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French History of the Fleur de Lys: The Iris of Kings

By Margo Lestz

The fleur de lys is a stylized flower that has a long association with the kings of France. There are two spellings for this floral emblem – fleur de lis and fleur de lys. Both can be used to refer to the botanical lily flower or the symbol.

“Fleur de lys” literally means flower of the lily. This might lead you to think that the symbol represents a stylized lily. The only problem is that it doesn’t look like a lily flower… And that’s because it’s not. It’s really an iris: specifically a yellow iris that grows at the water’s edge.

…Continue reading here for the background on how a lily is not really a lily, but rather a golden iris from the Lys River. The river runs from Pas de Calais in northern France to Ghent, Belgium. The golden fleur de lys has been associated with French kings and royalty since the 12th century. However, the exact timing of the origins and appearance of the symbol on shields and in the coat of arms may have been as early as the fifth century.

Contributor blog post by: The Curious Rambler


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Margo Lestz

Margo Lestz

Margo is a British/American who has lived in Nice, France for the past nine years. She loves digging into the history of an area and discovering the tales behind local customs and traditions. She blogs about her discoveries on The Curious Rambler . She is also the author of two books, French Holidays & Traditions, and Curious Histories of Nice, France. Click here for Margo's books.

She describes herself as a perpetual student and is always taking some kind of course or researching a moment in history that has caught her fancy. She’s curious by nature and always wondering who, what, why, when, where, and how.

Margo shares her adventures (and her questions) with Jeff, her husband of many years. She enjoys travel, history, observing cultures and traditions – and then writing about them, of course.


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    February 19, 2019 at 9:11 am — Reply

    As I understand it, the letter s in the word lys would normally be silent and the word would sound like “lee.” But in this case it IS pronounced, making it sound like “leese,.” Why? Because “lee” means “bed” (lit). This means that the normal pronunciation of fleur de lys would sound the same as that of fleur de lit. And what’s the problem with that? Fleur de lit means “flower of the bed” or…illegitimate child.

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      February 21, 2019 at 2:16 pm — Reply

      Hello Keith what a fantastic bit of linguistic information! I had no idea why lys is pronounced the way it is. One of the so many exceptions to the rules as you discovered in [eafl id=”50362″ name=”One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence” text=”One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence”]

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    February 26, 2019 at 3:14 am — Reply

    Oh, interesting! I hadn’t heard that before! Thanks for that bit of info.

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      February 26, 2019 at 9:45 am — Reply

      Hello, Margo that might be a first with your ability to delve into all sort of curious and little known facts. Always, look forward to your Curious Ramblings.

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        February 27, 2019 at 10:47 am — Reply

        Hi Caroline,
        Haha! Well, no one can know everything… ;-)
        I’m getting settled into London life, but I’m sure I’ll be popping back over to France from time to time. Keep up the good work with Perfectly Provence.

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