According to legend, the plans of the Norwegian King Haakon IV to launch a decisive surprise attack on the Scots in 1263 came to naught when one of his men cried out in pain after stepping barefoot on a thistle. Thus alerted to the approaching enemy, Alexander III’s men defeated the Norse invaders. Whatever the historical truth may actually be, it was during the thirteenth century that the thistle became an important Scottish national symbol. Later, the prickly flower was adopted as a badge by James III and appeared on his silver coinage of 1474.
In this original artwork by Richard H. Fay, a Scottish thistle appears upon the white saltire on a blue field of the Scottish flag. This piece was drawn using artist’s pens on Bristol board and then scanned and coloured digitally.