A little French History & Free Graphics: Birds & Bees

Ok, no this is not a lesson in French love affairs. Just thought I might share some graphics today in the spirit of Spring and all things French – Birds & Bees. They both have such an iconic appeal to them in French décor that translates well in both French Country and more formal Provençal settings. They’re neither feminine or masculine looking and are popular in all sorts of craft and DIY usages as well as larger format prints and artwork. I’m sure you’ll find something fun to do with them.

Here’s a little history on how Napoleon used BOTH birds and bees to represent an era, along with a few of my favorite images for your creative use.


“The eagle and bee, emblems of the First and later Second Napoleonic Empire, have become so familiar that it is easy to forget their origin and meaning.

The creation of the coat of arms:

napoleonic coatProclaimed Emperor of the French on 28 Floréal, An XII (18 May, 1804), Napoleon approached the problem of the emblems of sovereignty on 23 Prairial (12 juin) during a session of the Conseil d’Etat. The choice of the new symbols so as to make a clean break with the monarchy of the Ancien Régime proved difficult. Crétet proposed successively an eagle, a lion and an elephant. Cambacérès preferred bees since France was a republic with a head, like a hive; Ségur thought that a lion would be better, stronger than the English leopard; Laumond was for the elephant, ” the strongest of animals “; Duroc preferred the oak and Lebrun the fleur de lys, which he felt was the emblem of France and not the Bourbons. The Conseil d’Etat finally went for the cockerel, but Napoleon preferred the lion. However, on 21 Messidor, An XII (10 July, 1804), the emperor crossed out the lion from the decree instituting his seal and coat of arms and imposed the eagle. Developed by Denon, Gay and Biennais, the ‘armes de l’Empire’ (Empire coat of arms), taking their inspiration from both Ancient Rome and Charlemagne, were re-used largely unchanged by the Second Empire.

eagleThe Eagle

The principal element of the new shield, this symbol of imperial Rome, Jupiter’s bird, was associated from the earliest antiquity with military victory. The decree of 10 July, 1804 stipulates that the coat of arms of the emperor should be: ” d’azur à l’aigle à l’antique d’or, empiétant un foudre du même ” (azure with a gold, ancient eagle clutching a thunderbolt of the same colour). This eagle, very different from the motifs of traditional heraldry, also took elements from the Carolingian eagle. The day after the coronation, Napoleon had an eagle placed at the top of the shaft of every flag in the Napoleonic army.

abeillesThe Bee

Symbol of immortality and resurrection, the bee was chosen so as to link the new dynasty to the very origins of France. Golden bees (in fact, cicadas) were discovered in 1653 in Tournai in the tomb of Childeric I, founder in 457 of the Merovingian dynasty and father of Clovis. They were considered as the oldest emblem of the sovereigns of France.”

Historic info via Napoleon.org

Here’s a few of my favorite bird and bee images I have collected over time for graphic use…

birds & bees





birds & bees

birds & bees



birdwith rose



Simply right click on the image, select “Save Image As” and save the graphics file to your computer. Left click to open a larger image file for download.

Bon weekend~




For info on use of my free French graphics & Graphique images, click here.


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