No one is entirely sure where the fleur de lis came from or what exactly it’s depicting. Most people don’t care since its source doesn’t change its graphical attraction. As it’s a symmetrical symbol with smooth undulations and sharp points, it probably appeals to subconscience ideals of good aesthetics, which might explain it’s popularity.
Most people readily associate the fleur de lis with France. This originates with a medieval French king named Clovis I who, after converting to Christianity, adopted the symbol in reference to the lily, the flower of the Virgin Mary. Since then, the fleur de lis has been present on all French royal heraldry. As the French aristocracy expanded and nobels married into other families across Europe, they brought the fleur with them. It’s quite possible that each country has at least one occurance of the fleur de lis in its heraldry.
Although the height of it’s usage was in medieval Europe, it remains to be a very popular symbol today. The breadth of usage and application include architecture motifs, textiles, furnishings, apparel, and domestic hardware. Because of its ability to be altered in shape and scale without losing its basic appearance, many styles have been able to adapt it and apply it as a decorative element.
Although it is traditionally a religious symbol, the fleur de lis’s origins are pre-Christianity, with instances occuring in ancient Egypt. The most visible uses of the fleur de lis in modern-day North America are probably the flag of Quebec and the symbol for the Boy Scouts of America. Based on the name, people most associate the fleur de lis with the lily. However it could also be a graphical interpretation of the iris or the lotus. Regardless of all this background, the fleur de lis has a great deal of fans, people who have no affiliations with any of the formal uses but like it just because they do.
I am not French, a Boy Scout, an eighteen century criminal, a member of the Priory of Sion, a prostitute or any other possible association, but I love the fleur de lis. I am attracted to its history and its ability to be used in architecture or illuminated literature. It can be fashioned out of rigid stone and metal or applied to something as fluid as fabric. If I had the money, I would probably have fleur de lis on everything I own. As it is, I have one tattooed on my ankle and have hooks, pillows, clothing, jewelry and a number of random things with fleurs on them. Learn more about the fleur de lis at:
- wikipedia article about fluer de lis
- website about heraldry
- another website about heraldry
- The North American Lily Society
- Gardening with Lilies
- The American Iris Society