Having previously posted about the stories and legends behind Perre’s Edinburgh Castle necklace, we thought we would tell you about another classic Scottish emblem that we have thoughtfully adapted into a beautiful and wildly popular collection. Our thistle collection includes a necklace, ring and drop earrings, and certainly captures the thorny splendour of the thistle. The stems are comprised of sterling silver, with small protruding thorns and etched detailing. The flower itself contains small amethyst fragments, reflecting the bright and regal purple of thistles, and making it a bold and very wearable collection.
The thistle is, of course, Scotland’s national symbol and flower, and is not only incredibly beneficial for Scotland’s wildlife, but is also involved in a Scottish legend which may help to explain its adoption as the Scottish emblem!
The thistle itself is actually a weed – yet its distinct thorny stem and vibrant purple and pink flower matches perfectly with the harsh yet beautiful landscape of Scotland. There are many different types of thistle in Scotland, and it is unclear which variation is the specific Scottish national symbol. There is the spear thistle, musk thistle, our lady’s thistle and the cotton thistle – among many others.
However, the variation which perhaps most matches the thistle depicted in our design is the melancholy thistle, as it has a deep purple flower which resembles the colour of the amethyst fragments utilised in our design. Despite their thorniness, thistles are integral to the beauty of Scottish wildlife. Their flowers are loved by bees and butterflies, they produce seeds for goldfinches, and they also produce down which is used by birds for building their nests.
Therefore, not only do thistles look apt sitting alongside the rugged landscape of Scotland, but they also contribute to its bounteous wildlife!
Bumblebees on a melancholy thistle, photograph by Ivar Leidus
It is unknown precisely why the thistle became Scotland’s national emblem, although there are a few theories which help to explain its adoption. Perhaps the strongest theory is that the thistle directly contributed to the Scottish victory over Norway in the 1263 Battle of Largs. Prior to this battle, Western Scotland was actually part of the Kingdom of Norway. In 1263, the Scottish King Alexander III asked to purchase the Western Isles and Kintyre from the Norwegian King Haakon IV, in an attempt to increase his realm. However, in the Summer of 1263, Norway dispatched armies in their infamous longboats in order to retain their land. This dispute culminated in October 1263, when Norse troops arrived at the Coast of Largs in the middle of the night, in order to surprise and ambush the sleeping Scots. To increase their stealth, they even took off their shoes – however, this would lead to their downfall. One Norse soldier stepped on a thistle, and the pain caused him to cry out, waking the slumbering Scotsmen. They prepared for battle and vanquished the Norse, claiming the Western Isles for their own and incorporating them into the Kingdom of Scotland. It has been argued that this legend explains the thistle’s use as a Scottish symbol and icon, emblematic of their fierce nature and success in battle. However, while the Battle of Largs was certainly a real event, there is actually no evidence that the Norse were defeated because of a thistle. However, it makes for an interesting legend, and this fable could certainly be the reason why Scots decided to use the thistle as their icon.
Regardless of the reasons behind the thistle’s use as Scotland’s icon, there is evidence that it has been used for this purpose for hundreds of years. The thistle first appeared as a royal symbol on coins issued by James III in 1470, placing the formal adoption of the thistle as an emblem in the fifteenth century. Thistles are also associated with Scotland’s chivalric culture in the early modern period, further highlighting its importance to Scottish national identity. In 1687, James VII of Scotland and II of England created The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle – a chivalric order which was (and still is) granted to those Scots who make an outstanding contribution to their country. It is in fact the oldest and highest chivalric order in the whole of Scotland – a real honour to receive. Thistles are of course incorporated into the iconography of The Order of the Thistle, and its chapel (The Thistle Chapel) is actually based on the south side of St. Giles Cathedral, on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, built in 1906.
Due to the natural benefits of the thistle, as well the myths and legends that go behind it, we think it is a fantastic flower to incorporate into jewellery, and another collection which truly represents Scotland’s history and beauty. The legend of the thistle’s involvement in the Battle of Largs means that it has connotations of bravery and courage, reflecting the strength of the Scottish clansmen. Meanwhile, its spiky yet attractive appearance can be used to connote resilience and endurance. Our collection will therefore really suit those who are strong, brave and resilient – those who overcome adversity. And of course, it is perfect for those who love Scottish history!