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The current Emblem of France has been a symbol of France since 1953, although it does not have any legal status as an official coat of arms. It appears on the cover of French passports and was adopted originally by the French Foreign Ministry as a symbol for use by diplomatic and consular missions in 1912 using a design by the sculptor Jules-Clément Chaplain.
In 1953, France received a request from the United Nations for a copy of the national coat of arms to be displayed alongside the coats of arms of other member states in its assembly chamber. An interministerial commission requested Robert Louis (1902–1965), heraldic artist, to produce a version of the Chaplain design. This did not, however, constitute an adoption of an official coat of arms by the Republic.
It consists of:
A wide shield with, on the one end a lion-head and on the other an eagle-head, bearing a monogram "RF" standing for République Française (French Republic).
In September 1999, the French government adopted a unique official identifier for its communication, incorporating the Republic's motto, the colours of the flag, and Marianne, the Republic's personification.
The symbol is used on plaques marking French consulates.
The historical coat of arms of France were the golden fleurs-de-lys on a blue field, used continuously for nearly six centuries (1211-1792). Although according to legend they originated at the baptism of Clovis, who supposedly replaced the three toads that adorned his shield with three lilies given by an angel, they are first documented only from the early 13th century. They were first shown as semé, that is to say without any definite number and staggered (known as "France ancient"), but in 1376 they were reduced to three, (known as "France modern"). With this decision, King Charles V intended to place the kingdom under the double invocation of the Virgin (the lily is a symbol of Mary), and the Trinity, for the number. The traditionnal supporters of the French royal arms are two angels, sometimes wearing a heraldic dalmatic.
Informal arms were created for the French Third Republic featuring fasces on a laurel branch and an oak branch in saltire.
Emblem of Philippe Pétain, chief of state of the French State (Vichy France), featuring the motto Travail, Famille, Patrie (Work, Family, Fatherland). The Francisque was only Pétain's personal emblem but was also gradually used as the regime's informal emblem on official documents.
This composition, which was briefly seen in 1905 during the official visit to France of King Alfonso XIII, reappears in 1922 on a cartoon by Gustave Jaulmes for a tapestry to be displayed in Strasbourg. On 1929, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs answers to the German Embassy, who wanted to know the official coat of arms of the Republic, that ″there is no, in principle, official coat of arms or emblem″ but that such composition was used for the French embassies and consulates.
As a matter of fact, the 1935 edition of Le Petit Larousse reproduced in black and white this composition as a symbol of the French Republic. In 1953, an inter-ministry committee choose it in order to meet the request of the United Nations Secretariat who wanted to adorn the assembly hall with panels reproducing the official coat of arms of each Member State.