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The Thistle

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The Thistle, the Symbol of Scotland thanks to a Viking

The music playing on this page is "Scotland the Brave" from Taylor's Traditional.  Click on the hyperlink for the words.

There are many different stories of how the Thistle became Scotland's symbol, ranging from a Danish raiding party at Lancarty on the Tay, but most point seem to the events surrounding the Battle of Largs in 1263.  It is generally forgotten that for more than 600 year most of Scotland was part of the Kingdom of Norway, but by 1263 they a seemed to have little interest.  King Alexander III proposed to buy back the Western Isles and Kintyre, still Norwegian territory.  However this re-awoke Norse interest and King Haakon IV attacked with a large force, but was finally defeated at Largs. At some point during the campaign the Norsemen tried to surprise the Scots with a night attack.  They removed their footwear for a silent approach but found themselves on ground covered with thistles.  It is said their leader trod on a thistle and cried out.  His shout warned the Scots who then saw off the the Norsemen, thus saving Scotland.  The role of the thistle was understood, and was chosen as Scotland's symbol henceforth, with the motto "Nemo me impune lacessit", "No-one provokes me with impunity" but more commonly translated as "Wha daurs meddle wi' me".

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