Featuring 56 illustrations, this definitive work on the arms of France delves into the mythology of kingship, probes the mystique of kings.
Hinkle’s comprehensive, chronological study of the origin, evolution, and function of the fleurs de lis covers the 200-year period beginning near the end of the 13th century with the emergence of France as a European power and ending at the close of hostilities between England and France in the late 15th century. His interdisciplinary study focuses on literature, history, and art history but also includes numismatics and sigillography.
Hinkle first investigates the precursor to the fleurs de lis, the stylized lily of the early Capetian rulers. The initial literary reference to the later heraldic lily appeared shortly after 1285, with subsequent years witnessing further poetic glorification of the symbol. By 1316, the poetry of the period and of Geoffroy de Paris began to celebrate the three lilies on the royal escutcheon as a symbol of the Trinity.
Concurrently, the death of a Capetian monarch without a male heir led to both the proclamation that no woman could succeed to the French throne and the appointment of the dead king’s brother as Philip V. A second succession problem occurred in 1328 when the nearest male relative was Edward III of England. The French estates selected Philip VI, founder of the Valois line. To resolve the problem of succession, the pope proposed a crusade led by both Edward III and Philip VI. Preparations for this crusade led to Philippe de Vitri’s poem of the 1330s: Le chapel des trois fleurs de lis. Although the crusade was later canceled, the poem signaled the beginnings of French nationalism symbolized by the three heraldic flowers. Two later poems from the 1330s celebrate the divine creation of the fleurs de lis.
Hinkle tells a complex story lucidly. Examining the significance of the visual image of the fleurs de lis, he shows how the lilies evolved into emblems of God’s favor, directed not only to the kings of France. The English also eagerly adopted the symbolism of the fleurs de lis for their young king, Henry VI, and that, too, is a fascinating part of the story.