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  • Writer's pictureParisian Niche

French Symbols - La Fleur de Lys



The fleur de lys (or fleur de lis, as it is often spelled, and both are equally correct) has a decidedly rich and meaningful history. From the most humble of decorations, to a royal coat of arms, to a religious symbol, let's take a P'Niche peek and see what's what...


image: gardenia.net

While fleur de lys translates to "flower of the lily," you might be (properly) shocked to learn that the symbol isn't indicative of a lily at all!


Record scratch, what? You heard right! The flower is actually an iris. Precisely, it's the yellow iris which can be found along France's many river banks.


Wait for it...


image: moondance-barge.weebly.com

The Lys River runs from Pas de Calais, in Northern France, to Ghent, in Belgium.


Along these picturesque banks, one can find these yellow irises in abundance. As the early Frankish kings hailed from this area, it makes sense that they adopted this floral symbol as their own.




image: independence-bunting.com

In fact, you can see that on old French flags, the fleur de lys is represented in its bold, golden color.


Look closer, and you will see that these fleurs de lys rest atop a gorgeous, rich, saturated blue - the blue of the Lys River.


It's all coming together now, right?



image: pinterest.com

D'accord, let's fast forward through time...


We are at the court of King Louis VI, in the 12th century, where we have the first recorded history of the fleur de lys upon the shield and the coat of arms of the Kingdom of France.


It is also during the 12th century when we begin to find writings detailing not only the 5th century origin of the fleur de lys, but its journey to becoming the symbol of the French kings.


Fast forward again to the 14th century, now to the kingdom of Charles V. It was during this reign that King Charles V decided to take the many fleurs de lys that were haphazardly placed in design, and group them uniformly into groups of three fleurs de lys on the shield and royal crest.




image: pinterest.com

I hear some of you whispering, "but P'Niche, wasn't it Clovis who grouped them together in threes in the late 400s?" Well, no. And yes...


Legend has it that during a battle with a much more formidable army, the symbols upon Clovis' shield magically changed to that of the golden fleur de lys upon a blue background. Mystified, Clovis threw that shield upon the ground and grabbed a different shield. Guess what? The same thing happened. Three times in fact!


Running into fierce battle with his trusty fleur de lys shield at his side, wouldn't you know it, P'Nichers - King Clovis was victorious! Magic, P'Nichers...magic.


image: nobility.org

Now, you can imagine what happened when Clovis returned home from his triumph, and started telling stories of the battle around ye old ale table with his family and friends.


Upon hearing his tales, his wife, Queen Clothilde, assured him that the three lilies represented the holy trinity and would bring him long life and reign. Not only that, the golden colors of the lilies represented a golden age, and the blue represented heaven, if he would convert. Yep... he converted! You can even see the three fleurs de lys represented in this medieval painting, atop the arches.

image: wikipedia.com

From this, the fleur de lys did come to have more of a religious connotation within Christianity.


Due to its three golden petals, the fleur de lys has come to represent; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, with one on each respective petal.


The Virgin Mother, Mary, came to be represented in the band across all the three petals, the tie that bonds together this Holy Trinity.


As it took on this religious meaning, over time, kings began to use this symbol to demonstrate their divine right to rule, as kings were meant to be chosen and ordained by God.




image: giveninstitute.com

And, it wasn't just the gents rolling around town with the fleur de lys emblem as their strength.


Let's represent some girl power here!


Saint Joan of Arc herself was known to carry a banner that showed God blessing the royal fleur de lys.


With this banner in hand, and her divine belief, she led the French troops to a magnificent victory over the British. This support for the Dauphin, Charles VII, in his quest for the throne did not go unappreciated, despite the tragic ending of Joan of Arc. We'll speak more about our girl Joan of Arc, so be sure to subscribe to ride back into the Parisian Niche.


image: shopmyexchange.com

While other kingdoms have adopted the fleur de lys into their own coats of arms, etc., the symbol has a decidedly French touch.


That said, even the US Military has adopted the fleur de lys into some of its divisions' symbolism.


Further to that, the Boys Scouts of America have used the symbol on their many badges to represent the three aspects of a Scout's Promise, which are: duty to God, responsibility for self, and service to others.


image: pdsh.fandom.com

In more popular culture, we recently read Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame in the Parisian Page Turners book club. Feel free to join us as we page turn our way through the history of Paris and France!


In this novel (and its publication actually helped to save the Notre Dame cathedral from demise), Fleur de Lys is a beautiful and wealthy woman, who was engaged to Phoebus de Chateaupers.


image: pinterest.com

When in Paris, P'Niche's favorite places for Fleur de Lys peeping are:


· Ceiling of La Sainte-Chapelle

10, blvd du Palais, 75001


· The Hôtel National des Invalides - Musée de l'Armée

129, rue de Grenelle, 75007


· Musée Carnavalet

23, rue de Sévigné, 75003


· Musée du Louvre

rue de Rivoli, 75001


· Literally anywhere you look in Versailles. Anywhere!



Let's pose a playful question P'Nichers... - where do you peep for Fleur de Lys in Paris? Where have you see the best ones? Sound off in the comments below et à bientôt!


P'Niche proudly wearing her fleur-de-lys during the World Cup. Allez Les Bleus!


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6 Comments


janet
Jul 30, 2022

Love this post et fleur de lys! ❤️ ⚜️ if I could count how many items with this much loved icon...beaucoup to say the least lol!

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chrissy
Aug 02, 2022
Replying to

Merci bien! Can't wait to share more fun stuff soon!! 😍

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Phyllis Cartwright
Phyllis Cartwright
Jul 29, 2022

This is absolutely a fantastic article Chrissy! Merci! Now please tell me where to get that shirt! ❤️

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chrissy
Jul 29, 2022
Replying to

merci and tee is from Zazzle (a few years back)!! 😍

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bobkolinski
Jul 29, 2022

Fascinating and thorough - merci !

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chrissy
Jul 29, 2022
Replying to

merci bob! :)

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