d'Héraldique, Paris, 1979
  26. ^ François R. Velde
  27. ^ Michel Pastoureau, Heraldry: its origins and meaning p.99-100
  28. ^ Fox-Davies, A Complete Guide to Heraldry p274
  29. ^ a b Michel Pastoureau, Heraldry: its origins and meaning p.100
  30. ^ Joseph Fr. Michaud; Jean Joseph François Poujoulat (1836). Nouvelle collection des mémoires pour servir a l'histoire de France: depuis le XIIIe siècle jusqu'à la fin du XVIIIe; précédés de notices pour caractériser chaque auteur des mémoires et son époque; suivis de l'analyse des documents historiques qui s'y rapportent. Éditeur du Commentaire analytique du Code civil. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  31. ^ Fox-Davies
  32. ^ Pierre Goubert (12 April 2002). The Course of French History. Taylor & Francis.  
  33. ^ Sir Walter Scott (1833) The Complete Works of Sir Michael Scott, Volume 1 of 7, Canto Fourth, VIII, NY: Conner and Cooke
  34. ^ Petru Musat Coins image
  35. ^
  36. ^ [5] Archived 14 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ [6] Archived 8 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ "The Fleur-de-Lys". Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  41. ^ Post, W. Ellwood (1986). Saints, Signs, and Symbols. Wilton, Connecticut: Morehouse-Barlow. p. 29. 
  42. ^ Susan M. Johns, Noblewomen, Aristocracy and Power in the Twelfth-Century Anglo-Norman Realm (Manchester 2003) p130
  43. ^ Church Symbolism - F. R. Webber, Ralph Adams Cram - Google Boeken. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  44. ^ A "fanciful derivation", Oxford English Dictionary (1989)
  45. ^ Dictionnaire raisonné de l'architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle - Tome 5, Flore
  46. ^ Michel Pastoureau, Heraldry: its origins and meaning p.93-94
  47. ^ Shepperd, Alan (1973), The King's Regiment, Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-85045-120-5 (p. 39)
  48. ^ "Bharat Rakshak :: Land Forces Site - Armoured Formations". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 
  49. ^ Walker, Colin (March 2007). "The Evolution of The World Badge". Scouting Milestones. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  50. ^ Baden-Powell, Robert Scouting for Boys, Arthur Pearson, (Campfire Yarn No. 3 - Becoming a Scout)
  51. ^ Troop 25. """Origin of the World Scouting Symbol "Fleur-de-lis. Web. USA: Troop 25, Scouting of America. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  52. ^ "New Orleans LA Living & Lifestyle". 1 November 2011. Retrieved 3 February 2012. 
  53. ^ OED
  54. ^ "The Faerie Queene: Book II.". Retrieved 30 September 2014. 


  1. ^ Pronounced or ; French: . The Oxford English Dictionary gives both pronunciations for English. In French, Larousse[1] and Robert[2] have the former: . The CNRTL[3] has that pronunciation for the plant itself, but, following Barbeau-Rodhe 1930, for the compound fleur-de-lis.

Explanatory notes


See also

The lilly, Ladie of the flowring field,
The Flowre-deluce, her louely Paramoure
Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, 1590[54]

The symbol has featured in modern fiction on historical and mystical themes, as in the bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code and other books discussing the Priory of Sion. It recurs in French literature, where examples well known in English translation include Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier, a character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, and the mention in Dumas's The Three Musketeers of the old custom of branding a criminal with the sign (fleurdeliser). During the reign of Elizabeth I of England, known as the Elizabethan era, it was a standard name for an iris, a usage which lasted for centuries,[53] but occasionally refers to lilies or other flowers. It also appeared in the novel A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole on a sign composed by the main character.

In literature

When Fleur-de-lis is turned over in the top and the bottom, it'll be a head of Baphomet Eliphas Levi drew.

