; ) is a stylized lily
, and lis
) or iris
that is used as
a decorative design
. It may be "at one and the same time,
, artistic, emblematic
, and symbolic", especially in heraldry
. It is represented in Unicode
at U+269C (⚜) in the Miscellaneous Symbols
While the fleur-de-lis has appeared on countless European coats of arms
and flags over the centuries, it is particularly associated with
the French monarchy
historical context, and continues to appear in the arms of the
King of Spain
and the Grand Duke of Luxembourg
members of the House of Bourbon
an enduring symbol of France that appears
on French postage stamps, although it has never been adopted
officially by any of the French
republics. In North
America, the fleur-de-lis is often associated with areas
formerly settled by France, such as Quebec and Louisiana, and with French-speaking
people in other Canadian
It is also
the emblem of the city of Florence, and of the
Herzegovina, the flag
of Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1992 to 1998 contained six
fleurs-de-lis and is used as a national symbol of Bosniaks.
Kingdom, a fleur-de-lis has appeared in the official arms
of the Norroy King of
Arms for hundreds of years.
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
Fleurs-de-lis appear on military insignia and the logos
of many organizations. During the 20th century
the symbol was adopted by various Scouting
organizations worldwide for their badges
Architects and designers use it alone and as a repeated motif
in a wide range of contexts, from
to bookbinding, especially where a
French context is implied. As a religious symbol it may represent
, or be an iconographic
attribute of the archangel Gabriel
, notably in representations of the Annunciation
. In such contexts, the
fleur-de-lis is associated with the Virgin Mary
is also often used on a compass rose to
mark the north direction, a tradition started
by Flavio Gioja, a Neapolitan mariner of the fourteenth century.
, fleur de lis
literally means "lily flower". It is widely thought to be a
stylized version of the species Iris pseudacorus
. Decorative ornaments
that resemble the
fleur-de-lis have appeared in artwork from the earliest human
The use for ornamental or symbolic purposes of the
stylised flower usually called fleur de lis is common to all eras
and all civilizations. It is an essentially graphic theme found on
Mesopotamian cylinders, Egyptian bas-relief, Mycenean pottery, Sassanid
textiles, Gaulish and Mameluk coins, Indonesian clothes, Japanese emblems, and Dogon
totems. The many writers who have discussed the topic agree
that it has little resemblance to the lily, but they disagree as to
whether it derives from the iris, the broom, the lotus,
or the furze; others believe it represents a
trident, an arrowhead, a double axe, or
even a dove or a pigeon. It is in our opinion a problem of little
importance. The essential point is that it is a very stylised
figure, probably a flower, that has been used as an ornament or an
emblem by almost all civilizations of the old and new worlds.
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. 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.
Fleur-De-Lis is also the name of a small
village in the South Wales Valleys. There, Fleur-De-Lis is known as "The Flower
of the Valley".
King Clovis I
By the 12th century the fleur-de-lis had become the heraldic emblem
of the Capetian kings of France,
whose court propaganda traced the first adoption of the
fleur-de-lis to the conversion of the Frankish King Clovis I
in 493. The story takes various forms, many of which relate to
Clovis' conversion, and support the claim of the anointed Kings of France that their authority came
directly from God, without the mediation of
either the Emperor or the Pope.
Anne Lombard-Jourdan traces the fleur-de-lis to a transformation of
the Merovingian crista, represented on their coinage,
which had the form of a Greek cross with the
horizonals curved upwards on either side. Though
Lombard-Jourdan associates the emblem with a Romano-Gallic
sanctuary Christianized as the
Saint-Denis in a seamless continuity, most scholars would
hesitate to pursue the sign so far.
Some versions of the legend enhance the mystique of royalty by
describing a vial of oil sent from heaven to anoint and sanctify
Clovis at his coronation, perhaps brought by a dove to Saint Remigius. Another variation says a lily
appeared at Clovis' baptismal ceremony as a gift of blessing from
an apparition of the Blessed Virgin
Mary, who is often associated with the flower.
Clovis' Burgundian wife, Clotilde, later to
be Saint Clothilda, is usually significant in these stories. As
well as her part in encouraging her husband to become a Christian,
her presence helps emphasise the importance of Burgundy's support for the monarch.
A story which places less emphasis on Christianity and the divine right of the French kings tells
of Clovis putting a flower in his helmet just before his victory at
the Battle of Vouillé,
leading him to choose the fleur-de-lis as a royal symbol.
From Frankish to French kings
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
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.
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 scepticism started in the 17th century and
modern scholarship has established that the fleur-de-lis was a
religious symbol before it was a true heraldic symbol. 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. Louis VII ordered the use of fleur-de-lis
clothing in his son Philip's
coronation in 1179, 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". Until the late 14th century the French royal coat of
arms was Azure semé-de-lys Or (a blue shield "seeded"
(semé) with 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.
These two coats are known in heraldic jargon
as France Ancient and France Modern
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. During the next century, the 14th, the
tradition of Trinity symbolism was established in France, and then
In 1328, King Edward III of
England inherited a claim to the crown of France, and about
1340 he accordingly quartered
France Ancient with the arms of the Kingdom of
England. After the kings of France adopted France
Modern, the kings of England imitated them from about 1411.
monarchs of England (and later of Great
Britain) continued to quarter the French arms until 1801,
when George III
abandoned his formal claim to the French
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.
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. 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 would agree only on
condition that the French give up the tricolor and bring back the
white flag with fleurs-de-lis. His condition was rejected and
France became a republic.
France Modern was also on the coat
of arms of the old French province of Île-de-France (for instance, as a badge on the uniforms of the
Other European monarchs and rulers
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.
