The (true) Meaning of the Fleur de Lys symbol

In this article, we are going to take a journey into the exciting world of symbols. We are about to examine in detail one of the most popular emblems in all of French and more broadly European history: the lily.

Its history, its origins, its meaning, its various uses, its religious importance: here, you will learn everything you always wanted to know about the symbol of the fleur-de-lys.

Contents :

Description of the symbol

Meaning of the lucky lily flower

History of France: the royal fleur-de-lys

Use of the fleur-de-lis in a post-monarchist world

Bonus: 9 fun facts about the fleur-de-lis

Discover this article in video format

Red and gold wallpaper decorated with fleur-de-lis patterns.

Description of the symbol

The lily has been used in heraldry (the art of creating flags) and ornamentation for centuries. It represents, as its name indicates, a stylized lily... although some historians claim that it rather represents a wild iris, more precisely the species called "iris pseudacorus".

From a more geometric perspective, the pattern consists of an inverted teardrop surrounded by two outwardly curved C-like shapes, with a relatively small horizontal line at the bottom that appears to "tie" them all together in vertical symmetry all harmonious.

This notion of symmetry is found, for example, in our fleur-de-lys signet ring that you will find here.

In addition, it is true that this shape could also be similar to that of a crown.

Like many ancient symbols, the lily is often found in combinations of black and white. However, it is not uncommon to find it in sometimes very colorful tones.

For example, as the coat of arms of the kings of France, the lily will often be sewn with gold thread on a blue background. Specialists often speak of “ azure sown with golden lilies ” to describe the royal coat of arms.

Let us clarify it for intellectual honesty, although the general belief is that our emblem represents a flower, some specialists affirm that it represents two half lightning bolts drawn in a very stylized manner. This is clearly not our point of view on the matter, but this opinion nevertheless has the merit of existing.

In short, the lily has been associated with French royalty for a very long time and, as such, is seen as a nobility symbol of formal and moral perfection.

However, over time, the use of this symbol has spread well beyond the borders of France. But before we move on to discuss its ubiquity in ancient and modern art, fashion, architecture and more, let's take a closer look at the different meanings the lily can take on.

An ancient Frank with the figure of Marianne, a signet ring with the cross of Lorraine and a flag of medieval France

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Meaning of the lucky lily flower

The exact origins of the lily are not known and as such cannot be claimed by any group or country. It is so ubiquitous that it is almost impossible for specialists to pinpoint the region from which it originated.

Regardless of the eras and cultures that have used it, this symbol has always had certain values ​​linked to it. In fact, the lily itself represents life, enlightenment and excellence (three things which, admittedly, are often associated with the kings of France and monarchy in general).

Despite a common basis, this flower has however been used throughout history for sometimes very different reasons. Sometimes symbolizing courage and perfection, some have chosen to associate it with war and military power.

In other words, the meaning of the fleur-de-lys is subject to debate and lends itself readily to several interpretations, sometimes very personal.

In the end, whatever meaning you want to give it, this royal flower, by the simplicity of the messages it carries, should undoubtedly please you as long as you love France.

Statue in the middle of a cathedral which represents the baptism of Clovis.

The baptism of Clovis, kings of the Franks

Some historians and specialists in the history of France claim that the symbol of the fleur-de-lys as we know it today appeared for the first time above the scepter of our kings, around fifteen hundred years ago. years.

To assert this, they base themselves on a legend linked to a founding event of the French nation: the baptism of Clovis.

We are told that, while Clovis, the Merovingian king of the Franks (466-511) converted to Christianity through this first act of baptism, he received a special gift sent directly from heaven.

This gift consisted of a golden lily then presented by an angel (some speak rather of an apparition of the Virgin Mary herself say that it was Mother Mary herself). All this aimed to celebrate this event synonymous with the purification of the human soul, and more broadly that of an entire people. This is the meaning of the royal fleur-de-lys that this legend offers us.

Wild lily that grew in the middle of a pond.

Help sent to the ancestors of France

In other versions, we are told that the flower was not a prize received by Clovis as a congratulation for his baptism, but rather that he invented it himself.

Concretely, some stories tell us how the warrior leader and his men had to cross a seemingly impassable river in order to join a battle and lend a hand to their allies. Clovis then had the brilliant idea of ​​making his army follow the path traced by the lilies : they could only grow where the river was shallow.

The men crossed safely, joined the fight (from which they of course emerged victorious) and, in doing so, saved the lands that would later come to France.

The meaning of the lucky fleur-de-lis would then be that of a nod to the story of a decisive battle and a glorious triumph.