The device is used by commercial companies, like the Royal Elastics shoe company. Owing to its French heritage, Chevrolet has used the fleur-de-lis emblems on their cars, most notably the Corvette, but until 1990, the Caprice sedan. The Campbell Soup Company uses it on its soup can labels. A fleur-de-lis also appears in some of the logos of local Louisiana media. Such as in the logo of WGNO-TV, the local ABC-affiliated television station in New Orleans, and WVUE-TV, the local Fox-affiliated television station in New Orleans. A fleur-de-lis is also used on Henkell Trocken bottles. The R. K. LeBlond Machine Tool Company, of Cincinnati, Ohio, used the fleur-de-lis as part of their corporate image.

The symbol may be used in less traditional ways. After Hurricane Katrina many New Orleanians of varying ages and backgrounds were tattooed with "one of its cultural emblems" as a "memorial" of the storm, according to a researcher at Tulane University.[52] The US Navy Blue Angels have named a looping flight demonstration manoeuvre after the flower as well, and there are even two surgical procedures called "after the fleur."

Other uses

The fleur-de-lis is the main element in the logo of most reef knot or square knot, service.[51]

An early version of the Scout emblem, used in the United Kingdom before 1967


The emblem appears in coats of arms and logos for universities (like the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Saint Louis University and Washington University in Missouri) and schools such as in Hilton College (South Africa) and St. Peter, Minnesota. The Lady Knights of the University of Arkansas at Monticello have also adopted the fleur de lis as one of the symbols associated with their coat of arms. The flag of Lincolnshire, adopted in 2005, has a fleur-de-lis for the city of Lincoln. It is one of the symbols of the American sororities Kappa Kappa Gamma and Theta Phi Alpha, the American fraternities Alpha Epsilon Pi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Mu, as well as the international co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. It is also used by the high school and college fraternity Scouts Royale Brotherhood of the Philippines.


They may be chosen for sports teams, especially when it echoes a local flag, as with Georges St-Pierre, has a tattoo of the fleur-de-lis on his right calf.


Fleurs-de-lis features on military badges like those of the Israeli Intelligence Corps, the First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force, the 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the Corps of Cadets at Louisiana State University. In the British Army, the fleur-de-lis was the cap badge of the Manchester Regiment from 1922 until 1958, and also its successor, the King's Regiment up to its amalgamation in 2006. It commemorates the capture of French regimental colours by their predecessors, the 63rd Regiment of Foot, during the Invasion of Martinique in 1759.[47] It is also the formation sign of the 2nd (Independent) Armored Brigade of the Indian Army which was known as 7th Indian Cavalry Brigade in First World War, received the emblem for its actions in France.[48]

A soldier of the Manchester Regiment with their fleur-de-lis badge on his helmet, in 1941.


Some modern usage of the fleur-de-lis reflects "the continuing presence of heraldry in everyday life", often intentionally, but also when users are not aware that they are "prolonging the life of centuries-old insignia and emblems".[46]

Modern usage

In building and architecture, the fleur-de-lis is often placed on top of iron fence posts, as a pointed defence against intruders. It may ornament any tip, point or post with a decorative flourish, for instance, on finials, the arms of a cross, or the point of a gable. The fleur-de-lis can be incorporated in friezes or cornices, although the distinctions between fleur-de-lis, fleuron, and other stylized flowers are not always clear,[15][45] or can be used as a motif in an all-over tiled pattern, perhaps on a floor. It may appear in a building for heraldic reasons, as in some English churches where the design paid a compliment to a local lord who used the flower on his coat of arms. Elsewhere the effect seems purely visual, like the crenellations on the 14th-century Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan. It can also be seen on the doors of 16th-century Padmanabhaswamy Temple.

