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fleur-de-lis

stylized emblem or device much used in ornamentation and, particularly, in heraldry, long associated with the French crown. One legend identifies it as the lily given at his baptism to Clovis, king of the Franks (466-511), by the Virgin Mary. The lily was said to have sprung from the tears shed by Eve as she left Eden. From antiquity it has been the symbol of purity and was readily adopted by the Roman Catholic church to associate the sanctity of Mary with events of special significance. Thus, when Pope Leo III in 800 crowned Charlemagne as emperor, he is reported to have presented him with a blue banner covered (seme) with golden fleurs-de-lis.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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