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9 Fascinating Facts about the Flower of Scotland

9 Fascinating Facts about the Flower of Scotland

How did the humble but not so dainty thistle come to be the emblem of Scotland?

I’ve been researching the milestones along this fascinating journey and now I'm delighted  to share  my illustrated infographic and timeline of how the thistle became the Flower of Scotland. It goes a little something like this...


1263, the Battle of Largs: sleeping Scottish clansmen were alerted of invading bare-footed Norse Vikings when one of the intruders stepped on a thistle and squealed loudly!  Scotland 1 - Vikings 0

1470: the first use of the thistle as a royal symbol of Scotland was on silver coins issued by James III

1540: the Order of the Thistle, the highest honour in Scottish chivalry, was founded by King James V; the Order’s motto being “no one provokes me with impunity"

1642: the Scots Guards - personal bodyguards of King Charles I of England and Scotland - adopted the thistle as their regimental emblem

1687: King James VII of Scotland (James II of England and Ireland) revived the earlier Order of the Thistle

1871: the first Scotland vs England rugby international, Raeburn Place, Edinburgh; Scotland played in a shirt featuring the embroidered thistle on the left breast and notched up the first win in one of the world’s oldest international contests!

1967: Flower of Scotland is written: although Scotland has no official national anthem a number of songs have been adopted over the centuries;

• The Scots Wha Hae, Robert Burns 1793: the first widely used unofficial Scottish national anthem was popular over 2 centuries; see Robert Burns, An Illustrated Story

• Scotland the Brave: first known version dating from 1911; used by the Scottish national football team from the 1980’s

• Flower of Scotland written by Roy Williamson of The Corries 1967; adopted first by the Scottish national rugby team in 1990 and soon after by the Scottish national football team

• Robert the Bruce: The Scots Wha Hae and Flower of Scotland share the common theme of Robert the Bruce’s victory over Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314

1984: the newly minted £1 coin took floral emblems as its theme to represent the United Kingdom and its four constituent countries; the thistle was used on this coin to represent Scotland

1990: with both Scotland and England vying to win the Grand Slam in the concluding match of the Five Nations Championship, the Scottish Rugby Union played Flower of Scotland for the first time as their pre-match anthem; Scotland went on to beat England 13–7

And of course,  in honour of the stout role played by the inauspicious thistle over 800 years of Scottish history,  I’ve designed a Gillian Kyle range.  My Flower of Scotland designs pay homage to the Scottish Thistle in all its beautiful, spiky detail.
In the range there are t-shirts for men and women, mugs and coasters, tote bags, cushions, suitcases, prints and canvases all featuring my hand-drawn, pen and ink thistle artwork printed in simple blacks,  greys and blues. A great way to subtly show your Scottish colours!I loved creating this range and illustrating this Flower of Scotland facts infographic.
If you like this infographic format, you may also be interested to see some of my other Scottish infographics:

Robert Burns, an Illustrated Story
Charles Rennie Mackintosh at 150
15 Fun Facts on the 3 Forth Bridges
Recipes of Scotland Collection
What is in a haggis - the 12 essential ingredients

Till next time,

PS I'd LOVE to share my newest art, contemporary Scottish designs and Scottish Stories with you as they are released.  Join our mailing list here for regular doses of all things Scottish!


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