Fleurs-de-lis on railings at Buckingham Palace


"Flower of light" symbolism has sometimes been understood from the archaic variant fleur-de-luce (see Latin lux, luc- = "light"), but the Oxford English Dictionary suggests this arose from the spelling, not from the etymology.[44]

The three petals of the heraldic design reflect a widespread association with the Holy Trinity, with the band on the bottom symbolizing Mary. The tradition says that without Mary you can not understand the Trinity since it was she who bore the Son.[43] A tradition going back to 14th century France[21] added onto the earlier belief that they also represented faith, wisdom and chivalry. Alternatively, the cord can be seen as representing the one Divine Substance (godhood) of the three Persons, which binds Them together.

In medieval England, from the mid-12th century, a noblewoman's seal often showed the lady with a fleur-de-lis, drawing on the Marian connotations of "female virtue and spirituality".[42] Images of Mary holding the flower first appeared in the 11th century on coins issued by cathedrals dedicated to her, and next on the seals of cathedral chapters, starting with Notre Dame de Paris in 1146. A standard portrayal was of Mary carrying the flower in her right hand, just as she is shown in that church's Virgin of Paris statue (with lily), and in the centre of the stained glass rose window (with fleur-de-lis sceptre) above its main entrance. The flowers may be "simple fleurons, sometimes garden lilies, sometimes genuine heraldic fleurs-de-lis".[29] As attributes of the Madonna, they are often seen in pictures of the Annunciation, notably in those of Sandro Botticelli and Filippo Lippi. Lippi also uses both flowers in other related contexts: for instance, in his Madonna in the Forest.

In the Middle Ages the symbols of lily and fleur-de-lis overlapped considerably in Christian religious art. Michel Pastoureau, the historian, says that until about 1300 they were found in depictions of Jesus, but gradually they took on Marian symbolism and were associated with the Song of Solomon's "lily among thorns" (lilium inter spinas), understood as a reference to Mary. Other scripture and religious literature in which the lily symbolizes purity and chastity also helped establish the flower as an iconographic attribute of the Virgin. It was also believed that the fleur-de-lis represented the Holy Trinity.[40][41]

Fleur-de-lis on 14th century Syrian albarello.

Symbolism in religion and art

^ French royal arms before 1376 (France ancienne): Azure semé-de-lis or 
^ French royal arms after 1376 (France moderne): Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or 
^ The arms of the Kings of England from 1340 to c.1411, quartering France ancienne. The French arms are quartered as arms of pretence and in precedence (1st & 4th) to the paternal Plantagenet arms as a statement in recognition of the quasi-feudal superiority of the royal French arms to the arms of Plantagenet 
^ Flag of French Renaissance 
^ Standard of the French royal family prior to 1789 and from 1815 to 1830 
^ Flag of the Kingdom of France 
Naval Flag of the Kingdom of France 
Flag of New France
Flag of French Royalist faction during the French Revolution 
^ Coat of Arms of medieval Bosnian ruling family Kotromanić 
The Arms of Canada from 1957 
Armes of the Châteaubriant Family, concession of Saint Louis "Notre sang teint les bannières de France". In reality, there is no objective proof for the statement. 
Arms of the Thouars Family. The reverse of the arms of France. 
Arms of the Fitzpatrick (Mac Giolla Phádraig) family of Upper Ossory[39] The French augmentation in the chief appears to date from the time of Barnaby Fitzpatrick as Edward VI's ambassador to France. 
Arms of the Farnese family. 
The augmented coat of arms of the Medici, Or, five balls in orle gules, in chief a larger one of the arms of France (viz. Azure, three fleurs-de-lis or) was granted by Louis XI in 1465 
Fleurs-de-lis on the coat of arms of Wiesbaden 
^ Fleur-de-lis of Florence 
^ Fleur-de-lis in the coat of arms of Pope Paul VI 
Fleur-de-lis on the coat of arms of Lincoln 
Fleur-de-lis on the coat of arms of Sagunt 
Fleurs-de-lis on the coat of arms of Turku 
^ Franco-American flag 
Flag of Aroostook county in Maine 
Flag of Franco-Albertans 
Flag of Franco-Ontarians 
Flag of Fransaskois 
Flag of Fleur-de-Lys, Malta 
Flag of Santa Venera, Malta 

Coats of arms and flags

In Saskatchewan the Western Red Lily appears on the provincial flag and is sometimes used as a symbol of the province. Some representations resemble a fleur de lis but the traditional version itself is rarely used.

