Fleur-de-lis is a symbol that depicts a stylized lily or iris flower. Derived from French 'fleur' and 'lis', the word is literally translated in English to 'flower of lily' and the symbol signifies life, light and perfection. The symbol has been traditionally used to represent the French royalty. Legend says that when the Merovingian king of the Franks, Clovis converted to Christianity, he was presented with a golden lily by an angel to symbolize his purification. It is also claimed that the symbol was adopted by Clovis when the waterlilies helped him cross a river safely to go on to succeed in battle.
Fleur-de-lis lends itself to several meanings and is simultaneously dynastic, political, emblematic, religious, symbolic and artistic, especially from French heraldry point of view. However, it can also been found much before the heraldic times in places as far away as Mesopotamia. Used as a decorative element, it came to be associated with royalty. The symbol has even appeared as an emblem on 10th century seals and coins. By virtue of having three petals, it has also been accorded religious significance and is said to be representative of the Holy Trinity and thus, purity.
Still, Fleur-de-lis has found most widespread use in French monarchy and heraldry. In the 12th century, King Louis VI (some say, King Louis VII) made royal use of the symbol for the first time by using it on his shield. Later on, it came to be used on coats of arms by the English kings to signify their claims to the French throne.
Throughout the ages, the symbol has been used in architecture and art, especially religious art. Even today, it is used on flags, military badges, coat of arms, fraternity symbols, logos, etc. As is common with symbols, the mystique surrounding Fleur-de-lis has added to its enduring allure across the globe.