The English translation of "fleur-de-lis"
(sometimes spelled "fleur-de-lys") is "flower of the lily." This symbol,
depicting a stylized lily or lotus flower, has many meanings. Traditionally, it
has been used to represent French royalty, and in that sense it is said to
signify perfection, light, and life. Legend has it that an angel presented
Clovis, the Merovingian king of the Franks, with a golden lily as a symbol of
his purification upon his conversion to Christianity. Others claim that Clovis
adopted the symbol when waterlilies showed him how to safely cross a river and
thus succeed in battle.
In the twelfth century, either King Louis VI
or King Louis VII (sources disagree) became the first French monarch to use the
fleur-de-lis on his shield. English kings later used the symbol on their coats
of arms to emphasize their claims to the throne of France. In the 14th century,
the fleur-de-lis was often incorporated into the family insignia that was sewn
on the knight's surcoat, which was worn over their coat of mail, thus the term,
"coat of arms." The original purpose of identification in battle developed into
a system of social status designations after 1483 when King Edmund IV
established the Heralds' College to supervise the granting of armor
Religion and War
- Joan of Arc carried a white banner that showed God blessing the
French royal emblem, the fleur-de-lis, when she led French troops to victory
over the English in support of the Dauphin, Charles VII, in his quest for the
- The Roman Catholic Church ascribed the lily as the special
emblem of the Virgin Mary.
- Due to its three "petals," the fleur-de-lis has also been used
to represent the Holy Trinity.
- Military units, including divisions of the United States Army,
have used the symbol's resemblance to a spearhead to identify martial power and