A Peculiar Iris


The fleur de lis, as we know it today, would eventually find its place in the history books. The symbol re-emerged by the virtue of the French royal family. Its connection to the monarchy earned it a spot as an official icon. New, medieval myths surrounding the fleur de lis helped to exaggerate the divinity of the French royal bloodline. Because it added dramatic flair to the origin story of the monarchy, the Merovingians, it was adopted into French iconography. It was at this point in time that the fleur de lis got its modern name. But what of its meaning? The fleur de lis for the French symbolized power.

Although the flower symbol predates France, it is, however, most commonly associated with the ruling legends of that nation. As the early kings of Gual (modern day France), Childeric and Clovis, sought to establish themselves as divinely ordained to rule, it was understandable that they chose a symbolic image for what would later become a coat of arms. The kings decided upon the iris, a flower that was common in the hillsides of modern day France. And just as the Egyptians selected the lotus and papyrus as their heraldic plants, the kings of France chose that which nature had already bestowed upon the land of their inheritance to signify their claims to rule. in order to signify it.

 Thus, the traditional French account of the fleur, works well when you consider an iris typical in the French countryside. Yet while trying to reconcile the notion of a mere iris as the basis of the fleur, but there was always something about the symbol that seemed like more. Another, somewhat opposed puzzle to the mystery of the clasp, this conundrum continued to circulate in my mind. With irises around me as a child in the coastal marshlands of the Mississippi, I felt like I knew their structure. I knew that an iris alone would struggle to provide the sole basis for the fleur de lis.

 But, like any good mystery there is always evidence for the truth. In this mystery, we can see a glimmer of the fleur de lis as the French have known it. While doing do, the historical account of the symbol seems to make sense. Seeing an iris in full bloom, from the right angle, and using a little creative license, one could probably arrive at a modern fleur. But rarely do we find a straight line in nature. It takes an amateur (human) to think in such terms. For us, as we uncover the Fleur of the Nile, we are reminded of a caveman, his desire to decorate and his love affair with flowers to necessitate the need for a new concept. Perhaps in a mere line, or clasp, we can discover more.

When our ancestors harvested flowers from the riverside and turned wooden temple posts into triumphant floral columns what remained was the need connect. Binding, grasping, clasping became inherently correlated with the notion of flower. This, a synergistic human concept, represents nature utilized in art and stands to explain the fleur in its most robust context.



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