The Saltire is Scotland's national flag which is the oldest flag in Europe and the Commonwealth, and it has its origins in a battle fought in East Lothian in the Dark Ages. Its believed that the battle took place in 832AD. An army of Picts under the High King of Alba, and aided by a contingent of Scots had been on a raid into Lothian and were being pursued by a larger force of Angles and Saxons under one Athelstan. The Scots were caught and stood to face their pursuers in the area of Markle, near East Linton, north of the modern village of Athelstaneford. Fearing the outcome of the encounter, the Scots' King led prayers for deliverance, and was rewarded by seeing a cloud formation of a white saltire (the diagonal cross on which St Andrew had been martyred) against a blue sky. The king vowed that if, with the saint's help, he gained the victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots did win, and the Saltire became the flag of Scotland.
The prickly purple thistle was adopted as the Emblem of Scotland during the rein of Alexander III (1249 -1286). Legend has it that an Army of King Haakon of Norway, intent on conquering the Scots landed at the Coast of Largs at night to surprise the sleeping Scottish Clansmen. In order to move more stealthily under the cover of darkness the Norsemen removed their footwear.
As they drew near to the Scots it wasn't the only thing hiding under the cover of darkness. For one of Haakon's men unfortunately stood on one of these spiny little defenders and shrieked out in pain, alerting the Clansmen of the advancing Norsemen. Needless to say the Scots who won the day.
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