Fleur-de-lis on an old concrete
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.
The treasured fleur-de-luce he claims
To wreathe his shield, since royal James
- –Sir Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last
Florentine fleurs-de-lis, the stamens
are always posed between the petals.
This heraldic charge is often known as the Florentine lily to
distinguish it from the conventional design. As an emblem of the
city, it is therefore found in icons of the bishop Zenobius. The currency of Florence, the
fiorino, was decorated with
it, and it influenced the appearance and name of the Hungarian forint and other florins. Elsewhere in Italy, fleurs-de-lis have been
used for some papal crowns and coats of
arms, Farnese Dukes of Parma, and by some doges of Venice.
The fleur-de-lis was also the symbol of the House of Kotromanić, a ruling house
Bosnia allegedly in recognition of the Angevin, where the flower is thought of as a
Lilium bosniacum. It was used on the
Herzegovina flag between 1992 and 1998. Today,
fleur-de-lis is a national symbol of Bosniaks, one of three Bosnian constitutive ethnic
groups, the other two being Serbs and Croats.
countries using the emblem heraldically include Serbia and Spain in
recognition of the Bourbons.
heraldic fleur-de-lis is widespread: among the numerous cities
which use it as a symbol are some whose names echo the word 'lily',
for example, Liljendal, Finland. This is called canting arms in heraldic terminology. 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.
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.
fleur-de-lis appears on the flags of Quebec and Nova Scotia in Canada, and south of the border on that of
Detroit (originally a French name, though at present
pronounced quite differently), New Orleans, and elsewhere. The Acadiana region and various cities in southern
Louisiana, such as Lafayette, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, also use the fleur-de-lis. On 9 July 2008,
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal signed
a bill into law making the fleur-de-lis an official symbol of the
state. Following Hurricane
Katrina, the fleur-de-lis has been widely used in New Orleans
as a symbol of grassroots support for New Orleans' recovery.
also used in several places whose name came from one of the French
King Louis: amongst them, the Flag of Louisville, Kentucky
and of St. Louis,
Missouri, where the three-petalled symbol also denotes the
convergence of the Mississippi,
Missouri and Illinois
Coats of arms and flags
Symbolism in religion and art
In the Middle Ages the symbols of lily
and fleur-de-lis (lis is French for "lily") overlapped
considerably in 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
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". 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
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". 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
The three petals of the heraldic design reflect a widespread
association with the Holy Trinity, a tradition going back to 14th
century France, added onto the earlier belief that they also
represented faith, wisdom and chivalry.
"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.
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, or 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
- Also see North
America section above.
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".
Fleurs-de-lis feature on military badges
like those of the Israeli
Intelligence Corps, the First World
Expeditionary Force, the 256th
Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the Corps of Cadets at
State University. They may be chosen for sports teams,
especially when it echoes a local flag, as with the former Quebec Nordiques National Hockey League team and the
former Montreal Expos Major League Baseball team, the
Fiorentina association football team, the New Orleans Saints American football team and the New Orleans Hornets basketball team, and in coats of arms and logos
for universities (like the University of Louisiana at
Lafayette and Saint Louis University and Washington University in Missouri), schools (in St. Peter,
Minnesota) and companies (like the Royal
Elastics shoe company). The Madison Scouts Drum and
Bugle Corps have a fleur-de-lis as their official logo, with
members and past members sporting signature fleur-de-lis tattoos.
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
Gamma, the American men's fraternities Alpha Epsilon Pi and Sigma Alpha Epsilon 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. Marc-André Fleury, a Canadian
ice hockey goaltender, has a fleur-de-lis logo on his
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. 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
The emblem of the Chevrolet
Corvette also includes the fleur-de-lis.
The current UFC Welterweight Champion, Georges St. Pierre, has a tattoo of the
fleur-de-lis on his right calf.
In the "Warhammer 40,000" universe,
the Fleur-de-lis is the symbol of the "Sisters of Battle", often tattood on their
cheeks or present on their helmets and the shoulders of their
armor. In the video games "Saints Row"
and "Saints Row 2" the Fleur-de-lis is
the symbol of the Third Street Saints street gang.
The symbol is also a motif in the "Kingdom Hearts" series, appearing
inverted as a part of the Heartless emblem and
stylized as part of the Nobody emblem.
Symbol of Scouting
The fleur-de-lis is the main element in the logo of most Scouting
organizations, representing a major theme in Scouting: the outdoors
and wilderness. The World Scout
Emblem of the World Organization of
the Scout Movement, has elements of which are used by most
national Scout organizations. The symbol was chosen by Robert
Baden-Powell as it had been the arm-badge of those soldiers
qualified as "Scouts" (reconnaissance specialists) when BP served
in the British Army. The classical
description of this shape in Scouting literature connects the
compass rose with the purpose of Scouting's principles—namely that
Scouting gives one's life direction.
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 the fleur-de-lis
character in The
Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor
Hugo, and the reference in Dumas' The Three Musketeers to the old
custom of branding a criminal with
the sign. (Fleurdeliser in French). 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, 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.
- The lilly, Ladie of the flowring field,
- The Flowre-deluce, her louely Paramoure
- :Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, 1590
- In the movie L.A. Confidential (1997),
"Fleur-de-Lys" is the name of an underground service employing
call-girls altered by plastic surgery to look like movie
- In The Da Vinci Code
the fleur-de-lis appears as a one of a series of clues that leads
to discovery of the supposed Holy
- In the movie The Three Musketeers
(1993), a traitor's hand is branded with a fleur-de-lis.