Flower Power

Once upon a time, many centuries ago, a symbol was born that has stood the test of time.  This decorative symbol has sprung up on numerous European coats of arms and flags, as well as being prominent with the French monarchy.  It can also be spotted on the arms of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, the King of Spain, and members of the House of Bourbon.  This emblem is also known to bear religious, political, and artistic representation.  Needless to say, this little symbol carries a great deal of significance. “What is this mysterious icon?” you may ask.  Well, it is none other than the stylized lily, fleur-de-lis (In French, “fleur” means “flower” and “lis” means “lily”).

Fleur de Lis Dress:

Fleur de Lis Dress

The fleur-de-lis got its claim to fame in the 12th century from either King Louis VI or King Louis VII, who was the first French monarch to showcase the emblem on his shield.  English kings later used the symbol on their coat of arms to emphasize their claim to the French throne.  In the 14th century, knights took up the trend of swing the flower on the surcoat to represent family insignia as a form of identification in battle.  As a result of this use, the fleur-de-lis soon developed into a symbol of social status during this time.

In addition to being a staple of cities in France, the fleur-de-lis has emerged in other countries as well.  For example, in Florence, Italy, the flower is a city emblem that is spotted on icons of the Bishop Zenobius.  The florin, the city’s currency, was also decorated with it and this symbol was adopted by other Italian cities.  Other displays of the fleur-de-lis surface on the flag of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Finland, in Switzerland, on military insignia, and as logos for many organizations worldwide.  Architects and designers tend to use it too, especially when inferring a French context.

Fleur de Lis Dress for Children:

Fleur de Lis Dress for Children

On top of signifying royalty and cities, fleur-de-lis has been used as religious symbols.  Dating back to the Middle Ages, this lily was found in Christian art.  They were seen in depictions of Jesus until around 1300 when they shifted to association with Song of Solomon’s “lily among thorns”, understood to be a reference to Mary.  This interpretation was supported by religious writings and scripture, in which the lily stood for chastity and purity, thus becoming an iconographic attribute of the virgin.  The flower also was interpreted to stand for the Holy Trinity.

While the fleur-de-lis is merely a small icon, it goes to show that size doesn’t matter in every instance.  The smallest things are sometimes those that hold the greatest power and have the biggest effect.  To see our fleur-de-lis apparel and other decorative designs, take a gander at:  http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/

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