The fleur-de-lis appears on the coat of Guadeloupe, an overseas département of France in the Caribbean, Saint Barthélemy, an overseas collectivity of France, and French Guiana. The overseas department of Réunion in the Indian Ocean uses the same feature. It appears on the coat of Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius which was named in honour of King Louis XV. On the coat of arms of Saint Lucia it represents the French heritage of the country.

In the US, the fleur-de-lis symbols tend to be along or near the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. These are areas of strong French colonial empire settlement. Some of the places that have it in their flag or seal are the cities of St. Louis,[m] Louisville, Detroit, Mobile, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. On 9 July 2008, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill into law making the fleur-de-lis an official symbol of the state.[36] Following Hurricane Katrina, the fleur-de-lis has been widely used in New Orleans as a symbol of grassroots support for New Orleans' recovery.[37] It has also become the symbol for the identity of the Cajuns and Louisiana Creole people, and their French heritage.

The fleur-de-lis appears on the Canadian coat of arms, the flag of Quebec,[j] known as the Fleurdelisé, and also those of Montreal, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières. The Queen of Canada's personal flag also features it.[35] There are many French-speaking people in other Canadian provinces for whom the fleur-de-lis remains a symbol of their cultural identity. Franco-Ontarians, for example, feature the fleur-de-lis prominently on their flag.

Fleurs-de-lis crossed the Atlantic along with Europeans going to the New World, especially with French settlers. Their presence on North American flags and coats of arms usually recalls the involvement of French settlers in the history of the town or region concerned, and in some cases the persisting presence there of a population descended from such settlers.

The French Canadian version of the fleur-de-lys

Other continents

Three fleurs-de-lis appeared in the personal coat of arms of Gransmaster Alof de Wignacourt who ruled the Malta between 1601 and 1622. His nephew Adrien de Wignacourt, who was Grandmaster himself from 1690 to 1697, also had a similar coat of arms with three fleurs-de-lis.

As a dynastic emblem it has also been very widely used: not only by noble families but also, for example, by the Fuggers, a medieval banking family.

Other countries using the emblem heraldically include Serbia and Spain in recognition of rulers from the House of Bourbon. Coins minted in 14th-century Romania, from the region that was the Principality of Moldova at the time, ruled by Petru I Mușat, carry the fleur-de-lis symbol.[34]

The fleur-de-lis was also the symbol of the House of Kotromanić, a ruling house in medieval Bosnia allegedly in recognition of the Angevin, where the flower is thought of as a Lilium bosniacum.[h] Today, fleur-de-lis is a national symbol of Bosniaks,[i] one of three Bosnian constitutive ethnic groups, the other two being Serbians and Croatians.

In Italy, fleurs-de-lis have been used for some papal crowns[g] and coats of arms, the Farnese Dukes of Parma, and by some doges of Venice.

          The treasured fleur-de-luce he claims
          To wreathe his shield, since royal James
               —Sir Walter Scott
                The Lay of the Last Minstrel[33]

The tressure flory-counterflory (flowered border) has been a prominent part of the design of the Scottish royal arms and Royal Standard since James I of Scotland.[e]

Fleurs-de-lis feature prominently in the Crown Jewels of England and Scotland. In English heraldry, they are used in many different ways, and can be the cadency mark of the sixth son. Additionally, it features in a large amount of royal arms of the House of Plantagenet, from the 13th century onwards to the early Tudors (Elizabeth of York and the de la Pole family.)

