Nowadays, we expect that anyone rocking a bunch of flowers in their wardrobe is probably a hippie or an elementary-school-girl. But in medieval Europe, any man would have been proud to wear the flower known as the “fleur-de-lis,” since it was a symbol of royalty. “Fleur-de-lis” translates to “flower of the lily,” and the symbol is a stylized version of a lily or iris flower. An early variation of the symbol existed in Babylon and in Egypt where it was the sign of the asp. There are also reports that Roman nobles invented the symbol as a mark of fidelity. Other rumors state that flowers are pretty, so let’s all put some in our hair and go skipping to San Francisco, but those have yet to be confirmed.
The fleur-de-lis began its rise to popularity around the early Middle Ages when King Clovis I united all the Gaulish tribes to form the nation we now know as France. Many legends surround Clovis’s adoption of the lily symbol. One tale says that an angel presented him with a golden lily as a symbol of his purification upon his conversion to Christianity. Yet another account tells us that water lilies showed Clovis how to safely cross a river that enabled him to win an important battle. Or perhaps Clovis simply had dreamt of becoming a florist as a young boy before his overbearing father pushed him into a career as royalty. Whatever the case, Clovis’s descents kept the fleur-de-lis as the insignia of the kings of the new France.
The fleur-de-lis appeared on Philip I and Louis VII’s royal seals and is also widely associated with King Charlemagne who supposedly received a blue banner with golden fleurs-de-lis from the Pope at his coronation. This flower revealed its controversial side when English King Edward III used the lilies in the first quarter of his coat of arms, symbolizing his claim to the French throne. With this jab at the French royals, the fleur-de-lis spread into use throughout Europe as a symbol of royalty.
But what’s a flower without a lady’s touch? And history shows the fleur-de-lis has just that… In medieval England, noblewomen’s seals often featured the lady with a fleur-de-lis. Not to mention that Joan of Arc’s banner as she went into battle featured this lily, and it became an emblem for the Virgin Mary throughout the Roman Catholic Church. So whether you’re a noble lady, a warring heroine, or a woman of purity, the fleur-de-lis will capture the beauty and noble heart that represents you!
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