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Scotland's Thistle and the Battle of Largs

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Scotland's Thistle and the Battle of Largs

Post Neon Knight on Mon 14 Aug - 23:42

Common throughout the highlands, islands and lowlands of Scotland, the prickly purple thistle has been Scotland’s national emblem for centuries. This proud and regal plant, which grows to a height of five feet, has no natural enemies because of the vicious spines that cover and protect it . . .

There are several different legends that tell how the thistle became Scotland’s symbol, but most date from the reign of Alexander III and in particular the events surrounding the Battle of Largs in 1263.

It is often forgotten, that for hundreds of years much of Scotland was part of the Kingdom of Norway. By 1263 however, Norway seems to have had little interest in their former territory. However, that was until King Alexander III proposed to buy back the Western Isles and Kintyre from the Norse King Haakon IV. The thought of relieving King Alexander of some of his riches and territories appears to have re-kindled Norse interest in Scotland.

Late in the summer of 1263 King Haakon of Norway, now intent on conquering the Scots, set off with a sizeable fleet of longships for the Scottish coast. Gales and fierce storms forced some of the ships onto the beach at Largs in Ayrshire, and a Norwegian force was landed.

Legend has it that at some point during the invasion the Norsemen tried to surprise the sleeping Scottish Clansmen. In order to move more stealthily under the cover of darkness the Norsemen removed their footwear. But as they crept barefoot they came across an area of ground covered in thistles and one of Haakon’s men unfortunately stood on one and shrieked out in pain, thus alerting the Clansmen to the advancing Norsemen.

His shout warned the Scots who defeated the Norsemen at the Battle of Largs, thus saving Scotland from invasion. The important role that the thistle had played was recognised and so was chosen as Scotland’s national emblem.

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

In July 1263 King Haco is said to have sailed from Bergen with 200 ships. In the Hebrides he was joined by the King of Man with additional forces. From there they sailed down the coast of Scotland, raiding the mainland. Initial negotiations were opened but this time was used by the Scots to buy time to raise their forces. Then, in a storm, some of the Norse ships were beached at Largs and an armed engagement began. This forced Haco to land his main force in disadvantageous circumstances on a difficult coast.

Little is known of the detail of the action, which soon escalated into full battle, but it seems that the Norse were never able to form up fully in battle array before they were engaged. The arrival of Scottish reinforcements may finally have turned the tide of the action, forcing the Norse army to break. It is said that they were then pursued with great slaughter, with most fleeing to their boats.


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Re: Scotland's Thistle and the Battle of Largs

Post Neon Knight on Mon 14 Aug - 23:55


Between the velvet lies, there's a truth that's hard as steel
The vision never dies, life's a never ending wheel
- R.J.Dio
Neon Knight
The Castellan

Male Posts : 801
Join date : 2017-03-05

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