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Scottish Thistle

The National Emblem of Scotland history, description and images of thistle

I first heard this Scottish thistle story during a campfire at a Scout camp at Tarland and am delighted to share it with you:

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  • Why Is The Thistle The Emblem of Scotland

    On a dark autumn night of 1263, during the reign of Scottish King Alexander III, the Vikings came ashore in barefoot to Scotland at Largs, lead by King Haakon IV. History is uncertain if they were intent upon a full invasion, or were showing their power by raiding the surrounding villages. Other historians' claim that a fierce storm had driven many of their longboats ashore and they were merely retrieving them.


    Many of the castles along the western coast were on guard against such raids and a possible Viking invasion. It was one such watch who heard the cries of pain of the Vikings and their leader as their bare feet walked on thistles. This alerted the Scots in time to see off the Vikings, thus saving Scotland from an invasion and possible Viking rule. The role of the thistle was then understood, and was chosen as Scotland's symbol and emblem.

    National Emblem Of Scotland

    The first use of the thistle as the National Emblem of Scotland was in silver coins in 1470.

    National Emblem of Scotland

    In 1687, James II founded the Most Ancient Order of The Thistle, which consisted of The Monarch and 16 trusted knights. Their motto was "Nemo me impune lacessit" which translates to "No-one harms me without punishment" but more commonly translated to Auld Scots as "Wha daurs meddle wi me" - referring to the fearsome guardian knights and the armed thistles.

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