My Story of Scotland

The Legend of the Saltire

The Saltire or St. Andrew’s Cross is Scotland’s national flag, the white saltire on a blue background, is probably the oldest flag in Europe and the Commonwealth, it originated in the year 832 AD. As the name suggests it is linked to the Apostle St. Andrew, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ. He was crucified by the Romans on an X-shaped cross, which became his symbol, at Patras in Greece around 60 AD. Hundreds of years later, his remains were moved to Constantinople and then, in the 13th century. To Amalfi in southern Italy where they are kept to this day.
Two separate legends help to explain the association between St. Andrew and Scotland. One story tells how in 345 AD a Greek monk know as St. Rule or St. Regulus was ordered in a vision to take a few relics (bones) of St. Andrew to the ‘ends of the earth’ for safe keeping. He set off on a sea journey to eventually come ashore on the cost of Fife in east Scotland and founded a settlement that was named Saint Regulus. Another version recalls how in the 7th century, St. Wilfrid brought the Saint’s relics home with him following a pilgrimage to Rome. The Pictish king, Oengus MacFergus, subsequently had them installed at his new monastery of St. Regulus at Kilrymont, later renamed St. Andrews.
The birthplace of the Saltire is from a battle fought close by the East Lothian village of Athelstaneford in 832 AD. An army of Picts under Oengus MacFergus, High King of Alba, and aided by a contingent of Scots led by Eochaidh (Kenneth MacAlpin’s grandfather) had been on a punitive raid into Lothian, which was part of the Angles and Saxons territory of Northumbria. The Angles & Saxons were led by King Aethelstan of East Anglia, who had pursued the Albannach/Scots army, to the area of Markle, near East Linton. The Peffer, which flows into the Firth of Forth at Aberlady, presented a major obstacle to cross with many herds of cattle and horses taken as bootie by the Albannach/Scots, from the Northumbria territories, this probably slowed down their retreat with so much animals to control. The two armies came together near the present day farm of Prora (one of the field names there is still the Bloody Lands), darkness was beginning to make any attempt to fight that late day in November near impossible, and both armies camped for the night.
It has been claimed that on the eve of the battle, King Oengus had a dream that St. Andrew assured him of victory and would give him a sign to help him and his army to victory. The following morning when the two armies faced each other it was plain to see the Angles outnumbered the Albannach/Scots army, and fearing the outcome of the encounter, King Oengus led prayers for deliverance, and was rewarded by the formation of clouds gathering against the backdrop of a clear blue sky depicting a white saltire that was visible to both sides. The omen inspired the Picts and Scots to win a famous victory over the Angles of King Aethelstan, as they engaged each other King Oengus vowed that if, with the saint’s help, he gained the victory, then Andrew would thereafter be the patron saint of his Kingdom of Alba, and the Saltire became the flag of Scotland.
When Kenneth MacAlpin, who may have been present with his grandfather at the battle, later united the two kingdoms of Alba and Dalriada as King of Scots and Picts, Ard-righ Albainn, and named the entity Scotland, St. Andrew did indeed become the patron saint of the united realm. Although the earliest use as a national symbol showing the apostle bound to an X-shaped cross, first appears in the Kingdom of the Scots in 1180 during the reign of William I, and can be traced to the seal of the Guardians of Scotland in 1286, material evidence for the Saltire being used as a flag, as opposed to appearing on another object such as a seal, brooch or surcoat, are somewhat sketchy – there are some later examples of a white saltire set against a blue background (1542) as being the flag of Scotland. However, it must be remembered that Edward I of England in his attempt to symbolize the extinction of the Kingdom of the Scots, in 1296, had many of Scotland’s historical documents, records, royal seals taken or destroyed and therefore there is very little of pre – 1296 historical evidence available today, it’s a sad historical crime what Edward I committed on Scotland, the amount of ancient history that was destroyed is enormous and includes the Pictish tablets that reportedly had a wealth of information on them.
Following Robert Bruce’s victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the Declaration of Arbroath officially named Saint Andrew as the patron saint of Scotland. In June 1385, the Parliament of Scotland decreed that Scottish soldiers serving in France would wear a white Saint Andrew’s Cross, both in front and behind, in such times flags and banners were important to identify opposing forces in heat of battle.
Scotland also has a second unofficial national flag that was generally used by thousands wherever and whenever the national sporting teams were competing and is commonly known as the Lion Rampant. The flag is actually the Royal Standard of the King or Queen of Scots and it remains the personal banner of the monarch; as such its use is, strictly speaking, restricted. As Scotland does not officially have monarch at the present time and sovereignty lies with the people of Scotland, then I don’t see a problem with Fans using the flag as they do with the Saltire. In 1165 when William (The Lion) succeeded his unmarried older brother Malcolm. His coat of arms were adopted as the royal standard of the King and Queen of Scots, hence his name (William the Lion), The Lion Rampant was adopted as the royal coat of arms and incorporated into the Great Seal of Scotland.

Above the Lion Rampant

Before William it was a wild boar that was the symbol of the royal house and was a through back to the Pictish High king of Alba, the wild boar was revered by the Albannach.

Alba gh bráth

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