Do you know the prickly tale of how the Scottish Thistle became the National Flower of Scotland?
The well-known legend of the thistle takes place in the late summer of 1263 during a surprise invasion by the army of King Haakon of Norway. After coming ashore in Scotland at the coastal town of Largs, the army intended to launch a sneak attack upon the Scottish Clansmen and overcome them while they were sleeping. To approach the Scots in a more stealthily fashion, the Norsemen removed their footwear.
As the army approached nearer to the Scottish Clansmen, one of Haakon’s men stepped on a prickly thistle and let out a shriek of pain, awakening the sleeping Scots. Jumping to their feet, the clansmen charged into battle against Haakon’s army. It was a victorious day for the Scots. The thistle perhaps saved the lives of many Scots that day.
Legend has it that the thistle was soon adopted as the national emblem of Scotland. The first use of the thistle as a royal symbol was on silver coins issued by James III in 1470. In the early 16th century, the thistle became a significant part of Scotland’s Coat of Arms.
Historians believe that Scotland’s highest chivalric order was founded by King James V, and is named ‘The Order of The Thistle’. The Latin motto of this organization is ‘Nemo me impune lacessit’ which translates to ‘No one provokes me with impunity,’ and the English translation as ‘No one can harm me unpunished.’
The thistle went on to be honored in mottos and poems and continued to be a heraldic symbol, highly regarded throughout history.
The song, ‘Flower of Scotland’ is the unofficial National Anthem of Scotland. Roy Williamson of the Corries wrote the song in reference to the victory of the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, over England’s Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn – listen as the Corries perform the original version here: