Royal Fleur-de-Lis

Native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, the iris has been considered a symbol of power and strength throughout the ages. This multi-coloured flower was named after Iris, the Greek goddess of the beautiful many-shaded rainbow. One duty of the goddess Iris was to lead the souls of dead women to the Elysian Fields, which is why this flower was often planted specifically on women’s graves. Throughout the centuries, the iris was placed on the sceptres of kings and rulers because the three large petals of the flower symbolise faith, wisdom, and valour.

The popular French term fleur-de-lis refers to a stylised flower design, common to all eras and many cultures. Ornamentation resembling this symbol is found on Mesopotamian cylinders and in ancient Egyptian art and depicted on Mycenean pottery, on coins from ancient Gaul, and in Indonesian and Japanese designs. It is also represented in heraldic emblems, appearing on many European coats of arms and flags.

The fleur-de-lis is particularly linked with the French monarchy. The term fleur-de-lis is a corruption of Fleur-de-Löys, and Löys is how French kings, from King Louis I in the ninth century right up to King Louis XII in the sixteenth century, signed their names. The Fleur-de-Löys was the common purple iris, and not the white lily, as the fleur-de-lis has falsely been referred to in the past. According to historic tradition, when Louis VII, King of France (1121–1180) was setting out on his crusade to the Holy Land, he chose the purple iris as his heraldic emblem. From then onwards, the flower became known as the Flower of Louis, or the Fleur-de-Löys, which in later times degenerated to fleur-de-lis. But not until the reign of Charles IV (1294–1328) did the iris officially adorn all banners of France. 

However, the iris featured in French historical lore long before the thirteenth century. Legend has it that when King Clovis I of the Franks defeated the Alemanni in 496 CE in the Battle of Tolbiac, his victorious soldiers crowned themselves with hundreds of irises blooming near the battlefield.


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