Stone statue of the Virgin Mary.

A tribute to the Virgin Mary

The meaning of the fleur-de-lis occupies an important place in the world of religious symbols.

According to some, its three petals are supposed to represent the Holy Trinity so dear to the hearts of faithful Christians.

For others, and this is the majority point of view, the lily is neither more nor less than an emblem of the Virgin Mary herself. As such, she represents the purity, strength and power that reside in the eternal love of a mother for her children.

Despite a long tradition on this subject, it was not until around 800 AD that our famous flower was officially adopted by the Roman Catholic Church as a representation of the Virgin Mary. Subsequently, a whole bunch of European nobles, particularly French monarchs, began using this symbol because of its association with the Church.

For many, the meaning of the fleur-de-lys therefore carries a Catholic character... and therefore resolutely French!

Old-looking globe.

A planetary symbol: as many uses as there are meanings

Even the lily is eternally attached to France and its sovereigns, a whole bunch of other civilizations have used it at different times in history. In fact, we can find it in cultures all over the world (with, of course, different meanings and connotations).

The symbol chosen by France was therefore also used in Indian, Babylonian, Roman and Egyptian architecture, to name just a few. Additionally, it was found on the golden helmet of a Scythian king, as well as on the sword of Kanishka the Great, a well-known Indian emperor who ruled around 2000 years ago.

The study and analysis of the meaning of the fleur-de-lys cannot therefore ignore this universal character of a symbol that is nevertheless well associated with France.

Statue in the middle of a cathedral which represents the baptism of Clovis.

Live a righteous life

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History of France: the royal fleur-de-lys

As we have just said, the most famous use of our national flower is that... made of it by French royalty. It is not for nothing that even the English speak of “fleur-de-lys”. (It’s far from being the only word that our neighbors on the other side of the Channel have stolen from us!)

According to some sources, when Pope Leo III, in the year 800, crowned Charlemagne emperor, he presented him with a blue banner covered with golden fleurs-de-lis. This is a historical hypothesis which, for many researchers, is more of a legend than a proven fact.

It is undeniable that the kings of France have long used this flower as an emblem of their sovereignty. Understanding the meaning of the lily cannot of course be done without a parallel with the history of France...

On his seal of 1060, Philip I was already represented seated on his throne holding a small staff decorated at its top with a royal fleur-de-lys.

However, it would probably be King Louis VI who popularized the use of the emblem by including it in his personal wardrobes. Many lilies were then painted on his shield, after which it became customary for flowers to be sewn onto the overcoat (a loose robe worn over chain mail) of the knights who fought at his side.

Let us clarify: under his reign, the royal fleur-de-lis had no official character. It would be his successor, Louis VII, who made it happen.

A representation is indeed found in the great seal of King Louis VII, as well as on his signet ring. At the time, these two elements served as a sort of signature for a person. The official nature of the lily symbol has therefore not been set in stone.

The question arises whether Louis VII was not the French king most in love with the lily. In fact, he had it put literally everywhere. We can cite as examples his shield, his personal banner, and even the Oriflamme (the French royal standard, of which you will find a copy here ). It was notably during his reign that the expression that we cited earlier, “azure sown with golden lilies” would have been used for the first time.

The reduction of the symbol to three fleur-de-lis, today used to designate the monarchy, was decided by Charles V in 1376, in all likelihood in honor of the Holy Trinity.

Between the classical period and our modern era, the ways of representing the lily were largely influenced the taste of artists and patrons, to such an extent that the motifs and arabesques could sometimes reach the grotesque, particularly during what experts call the “decadence of heraldic art”

Once very present, the royal lily was subsequently pilloried by the republican revolutionaries. Indeed, it was unbearable for them that a royal symbol was associated with great virtues and moral values. The meaning of the lily did not suit them, they had to make the people forget what their kings were in the past.

Watercolor of a French village.

Use of the fleur-de-lis in a post-monarchist world

As stated in the previous point, the use of the symbol of the lily in French culture rather diminished following the French Revolution, due to its connection with the French monarchs. It was not to please a florist, but this bubble and stem plant declined in popularity.

The fact remains that even today, you can still easily find it almost all over the world.

