The History of the Fleur De Lis

Most Louisianans are all too familiar with the fleur de lis-the three-leaf symbol adorns the flags of several cities throughout the state and even appears in the logo of the state’s beloved football team, the New Orleans Saints. Decoratively, the French symbol-the translation for which is “lily flower”-can be found on everything from t-shirts, tattoos and wall hangings to bumper stickers, baby clothes and Christmas ornaments.

It has become an emblem of local pride and was even made the official symbol of Louisiana by Governor Bobby Jindal in 2008. But while the fleur de lis is such a prevalent fixture throughout the entire region, many people still might not know its history.

The decorative symbol is historically associated with the French monarchy, which ruled the French kingdom from 486 to 1870, and whose coat of arms featured various golden fleurs de lis on a royal blue background. According to French historians, the symbol’s three distinct leaves represent the medieval social classes: those who worked, those who fought and those who prayed.

The lily flower made its way across the Atlantic with the French settlers who planted their roots along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The symbol served as a reminder of home to the settlers, and as a mark of allegiance to their native country. Today, the royal flower can be found on the flag or seal of several cities in the areas along the Mississippi and Missour rivers, including St. Louis, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky, Detroit, Michigan, and of course in Louisiana towns such as New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette.

In New Orleans, specifically, the fleur de lis took on a special meaning after the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Since then, the symbol is more than a statement of local pride, it is a symbol of solidarity, community support and commitment to a full recovery.

Given its simple lines and its royal connotations, the fleur de lis has been adopted by many people and organizations not associated with the original French settlers. For instance, the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels named a looping flight demonstration maneuver after the flower, the emblem of Chevrolet’s Corvette and Caprice features the lily flower, and Campbell’s Soup displays the emblem on its soup can labels.