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story of the saltire

Calgacus

Joined December 2007

Artist's Description

Who put the blue in the Scotland flag ? Who put the blue un the Union Jack?
The Picts of course,and it is fitting that they are the background colour of the flags, for they are the foundation of the nation. Here is the story of the Scotland flag, known as the saltire.

By the ninth century AD, according to the chronicles of the kings, Pictland, the oldest kingdom in Europe, was almost two-thousand years old. The Picts were fiercly independant and resisted Rome like no other race, but now the native control of northern Britain was nearing an end, yet still Pictland had one last achievement that left a striking mark on national history. Early in that century King Unust of the Picts ruled over a shrinking native kingdom being attacked jealously on all sides by Scots, Britons, Anglo/Saxons, and latterly the Vikings. The Anglo/Saxons, who would become known as the English, were coming to the fore as the supreme force in Britain, with the cruel dominion of ‘Angle-land’ now intruding far north into former Pictish strongholds at Edinburgh and the Forth Estuary.
King Athelstan of the Angles marched northwards to destroy the Picts with a huge force, brave King Unust of the Picts went to meet him with a battle-depleted army. In the Lothian region King Unust found himself hemmed in by a huge English army. By nightfall he Picts were surrounded by Athelstan’s massive host , it seemed certain that the Pictish king and his nation would die in the morning, and all Albion knew that with the Pictish warriors gone, Angle-land would roll out its dominion over all Britain and Ireland forever..
On the eve of certain destruction as the Picts felt the enemy all around them, King Unust knew that whether he ran or fought, he and his men were doomed, and so that night he offered no customary war-cries for the morning’s battle, but simply knelt and earnestly prayed for God to spare his people one more time, ‘but even so Lord – Your will be done.’
In the morning the dark hordes of English moved in on the hopelessly smaller enemy, the Picts though had their eyes drawn to the sky, for it was turning such a glorious blue, heavy Pictish hearts lifted as a luminous formation of white clouds crossed the sun with a St Andrew’s cross right above the battlefield, beams of light bursting through on the small army of Picts so that they glowed with an eary lustre.
Unease spread through the ranks of the enemy as the small ghostly army ploughed fearlessly through the front lines and dissapeared into the dark sea of English warriors, and all the while the shining diagonal cross remained in the sky overhead. The Picts worked into a frenzy and carved a path right to the heart of the enemy and at the ford of the Peffer Burn they beheaded King Athelstan, and with this the English scattered southwards for their lives.
This all took place at Athelstanford, now a beautiful village nestled in the rolling Garleton hills of East -Lothian. Back then, King Unust’s spectacular victory was seen as a great miracle that became etched into the national psyche, and the symbol of that victory, the white cross of Saint Andrew on a blue background, survived the transition from Pictland to Scotland, and through a thousand years of turbulent history, it remains the flag of the nation. .

Artwork Comments

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  • danita clark
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  • Amanda Gazidis
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