Bosnian king Tvrtko I's gold coin (14th century) reverse - with the Bosnian state fleur-de-lis coat of arms. (GLORIA TIBI DEUS SPES NOSTRA)

Other European monarchs and rulers

France Modern remained the French royal standard, and with a white background was the French national flag until the French Revolution, when it was replaced by the tricolor of modern-day France. The fleur-de-lis was restored to the French flag in 1814, but replaced once again after the revolution against Charles X of France in 1830.[d] In a very strange turn of events after the end of the Second French Empire, where a flag apparently influenced the course of history, Henri, comte de Chambord, was offered the throne as King of France, but he agreed only if French gave up the tricolor and brought back the white flag with fleurs-de-lis.[32] His condition was rejected and France became a republic.

France Modern

King Charles VII ennobled Joan of Arc's family on 29 December 1429 with an inheritable symbolic denomination. The Chamber of Accounts in France registered the family's designation to nobility on 20 January 1430. The grant permitted the family to change their surname to du Lys.

In 1328, King claim to the French throne.

In the reign of King Louis IX (St. Louis) the three petals of the flower were said to represent faith, wisdom and chivalry, and to be a sign of divine favour bestowed on France.[30] During the next century, the 14th, the tradition of Trinity symbolism was established in France, and then spread elsewhere.

Fleur-de-lis on an old concrete wall

In the 14th-century French writers asserted that the monarchy of France, which developed from the Kingdom of the West Franks, could trace its heritage back to the divine gift of royal arms received by Clovis. This story has remained popular, even though modern scholarship has established that the fleur-de-lis was a religious symbol before it was a true heraldic symbol.[27] Along with true lilies, it was associated with the Virgin Mary, and in the 12th century Louis VI and Louis VII started to use the emblem, on sceptres for example, so connecting their rulership with this symbol of saintliness and divine right. Louis VII ordered the use of fleur-de-lis clothing in his son Philip's coronation in 1179,[28] while the first visual evidence of clearly heraldic use dates from 1211: a seal showing the future Louis VIII and his shield strewn with the "flowers".[29] Until the late 14th century the French royal coat of arms was Azure semé-de-lis Or (a blue shield "sown" (semé) with a scattering of small golden fleurs-de-lis), but Charles V of France changed the design from an all-over scattering to a group of three in about 1376.[a][b] These two coats are known in heraldic terminology as France Ancient and France Modern respectively.

The fleur-de-lis' symbolic origins with French monarchs may stem from the baptismal lily used in the crowning of King Clovis I. The French monarchy possibly adopted the Fleur-de-lis for their royal coat of arms as a symbol of purity to commemorate the conversion of Clovis I,[23] and a reminder of the Fleur-de-lis ampulla that held the oil used to anoint the king. So, the fleur-de-lis stood as a symbol of the king's divinely approved right to rule. The thus "anointed" Kings of France later maintained that their authority was directly from God. A legend enhances the mystique of royalty by informing us that a vial of oil—the Holy Ampulla—descended from Heaven to anoint and sanctify Clovis as King,[24] descending directly on Clovis or perhaps brought by a dove to Saint Remigius. One version explains that an angel descended with the Fleur-de-lis ampulla to anoint the king.[25] Another story tells of Clovis putting a flower in his helmet just before his victory at the Battle of Vouillé [26] Through this connection to Clovis, the fleur-de-lis has been taken to symbolize all the Christian Frankish kings, most famously Charlemagne.

The graphic evolution of crita to fleur-de-lis was accompanied by textual allegory. By the late 13th century, an allegorical poem by Guillaume de Nangis (d. 1300), written at the abbey of Joyenval at Chambourcy, relates how the golden lilies on an azure ground were miraculously substituted for the crescents on Clovis' shield, a projection into the past of contemporary images of heraldry. Through this propagandist connection to Clovis, the fleur-de-lis has been taken in retrospect to symbolize all the Christian Frankish kings, most notably Charlemagne.

Frankish to the French monarchy

Charlemagne, by Albrecht Dürer, the anachronistic coat-of-arms above him show the German eagle and the French Fleur-de-lis.

