The fleur-de-lis or fleur-de-lys (plural: fleurs-de-lis, or fleurs-de-lys)[pron 1], is a stylized lily (in French, fleur means "flower", and lis means "lily") that is used as a decorative design or motif, and many of the Catholic saints of France, particularly St. Joseph, are depicted with a lily. Since France is a historically Catholic nation, the fleur-de-lis became "at one and the same time, religious, political, dynastic, artistic, emblematic, and symbolic", especially in French heraldry.
It remains unclear where the fleur-de-lis originated, though it has retained an association with French nobility. It is widely used in French city emblems as in the coat of arms of the city of Lille, Saint-Denis, Brest, Clermont-Ferrand, Boulogne-Billancourt and Calais. Some cities that had been particularly faithful to the French Crown were awarded[by whom?] a heraldic augmentation of two or three fleurs-de-lis on the chief of their coat of arms; such cities include Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Reims, Le Havre, Angers, Le Mans, Aix-en-Provence, Tours, Limoges, Amiens, Orléans, Rouen, Argenteuil, Poitiers, Chartres and Laon among others. The fleur-de-lis was the symbol of Île-de-France, the core of the French kingdom. It has appeared on the coat-of-arms of other historical provinces of France including Burgundy, Anjou, Picardy, Berry, Orléanais, Bourbonnais, Maine, Touraine, Artois, Dauphiné, Saintonge and the County of La Marche. Many of the current French departments use the symbol on their coats-of-arms to express this heritage.
In Italy, the fleur de lis, called giglio, is mainly known from the crest of the city of Florence. In the Florentine fleurs-de-lis,[f] the stamens are always posed between the petals. Originally argent (silver or white) on gules (red) background, the emblem became the standard of the imperial party in Florence (parte ghibellina), causing the town government, which maintained a staunch Guelph stance, being strongly opposed to the imperial pretensions on city states, to reverse the color pattern to the final gules lily on argent background. This heraldic charge is often known as the Florentine lily to distinguish it from the conventional (stamen-not-shown) design. As an emblem of the city, it is therefore found in icons of Zenobius, its first bishop, and associated with Florence's patron Saint John the Baptist in the Florentine fiorino. Several towns subjugated by Florence or founded within the territory of the Florentine Republic adopted a variation of the Florentine lily in their crests, often without the stamens.
The heraldic fleur-de-lis is still widespread: among the numerous cities which use it as a symbol are some whose names echo the word 'lily', for example, Liljendal, Finland, and Lelystad, Netherlands. This is called canting arms in heraldic terminology. Other European examples of municipal coats-of-arms bearing the fleur-de-lis include Lincoln in England, Morcín in Spain, Wiesbaden in Germany, Skierniewice in Poland and Jurbarkas in Lithuania. The Swiss municipality of Schlieren and the Estonian municipality of Jõelähtme also have a fleur-de-lis on their coats.
In Malta, the town of Santa Venera has three red fleurs-de-lis on its flag and coat of arms. These are derived from an arch which was part of the Wignacourt Aqueduct that had three sculpted fleurs-de-lis on top, as they were the heraldic symbols of Alof de Wignacourt, the Grand Master who financed its building. Another suburb which developed around the area became known as Fleur-de-Lys, and it also features a red fleur-de-lis on its flag and coat of arms.
In the United Kingdom, a fleur-de-lis has appeared in the official arms of the Norroy King of Arms for hundreds of years. A silver fleur-de-lis on a blue background is the arms of the Barons Digby.
In English and Canadian heraldry the fleur-de-lis is the cadence mark of a sixth son.
In Mauritius, slaves were branded with a fleur-de-lis, when being punished for escaping or stealing food.
Fleurs-de-lis appear on military insignia and the logos of many organizations. During the 20th century the symbol was adopted by various Scouting organizations worldwide for their badges. Architects and designers use it alone and as a repeated motif in a wide range of contexts, from ironwork to bookbinding, especially where a French context is implied.
The symbol is also often used on a compass rose to mark the north direction, a tradition started by Pedro Reinel.
The dark code was an arrangement of controls received in Louisiana in 1724 from other French settlements around the globe, intended to represent the state's slave populace. Those guidelines included marking slaves with the fleur-de-lis as discipline for fleeing.