The fleur de lis ("flower of the lily") has long been associated with certain European
countries, in particular, France and, especially, the Royal House of Bourbon. The symbol is
said to signify light and life.
Legends differ on the origin of the fleur and its association with royalty. Some legends say
that Clovis, the king of the Franks, adopted the symbol when waterlillies showed him how to
safely cross a river, leading to a battle victory. Another legend says that Clovis was
presented with a lily by an angel upon his conversion to Christianity.
Several regions or cities in North America still make use of the ancient European symbol, its
presence usually recalling the involvement of French settlers in the history of the place
concerned and, perhaps, the presence of a population descended from French settlers.
But in no place outside of France is the emblem as indeliby linked to a city and its people as
the fleur de lis is to New Orleans. This has become even more so - in fact, much more so -
since the ravages of the levee failures in 2005.
|Official flag of the city of New Orleans
While I was doing research for this page, I started looking around my house, counting
objects in the shape of or with the image of the fleur de lis, and found 57 separate
items! In house and garden, from my favorite earrings to my mailbox cover - flags,
garden art, wall art, tee shirts, ties, towels, mugs...the list goes on and on. Before the
levee failures, I would guess that the number of items wouldn't have been even one
quarter of that number.
Once considered part of the city's history, the fleur de lis has become symbolic of its
rebirth. It has been inspiring. And curiously comforting. -- Nancy
When LaSalle explored the Mississippi River in 1682 and claimed all of the land along the
river for France, he named the Mississippi basin La Louisiane in honor of Louis XIV, who
was of the House of Bourbon. And it was in honor of Louis XIV that he planted a flag with a
gold fleur de lis on it, at the mouth of the Mississippi - near modern-day Venice, LA - to mark
Later, when the city of New Orleans was founded, French settlers proudly flew a fleur de lis
flag. It may (or may not?) have surprised these French citizens of the 1700's to learn that,
even after many years under the rule of Spain and two centuries under the rule of the
United States, the French fleur de lis would remain an iconic symbol of the city.
If, like the warrior kings of ancient France, the city had a battle flag, the fleur de lis would
be emblazoned on it. In truth, New Orleans has waged a hard battle and the fleur de lis
has been in evidence literally everywhere in the city - silently urging on and inspiring.
Providing courage. Offering good cheer. Uniting. Silently, but eloquently.
No one decided, no one decreed that the symbol would be a rallying cry. It was as if
everyone - by one mind and one heart - came to an unspoken consensus.
Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, and his wife started a new apparel line, Nine Brand.
Nine per cent of net proceeds from all products is donated to the Brees Dream
Foundation to support organizations focused on resilience, the resilience Brees so
admires in the citizens of New Orleans. The inaugural item - a tee shirt with a fleur de lis
- was inspired by the approach the community has taken in the face of adversity. It
contains a poem, "Rallying Cry," that was written by Drew Brees:
Challenges and adversity confront us every day,
They motivate and inspire us to always find a way.
Sometimes it is the hand we're dealt or just the circumstance,
But together we can rest assured we always stand a chance.
Our attitude and courage are as strong as they have been,
And once again we will rise up to proclaim that we're all in.