Green Door Hospitality

Adventures in Everyday Entertaining

A Little Thistle While I Work : A Scottish Tale

Thistle Floral Arrangement

I wanted to share our latest floral arrangement.  Found these thistles at the market this past weekend and thought they were so beautiful, and different from flowers that I normally get when picking up flowers.

Thistle Floral Arrangement

As someone with Scottish heritage in her ancestry, I also thought I would take a moment to share the legend of the thistle becoming the national flower of Scotland.  The following insert is courtesy of

The Scottish Thistle

The thistle of Scotland is said to be the oldest national flower on record, the legend of how this proud and regal plant became a national emblem goes back many hundreds of years, to the time when Scotland was being rampaged by the vicious Vikings.

From 795 Scotland was under assault by wave upon wave of vicious Vikings. It was a frightening time to live in, Scotland was vulnerable to attack it’s delicate civilization built by generations of Christian monks.

For hundreds of years much of Scotland was part of the Kingdom of Norway. Even after Norway became Christianized the attacks continued. Not until 1266 were the Western Isles returned to Scottish rule.

By 1263 however, Norway seems to have had little interest in their former territory, 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 sizable fleet of long-ships 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 recognized and so was chosen as Scotland’s national emblem.

Haakon died returning to Norway, a treaty returned the Hebrides to Scottish rule, and a marriage contract wedded Scotland and Norway.

8 comments on “A Little Thistle While I Work : A Scottish Tale

  1. Cloches & Lavender
    July 23, 2012

    Interesting post. I love thistle. When I used to do dry flower arrangments I used thistle, It holds up great when dried. I think it is a beauty.


  2. petit4chocolatier
    July 23, 2012

    The floral arrangement is lovely!

  3. putneyfarm
    July 23, 2012

    Beautiful flowers/photos, but even better post…good story, thx!

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