Royal symbol

Also of note is that the red and green circles on the oriflamme are often said to depict flowers. A fleur de luce becomes flower of light, where light might allude to the golden flames that give the banner its name. A conflation, over time, of the lance, the flowers and the flames with the conserved spearhead used as a sceptre may be more probable than the French royal symbol being derived from a river in Frisia.

A 9th-century mosaic, from San Giovanni church in Rome, shows St Peter handing the Oriflamme, the imperial banner, to Charlemagne. The finial of the oriflamme is clearly a spearhead and very like the earliest depictions of the fleur-de-lis, on the seals of Robert II (around 1000 AD) and Phillip II (around 1180 AD).

A more obscure origin from its common Germanic cultural background could tie it to the symbol of the Danish Royal House too, as suggested in many ancient legends or epic folk tradition as the Eddas or Beowulf, which refer to the arrival from sea of a child-king to inherit the realm, Scyld or Beow, with only a sheaf of corn as emblem - as centuries later the Plantagenets would be represented -, all probably derived from ancestral fertility allegories and symbols of the arrival of corn (in the shape of a sheaf of wheat or rather, barley) in the human form of a child, (Beow as 'Boy' or baby-bubble 'grain to grow') to Germanic prehistoric people before agriculture bringing a new age of prosperity rebirth.

A possibly derived symbol of Frankish royalty was the bee, of similar shape, as found in the burial of Childric I, whose royal see of power over the Salian Franks was based over the valley of the Lys.

Another (debated) hypothesis is that the symbol derives from the Frankish Angon. The angon, or sting, was a typical Frankish throwing spear.

There is also a statue of Kanishka the Great, the emperor of the Kushan dynasty in 127–151 AD, in the Mathura Museum in India, with four modern Fleurs-de-lis symbols in a square emblem repeated twice on the bottom end of his smaller sword.

It has consistently been used as a royal emblem, though different cultures have interpreted its meaning in varying ways. Gaulish coins show the first Western designs which look similar to modern fleurs-de-lis.[21] In the East it was found on the gold helmet of a Scythian king (illustration) uncovered at the Ak-Burun kurgan and conserved in Saint Petersburg's Hermitage Museum.[22]

Sauvages' hypothesis seems to be supported by the archaic English spelling fleur-de-luce[20] and by the Luts's variant name Lits.

15th-century manuscript illumination of an angel sending the fleurs-de-lis to Clovis
Stylized flowers from Ishtar Gate in Babylon
However, a hypothesis ventured in the 17th c. sounds very plausible to me. One species of wild iris, the Iris pseudacorus, yellow flag in English, is yellow and grows in marshes (cf. the azure field, for water). Its name in German is Lieschblume (also gelbe Schwertlilie), but Liesch was also spelled Lies and Leys in the Middle Ages. It is easy to imagine that, in Northern France, the Lieschblume would have been called "fleur-de-lis." This would explain the name and the formal origin of the design, as a stylized yellow flag. There is a fanciful legend about Clovis which links the yellow flag explicitly with the French coat of arms.

The heraldist François Velde is of the same opinion.[19]

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 called flambas [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 Leie in the Flanders. 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.

The fleur de lis is widely thought to be a stylized version of the species Iris pseudacorus, or Iris florentina.[16][17] Decorative ornaments that resemble the fleur-de-lis have appeared in artwork from the earliest human civilizations. According to Pierre-Augustin Boissier de Sauvages, an 18th-century French naturalist and lexicographer:[18]

Iris compared with fleur-de-lis ornament in French [15]

Earliest usage

The symbol is also often used on a compass rose to mark the north direction, a tradition started by Flavio Gioja, a Neapolitan mariner of the 14th century.

Fleurs-de-lis appear on military insignia and the logos of many organizations. During the 20th century the symbol was adopted by various badges. Architects and designers use it alone and as a repeated motif in a wide range of contexts, from ironwork to bookbinding, especially where a French context is implied.

