The fleur de lis is a popular floral symbol that epitomizes French romance and history. Unfamiliar with the term? Don’t worry, you’ve definitely seen it before. The fleur de lis appears on wallpaper, family crests, in jewelry, churches, and even football helmets (go New Orleans Saints!) The symbol has three lily petals wrapped with a band in the center. This sacred ancient symbol is an embellishment of universal affection, but what does fleur de lis mean?
Translated from French, fleur de lis means “flower of the lily.” No one knows for sure when this symbol first appeared. It’s mostly associated with France, but it’s also appeared in India, Rome, Egypt, Babylon, and probably on lots of iron gates in your city.
Religious groups and military forces even gravitate toward this endearing symbol, dating as far back as the Middle Ages. So how did this symbol go from Middle Age kings to a decorative ornament? Like many symbols, its symbolism is woven through multiple meanings over time.
Read on as we go over the many meanings of the symbolic fleur de lis flower and uncover what it stands for today.
You might’ve guessed by the name, but the fleur de lis flower is deeply embedded into the French monarchy. This connection is rooted in the baptism of King Clovis I, often considered France’s founder, after he converted from Paganism to Christianity.
Clovis was baptized in 508. Yep, you read that right; France goes way back. There are two different legends that tie the fleur de lis to this occasion.
One says that Clovis received a golden lily at his baptism made from the tears of the Biblical Mary or Eve. This tied the fleur de lis to purity, as baptisms represent a rebirth.
The second legend follows that, when Clovis was a general, water lilies formed a path over an impossible river. This allowed him and his troops to cross it and win the battle. The fleur de lis hidden meaning here symbolizes life and light rather than purity.
Not only did Clover’s baptism connect the fleur de lis to France, but also the monarchy to the church. In 800, Pope Leo III even crowned Charlemagne (AKA: Charles the Great) as emperor with a crown made of four fleur de lis plates. This act cemented France, the church, and the fleur de lis together for the next few centuries.
Famous depictions of the fleur de lis flower after this include Joan of Arc’s banner, King Louis VI’s shield, and St. Peter’s basilica. It served as an emblem of French pride and esteem until the late 1700s.
The meaning in France shifted during the French Revolution when the monarchy was… well, not popular and ultimately overthrown. The fleur de lis became less common because the rebels saw it as a symbol of royal tyranny.
While the monarchy might not have been trending with the people, Roman Catholicism still thrived. In fact, the fleur de lis has an equally rich religious history.
The church’s influence was not only political in the Roman Empire, and neither was the fleur de lis. Christians from all over associated the symbol with purity and devotion. The fleur de lis came to reference three ideas in Christianity, depending on the time period and group: the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and the Holy Trinity.
As you can see, even the fleur de lis religious meanings vary. You might see it adorning the Pope’s ring, for instance. But what about your own jewelry collection?
In jewelry, the fleur de lis is used for both men and women in different designs. Some designs put the symbol front and center, while others feature it among gemstones, like pearl or turquoise.
Many jewelers honor the design's New Orleans history by pairing it with nautical elements or agate, giving it a historic or vintage appeal.
Vintage fleur de lis jewelry designs generally use metals like copper, brass, or blackened silver. All of these can give a piece an antique feel with depth and character. If you’re looking for an authentic period piece or collectible, you’ll find fleur de lis on items like earrings, brooches, charms, and lockets.
One benefit of vintage jewelry is versatility. Men and women can both feel confident in pieces like a brass fleur de lis pendant—with the symbol by itself or raised on a metal backing. You can even swap the cable chain with a leather cord for a rustic, natural vibe.
Looking for something a touch more elegant? Nothing says elegance quite like an engagement ring. After all, the fleur de lis is a monarch staple.
Who doesn’t want to feel like royalty on their big day? Why not do as the royals do and consider wearing a fleur de lis wedding ring? Having your stone in a fleur de lis setting or adding it as a motif on the sides can make it unique. But don’t forget about the men!
Male wedding bands can have one main fleur de lis or a pattern of them encircling the band. You might add a nautical rope detail—or just skip the ring altogether. A pair of black and gold fleur de lis cufflinks will look equally suave. A suit or tux with fleur de lis cufflinks may just make him feel like a prince.
Despite its many meanings, the fleur de lis prevails all over the world. Once a Pagan symbol, it was adopted by Christianity and monarchies as a message of reverence for God. From New Orleans freedom to the sports arena, the Pope and home decor, the fleur de lis is quite possibly the most universal symbol around. It’s no surprise then, that fleur de lis jewelry is so popular!
This one symbol can represent a myriad of meanings; everlasting love, purity, resilience, freedom, and faith. Wearing fleur de lis jewelry means you’re taking part in a centuries-old tradition steeped in legend and symbolism. And who wouldn’t want to flaunt that?
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