Friday, February 25, 2011

Fleur-de-lis update

I have begun to read a new article and will have to start annotating information that I have already read and find relevant to my research on the fleur-de-lis. I will posts these later so I can start to get some sort of handle on this work in progress. Anyways here is the highlights or finds for the week. Basically the article talks about what regalia is and how it is depicted and the image of prestige it creates for the person it attempts to define.
Insignia of royal authority presented to a sovereign as acknowledgement of his status.These may be divided into two categories: those worn or carried by a ruler, and those borne before or near him as tokens of his character, power and status. Regalia represent kingship and nationhood, combining military and religious symbolism and endowing the wearer with the God-given right to rule. Some regalian objects were granted to princes and to grand dukes and other ranks of nobility, as well as to religious and some civic authorities. European regalia and their usage have been little altered since c. AD 800; although regalia were made for newly created modern European states, their forms echo historical precedent, with ornament influenced by current fashion, and they were seldom worn.

Depictions of regalia in art are also an important source. These fall into three main categories: as part of the coin or seal portrait of the ruler; in paintings or sculptures of coronations; and on effigies or in state and dynastic portraits. The first category needs to be used with discrimination, since both could be copied from older or contemporary sources. Most early medieval coins, for example, were based on Roman or Byzantine prototypes and owe nothing to contemporary practice in the countries issuing them. Seals, too, were often based on a design from another country; that of Henry III of England made in 1218 was imitated in Norway and Aragon, while several Great Seals had the name altered and served more than one monarch.The earliest depictions of Western kings and emperors in their regalia are found in the Gospels and other books made for the later Carolingian and Ottonian rulers , and similar examples can be found in other countries. Chronicles often included illustrations showing the king enthroned, sometimes being crowned but more often alone, and the dress, like that on the seals, suggests that a crown-wearing rather than a coronation was intended. A special type of coronation image, originating in Byzantium, depicted the king or emperor standing, sometimes flanked by two bishops (as in the miniature of Charles the Bald; Paris, Bib. N., MS. lat. 1141, fol. 2v), being crowned by the Hand of God. Sculptures depicting coronations are rare, but Henry V is so depicted in his chantry at Westminster Abbey, London.Royal effigies normally depicted the ruler in crown-wearing robes or, more rarely, those worn at the coronation.

The 1st Bible of Charles the Bald (845–6; Paris, Bib. N., MS. lat. 1., fol. 423r) depicts him wearing a crown with fleurs-de-lis, the most common type of Western crown throughout the Middle Ages; other cresting devices could be set on the rim.

John A. Goodall. "Regalia." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 25 Feb. 2011


  1. Excellent article summary, Misty, and it brings the functional history of the fleur-de-lis into clearer focus. Now, you need to collect more historically revealing articles such as the one above and do the same thorough job digesting each of them. You will quickly find yourself zeroing in on what's most important for your thesis that way.

  2. Hi Misty-
    I was curious about the significance of the fleur-de-lis to you? I think it's great that your researching it, and I may have missed a prior post which explained my question. I'm interested to know what it ends up meaning to you after you complete your project.

  3. Misty,
    keep looking, keep reading. At some point you'll have enough knowledge that you can start fleshing out the ideas and tying them together. But at this point you simply need to have read 30 or 40 articles so you've got information to work with. If it were me, I'd commit to reading 2 articles every day and writing notes, however brief, about each one.

  4. by the way, I'm guessing you've read the wikipedia article on the fleur de lis -- if not, it would be a good start. i just read it and noticed that they cited the oxford english dictionary. that would be a good source for you as well, as it gives the use of the term over time.

  5. Drew,
    Initially I thought that the Fleur-de-lis was a print makers trademark and at the time I was taking some courses on printmaking and felt part of that heritage. One afternoon while shopping I came across a hair stick which I thought was elegant and refined I purchased it thinking how strange it should be that a print makers trademark should be duplicated as a hair pin not at all what it was intended to represent.Later I took an art history class which covered Renaissance up until the present day. In class we came across a portrait painting of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud.Depicted on the kings cloak were fleur-de-lis in multitudes.Now that I had encountered this image a couple of times I became more aware of it and started seeing it everywhere. Images like the boy scouts emblem and clothing worn today so I became interested in this images resurgence/revival and the repetition of the image itself. I wanted to find out how it started and what it really meant but now I am lost in a maze of fleur-de-lis and I am not attempting to discover its origins but rather how it is used.