Sunday, 23 September 2012

Coat of Arms: French Arms

Another coat-of-arms article. I make this article after a suggestion from Melissa, since the arms appears in both Dumas' Three Musketeers and Hugo's Les Miserables in subtle ways.

Ancient Arms of France
The fleur-de-lys has been a common charge in heraldry. But perhaps the most known use of it is in the French arms. The ancient French use the arms of azure, semy de lys or, while the modern (since 1376) only has three fleurs on it. It has been used in the Kingdom of France since the 12th century, and therefore the arms, or the term “golden fleurs-de-lys” sometimes represents the whole French monarchy, or French in general.

When someone renders a great service to the state, his arms may bear an allusion to the arms of France. For example, after defending the Royal Banner faithfully in battle, and soaked it red in his blood, Chateaubriant was given the arms Gules a semy of fleurs-de-lys or (red shield with golden fleurs-de-lys upon it). Thus we can imagine the honour bestowed upon the Inseparables in Dumas' Three Musketeers when Richelieu had three golden fleurs-de-lys embroidered on their napkin after their breakfast in Bastion Saint-Gervais.

Modern Arms of France
Another additional information. King Edward III of England quartered the Arms of England with Arms of France following his claim to the French throne. The fleurs-de-lys remained in British Monarch's arms until King George III dropped it and put the Arms of Scotland there.

During the French revolution, the royalist bore a white flag with three golden fleurs-de-lys on it, thus displaying their support for monarchy. The inseparablility between French monarchy and its arms in history is evident in Hugo's sentences in his novel Les Miserables, one of them being, “It is as august in rags as in fleurs de lys.” The term “rags” refers to the lowly people and the fleurs-de-lys, obviously, the monarchy.

For more information on heraldry, please visit Critics, additional information and questions are welcome.

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