The Iris – Inspiration for the Fleur-de-lis

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The name Iris relates back to the Greek Goddess Iris, who was the messenger of the Gods. She personified a rainbow acting as a link between heaven and earth. The Greeks would plant a purple Iris on the graves of women, in hope that the Goddess would escort their souls safely on their journey to heaven.

In its earliest history the Iris was used as a medicinal remedy, using the root with vinegar, wine or honey for indigestion, coughs and sciatica. The root was also used to make perfume and potpourri.

Throughout history the three upright petals of the Iris were known to represent, faith, wisdom and valor. During the 5th Century it was used in art by the King of the Franks to illustrate Royalty to his subjects and by Indian and Egyptian cultures to depict life and resurrection.

In the middle ages the Iris become associated with Royalty once again and was the inspiration for the fleur-de-lis as the symbol for the French Monarchy. If you have read the book by Alexandre Dumas or seen the movie The Three Musketeers, you would be familiar with the fleur-de-lis as it was the emblem they wore on their capes as defenders of the monarchy. It was also used to brand felons for life, as seen on the shoulder of Milady, Countess de Winter!

Today the Iris, made famous by Vincent Van Gogh in his 1889 painting Irises, is also the 25th anniversary flower and the state flower of Tennessee. The fleur-de-lis is the emblem for the city of New Orleans, as well as the Boy Scouts.


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