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. It may be “at one and the same time, religious, political, dynastic, artistic, emblematic, and symbolic”.
The design can be found in many places long before heraldic times, as far back as Mesopotamia. It is essentially a stylized flower, and served as a decorative element and became associated over time with royalty, especially in the High Middle Ages.
As a heraldic charge, it dates from the 12th c. It is first adopted by the French king Philippe II (1180-1214) with certainty, perhaps already by his father Louis VII (1137-80).
The fleur-de-lys, as emblem (as opposed to heraldic charge) appears on coins and seals from the 10th c. at least. Typically, it forms the end of a scepter, or decorates the rim of a crown, or is held, over-sized, by the king along with a scepter. So there is, by the 11th-12th c., a strong association with royal sovereignty. In fact, coins of the Emperor Frederic I show him holding such a scepter.
While the fleur-de-lis has appeared on countless European coats of arms and flags over the centuries, it is particularly associated with French monarchy.
Fleurs-de-lis crossed the Atlantic along with Europeans going to the New World, especially with French settlers. 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.
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, Louisville, Detroit, Mobile, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. On 9 July 2008, a bill was signed into law making the fleur-de-lis an official symbol of the state of Louisiana. Following Hurricane Katrina, the fleur-de-lis has been widely used in New Orleans as a symbol of grassroots support for New Orleans’ recovery.
This is a second hand item.