The Welsh poet Hedd Wyn used Fleur de Lys as his pen name when he won his chair at the National Eisteddfod of Wales (Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru), the national poetry contest.

In Mauritius, slaves were branded with a fleur-de-lis, when being punished for escaping or stealing food.[14]

In English and Canadian heraldry the fleur-de-lis is the cadence mark of a sixth son.[13]

In the United Kingdom, a fleur-de-lis has appeared in the official arms of the Norroy King of Arms for hundreds of years. A silver fleur-de-lis on a blue background is the arms of the Barons Digby.[12]

The coat of arms of the medieval Kingdom of Bosnia contained six fleurs-de-lis, understood as the native Bosnian or Golden Lily, Lilium bosniacum.[9] This emblem was revived in 1992 as a national symbol of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and was the flag of Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1992 to 1998.[10] The state insignia were changed in 1999 on request of two other ethnic groups (Serbs and Croats). The former flag of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina contains a fleur-de-lis alongside the Croatian chequy. Fleurs also appear in the flags and arms of many cantons, municipalities, cities and towns. It is still used as official insignia of the Bosniak Regiment of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[11]

Coat of Arms of Florence
Arms of Bosnia used from 1992 until 1998; a revived symbol of Tvrtko I of the House of Kotromanić

In Malta, the town of Santa Venera has three red fleurs-de-lis on its flag and coat of arms. These were derived from a gate which was part of the Wignacourt Aqueduct that had three sculpted fleurs-de-lis on top, as they were the heraldic symbols of Alof de Wignacourt, the Grandmaster who financed its building. Another suburb which developed around the area became known as Fleur-de-Lys, and it also features a red fleur-de-lis on its flag and coat of arms.[8]

The heraldic fleur-de-lis is still widespread: among the numerous cities which use it as a symbol are some whose names echo the word 'lily', for example, Liljendal, Finland, and Lelystad, Netherlands. This is called canting arms in heraldic terminology. Other European examples of municipal coats-of-arms bearing the fleur-de-lis include Lincoln in England, Morcín in Spain, Wiesbaden in Germany, Skierniewice in Poland and Jurbarkas in Lithuania. The Swiss municipality of Schlieren and the Estonian municipality of Jõelähtme also have a fleur-de-lis on their coats.

In Italy, the fleur de lis, called fiordaliso or giglio is mainly known as the crest of the city of Florence. In the Florentine fleurs-de-lis,[f] the stamens are always posed between the petals. Originally argent (silver or white) on gules (red) background, the emblem became the standard of the imperial party in Florence (parte ghibellina), causing the town government, which maintained a staunch Guelph stance, being strongly opposed to the imperial pretensions on city states, to reverse the color pattern to the final gules lily on argent background.[6] This heraldic charge is often known as the Florentine lily to distinguish it from the conventional (stamen-not-shown) design. As an emblem of the city, it is therefore found in icons of its patron saint, Zenobius.[7] Several towns subjugated by Florence or founded within the territory of the Florentine Republic adopted some kind of florentine lily in their crests. The currency of Florence, the fiorino, was also decorated with it, hence the name.

In France it is widely used in city emblems like in the coat of arms of the city of Lille, Saint-Denis, Brest, Clermont-Ferrand, Boulogne-Billancourt and Calais. Some cities that had been particularly faithful to the Crown were awarded an heraldic augmentation of two or three fleurs-de-lis on the chief of their coat of arms; such cities include Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Reims, Le Havre, Angers, Le Mans, Aix-en-Provence, Tours, Limoges, Amiens, Orléans, Rouen, Argenteuil, Poitiers, Chartres and Laon among others. The fleur-de-lis was the symbol of Île-de-France, the core of the French kingdom. It appeared on the coat-of-arms of other historical provinces of France, like Burgundy, Anjou, Picardy, Berry, Orléanais, Bourbonnais, Maine, Touraine, Artois, Dauphiné, Saintonge and the County of La Marche. Many of the current departments use the ancient symbol on their coats to express this heritage.


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.