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Good article on the the FLEUR-DE-LIS ....


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What with the Expos moving and the Saints "playing football" (and I use that term loosely), I thought I might share an article that the local paper printed yesterday on the history and use of the Fleur-de-Lis.

I had always understood the literal translation to be "flower of light"--isn't that right-- Frenchie? Anyone else?

Also, the Expos and the Saints weren't the only pro teams to use the emblem. Older board readers may remember the fleur de lis border on the bottom of the Quebec Nordiques jerseys. Also, the old AL St. Louis Browns for some years had a fleur-de-lis on their cap.

The article is below. The direct link to the article is:



The fleur-de-lis has been around for thousands of years, but in this country, it is most immediately associated with New Orleans. Everything from our football team to our garbage cans sports the flowery symbol. But what does it mean, and where did it come from?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Story and photos by Michael DeMocker

Staff photographer

You can't fling a beignet around this town, it seems, without hitting a fleur-de-lis.

The omnipresent floral symbol has represented for us everything from French royalty to football futility (and, ever so rarely, success). It decorates our City Hall, and our garbage cans.

You can buy fleur-de-lis diamond earrings and fleur-de-lis dog biscuits. You can wear one around your neck, or on your helmet, or you can sport one on the tail fin of your F-15 fighter, as do members of the "Bayou Militia," the Louisiana Air National Guard's 159th Fighter Wing out of Belle Chasse.

It wasn't always so. After the French Revolution of 1789, men caught wearing the fleur-de-lis, symbol of the overthrown royalty, could be sent to the guillotine. Even carrying a book of poetry adorned with the symbol could lead to charges of Royalist sympathies.

Today, fortunately, the symbol can be worn without fear of execution. But where did it come from?

All kinds of experts will tell you they know, and they'll give you the answers. The problem is, the answers are different, depending on whom you ask.

For example, lots of folks are sure the fleur-de-lis represents a lily. Not true, others say. In fact, it represents an iris. On the other hand, irises were considered to be just another kind of lily until sometime in the 1800s. So maybe it is a lily. Or was. Or something.

As for how it got here, well, there's some disagreement about that too.

One story has Robert Cavalier de la Salle, on April 9, 1682, erecting a plaque with a fleur-de-lis near the mouth of the Mississippi River, claiming all of this land for the French king.

However, no definitive evidence of this actually occurring has ever been found, according to Kenneth Owen, head of the Louisiana Collection: Special Collections at Tulane University Library.

Others speculate that the symbol came down from Canada with New Orleans founder Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville in late 1600s. But Owen believes that it came to New Orleans even earlier through Biloxi, which was once the French capital of the region. Still, it seems, no one is exactly sure.

The name "fleur-de-lis" or "fleur-de-lys" has been anglicized to mean "lily flower" but in reality is more often associated in legend and appearance with the golden iris. So one theory is that the name came from the river Lys in France where the golden iris still grows today.

Another hypothesis is that the term is a form of "Louis." The French kings of that name signed themselves as "Loi's" or "Loys" right up through the time of Louis XIII (1610-43).

However, the association of the fleur-de-lis with the French monarchy is based in two legends associated with a monarch of another name, King Clovis I, Merovingian king of the Franks.

One story holds that an angel presented Clovis with a golden lily upon his baptism, in the year 496. The other recounts his attempt, en route to a battle, to cross a river whose banks were abundant with wild yellow iris. While searching in vain for a crossing, his troops scared a deer, which crossed the river at a safe spot. Taking this as a divine sign, Clovis picked a flower and put it in his helmet as a symbol of his impending victory.

Thus has the fleur-de-lis often been perceived as having religious significance. It is associated with Christianity, especially with the Virgin Mary, owing to a belief that it represents purity. And the fleur-de-lis, like other tripartite designs such as the shamrock, has long been considered by Christians to be symbolic of the Holy Trinity.

Sometime after King Clovis, the fleur-de-lis became formally associated with French royalty when, in 1060, the seal of Philip I included a staff topped with a fleur-de-lis. Subsequent kings of France also employed the symbol on seals and signet rings, but it was Louis VII who is widely believed to employ the fleur-de-lis in the "France Ancient" design on the French Royal Standard.

Today, other cities around the world identify themselves with the fleur-de-lis, including Florence, Italy; Augsburg, Germany; Lasko, Slovenia; and the Canadian province of Quebec.

But in the United States, the fleur-de-lis is immediately associated with New Orleans.

In large measure, we can thank the Saints. The team helped export the fleur-de-lis to the nation and the world when it adopted the symbol for its players' helmets in 1967.

When Joe Namath made fun of the fleur-de-lis during a nationally televised game against the Raiders in 1988, calling it a "spear" and terming players who wear flowers on their helmets "sissies," he and NBC were rebuked by fans and legislators alike, who took great offense at what was called then by Rep. Raymond Laborde of Marksville "an insult to Louisiana and French culture."

Namath apologized, and the nation learned not to disrespect our flowery heritage.

The popularity of the design is not restricted to New Orleans; there are more than 800 "fleur-de-lis" items for sale on eBay, including salt spoons, glass toothpick holders, cookie cutters, dog collars, birdhouses and cheese spreaders.

Closer to home, Erik Clemmer, manager of Crescent City Tattoo Company on Magazine Street, says the fleur-de-lis has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years as a popular tattoo. His shop does at least one a week. And he noticed that immediately after Sept. 11, New Orleanians were at least as inclined to get a fleur-de-lis tattoo as a statement of patriotism and pride as they were to get an American flag.

For the city, it has always been so. Recently, New Orleans' official logo was redesigned, and during the process, officials considered all kinds of possibilities, said Matt Konigsmark, director of marketing for the city.

"We were looking for something emblematic of the city, our history, our culture, and our heritage," Konigsmark said. "We looked at a number of different things, but we kept returning to the fleur-de-lis.

"It's such a well-known symbol here. It shows our ties to France. But it's also a metaphor for rebirth."

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Excellent article.

As a Frenchspoken Swiss like me, I may tell you that this article is very accurate.

I add some thing there: if your family has a genealogical shield of arms with fleurs de lis, that means you have ancestors who were of the French monarchy.

If yes, you have the right to take a necklace with a golden fleur de lis.

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