Here is a list of some situations where you can come across the lucky lily:

  • The fleur-de-lis is prized in the fashion industry. Designer necklaces, earrings, bracelets and even cufflinks featuring this French symbol are popular with fashion lovers of all ages and backgrounds. If this speaks to you, why not take a look at the Franco-French lucky charms and accessories in this collection on our site ?
  • The lily is also a major decorative element in furniture making. In this regard, we can cite bed posts, storage chests, sideboards, etc.
  • Many people like to wear a tattoo including this symbol. For them, this is often a testimony of love towards their country.
  • It is also a dominant element of the logo of various organizations. We can also see it on the uniforms of a number of sports teams and the military.
  • Unsurprisingly, the lily also features in French literature, with books as well known as “The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas or “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”.

The lily symbol can be unisex, depending on the type of design it is used for. In reality, many designers appreciate it for its old, and therefore necessarily “vintage” character. When the works are designed in copper or oxidized silver for example, the exterior appearance can even appear aged and thus bring a completely traditional touch.

In short, you will easily find many versions of the symbol that interests us, ranging from simple shapes to more stylized patterns, and all carrying within them the meaning of the fleur-de-lys.

Open book containing historical information about the monarchy in France.

Bonus: 9 fun facts about the fleur-de-lis

Fleur-de-lis or fleur-de-lys: the spelling changes, the plant remains the same.

We have now clearly seen that there is a rich history behind our symbol. Over the centuries, a whole series of meanings with sometimes very different connotations have emerged, some of which can even make you smile.

In a bouquet, in a vase or from our florist friends: here are now 9 fun facts to discover about the lucky lily.

The banner of Joan of Arc

When she led the French troops to victory, Joan of Arc carried a white banner decorated with the emblem of the kings of her time: the fleur-de-lys. The goal was to show, through this symbol so dear to the people and the Church, that God was on France's side.

By defeating the English on numerous occasions, Joan of Arc played an essential role in the recovery of her throne by the Dauphin of France, Charles VII. For many, it was a divine blessing that allowed France to survive and even achieve greatness.

Stolen by perfidious Albion!

It was during the 12th century that, for the first time, a French monarch used the symbol of the royal fleur-de-lys on his shield. Later, the English kings also included it in their coats of arms to underline their claims to the throne of France.

Seeing its foliage blooming in the enemy's gardens was in any case a terrible affront for France. After all: the most beautiful women are French... and the most beautiful flowers too!

The pearl wedding flower

Maybe you didn't know it, but the thirtieth wedding anniversary is called the “pearl wedding anniversary”. However, it is the lily that is in the spotlight for the occasion. In the form of flowers or jewelry, it is customary to offer them to the loved one of our heart.

Please note, however, that a bouquet of flowers will also carry a message of ephemerality, freshness and beauty.

For those born in May

The lily is also known as the birth flower of all those born in May. In the language of flowers, it represents purity, majesty and honor, values ​​which are often associated with this month of the calendar.

For the spring birthday of one of your friends, consider offering them some cut flowers, a symbol of purity and above all of your friendship.

A scout emblem

The lily is the main element of the logo of most scout organizations. It actually represents a major theme for the organization: the outdoors and wilderness. In addition, some sometimes draw a parallel to what we call the “triple scout commitment”.

As our little ones grow upright thanks to the values ​​of scouting, let's think about providing stakes and fertilizer to our bulbs to create powerful, straight stems.

On the flag of New Orleans and Quebec…

The fleur-de-lys appears on the flag of most French communities in America. For Quebec, the colors will be blue and blue. The New Orleans flag will add red.

It goes without saying that this is a nod to the French roots of these two regions. In particular, royalist Quebecers see it as a symbol of royalty and monarchy.

As it turns out, fragrant floral arrangements often have deep symbolism.

…but also many Italian cities…

The French are not the only ones to claim the use of lilies! The symbol also has significance in Italian culture.

For example, the city of Florence used it as an official emblem from the beginning of the 11th century (thus beating France by several decades).

In Florence, the lily is depicted in red and white, with two small stamens emerging from the heart of the flower.

…and the Spanish nation!

The Spanish flag contains the coat of arms of Spain, a reminder of the country's past and history. In the middle of these coats of arms is a whole bunch of elements that present us with the different historical kingdoms from which the Spanish nation was created.

Among these, one of the houses that ruled was none other than the Bourbon dynasty. If this no means something to you, it is not by chance: this is one of the families that reigned over France.

We therefore easily understand how our national emblem could find itself in the middle of the Spanish standard.

Use for defense

In construction and architecture circles, the lily is often used atop iron fence posts. More than a simple decoration, it is a defense against intrusions and a reminder of a certain military power.

Indeed, the symbol of the lucky fleur-de-lis has many points in common with the tip of the spears formerly used by soldiers.

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.