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The Order of the Thistle

The Order of the Thistle represents the highest honour in Scotland. It is second only in precedence in the UK to the Order of the Garter.

The Order honours Scottish men and women who have held public office or who have contributed in a particular way to national life.

The date of the foundation of the Order is not known, although legend has it that it was founded in 809 when King Achaius made an alliance with the Emperor Charlemagne.

It is possible that the Order may have been founded by James III (1488-1513), who was responsible for changes in Royal symbolism in Scotland, including the adoption of the thistle as the Royal plant badge.

It is said that James V bestowed the insignia of the 'Order of the Burr or Thissil' on Francis I of France in 1535. Around the time of the Reformation, the Order was discontinued.

Although some kind of Scottish Order of chivalry existed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, or even much earlier, it was James II (James VII of Scotland) who established the Order with a statutory foundation under new rules in 1687 - to reward Scottish peers who supported the king's political and religious aims.

One statute required that the robe should be 'powdered over with thistles of gold'; a robe from that period still survives, scattered with more than 250 applied thistle motifs. The statutes stated that the Order was 'to continue to consist of the Sovereign and twelve Knights-Brethren in allusion to the Blessed Saviour and his Twelve Apostles'.

After James II (and VII)'s abdication in 1688, the Order fell into disuse once more until it was revived by Queen Anne in 1703. The number of knights remained at 12.

Despite the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, the Old and Young Pretenders (Prince James and Prince Charles 'Bonnie Prince Charlie') appointed Knights of the Thistle (and Garter) in their exiles.

The early Hanoverian kings also made use of the Order to reward Scottish nobles who supported the Hanoverian and Protestant cause.

Interest in the Order revived when George IV wore the Thistle during his visit to Scotland in 1822. A statute of 1827 established the complement of Knights Brethren at 16.

In 1987 a statute enabled ladies to join the Order. Extra knights may be created by special statute. If there are vacancies in the Order, appointments are announced on St Andrew's Day (30 November).

The patron saint of the Order of the Thistle is St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, who also appears on the Order's badge.

The breast star of the Order consists of a silver saltire with a pointed ray between each of the arms of the cross.

At the centre is a gold medallion contained in an enamelled representation of the thistle, surrounded by a green border bearing the Order's motto.

The motto is 'Nemo me impune lacessit' (No one harms me with impunity).

The Princess Royal was invested in the Order of the Thistle in June 2001.

Motto: Nemo me impune lacessit (No one harms me with impunity)

Chapel: Thistle Chapel, St. Giles' Cathedral

Ranks: Knight or Lady

Post nominals: KT or LT

List of Knights and Ladies of the Thistle

Wikipedia contributors, 'List of Knights and Ladies of the Thistle', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2 December 2014, 14:22 UTC, <> [accessed 10 December 2014]

Knights Founders

Eighteenth Century

Nineteenth Century

Twentieth century

Twenty-First Century