The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle is an order of chivalry associated with Scotland. The current version of the Order was founded in 1687 by King James VII of Scotland (James II of England and Ireland) who asserted that he was reviving an earlier Order. The Order consists of the Sovereign and sixteen Knights and Ladies, as well as certain "extra" knights (members of the British Royal Family and foreign monarchs). The Sovereign alone grants membership of the Order; he or she is not advised by the Government, as occurs with most other Orders.
The Order's primary emblem is the thistle, the national flower of Scotland. The motto is Nemo me impune lacessit (Latin for "No one provokes me with impunity"). The same motto appears on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom for use in Scotland and some pound coins, and is also the motto of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Scots Guards, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada and Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The patron saint of the Order is St Andrew.
Most British orders of chivalry cover the whole United Kingdom, but the three most exalted ones each pertain to one constituent country only. The Order of the Thistle, which pertains to Scotland, is the second-most senior in precedence. Its equivalent in England, The Most Noble Order of the Garter, is the oldest documented order of chivalry in the United Kingdom, dating to the middle fourteenth century. In 1783 an Irish equivalent, The Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick, was founded, but has now fallen dormant.
|The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle|
Insignia of a Knight Companion of The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle
|Awarded by the monarch of Scotland and successor states|
|Type||Order of chivalry|
|Motto||Nemo me impune lacessit|
|Criteria||At the monarch's pleasure|
|Founder||James VII of Scotland|
|Sovereign||Queen Elizabeth II|
|Chancellor||David, Earl of Airlie|
|First induction||29 May 1687|
|Last induction||30 November 2017|
|Next (higher)||Order of the Garter|
|Next (lower)||Order of St Patrick|
Riband of the Order of the Thistle
The claim that James VII was reviving an earlier Order is generally not supported by the evidence. The 1687 warrant states that during the 786 battle of Athelstaneford with Æthelstan of East Anglia, the cross of St Andrew appeared in the sky to Achaius, King of Scots; after his victory, he established the Order of the Thistle and dedicated it to the saint. This seems unlikely, since Achaius died a century before Aethelstan.
An alternative version is that the Order was founded in 809 to commemorate an alliance between Achaius and Emperor Charlemagne; there is some substance to this, as Charlemagne employed Scottish bodyguards. Yet another is Robert the Bruce instituted the order after his victory at Bannockburn in 1314.
Most historians consider the earliest credible claim to be the founding of the Order by James III, during the fifteenth century. He adopted the thistle as the royal badge, issued coins depicting thistles and allegedly conferred membership of the "Order of the Burr or Thissil" on Francis I of France. However, there is no conclusive evidence for this; in 1558, a French commentator described the use of the crowned thistle and St Andrew's cross on Scottish coins and banners but noted there was no Scottish order of knighthood.
Writing around 1578, John Lesley refers to the three foreign orders of chivalry carved on the gate of Linlithgow Palace, with James V's ornaments of St Andrew, proper to this nation. Some Scottish order of chivalry may have existed during the sixteenth century, possibly founded by James V and called the Order of St. Andrew, but lapsed by the end of that century.
In 1610 William Fowler, the Scottish secretary to Anne of Denmark was asked about the Order of the Thistle. Fowler believed that there had been an Order, founded to honour Scots who fought for Charles VII of France. He thought it had been discontinued in the time of James V, and could say nothing of its ceremonies or regalia.
James VII issued letters patent "reviving and restoring the Order of the Thistle to its full glory, lustre and magnificency" on 29 May 1687. His intention was to reward Scottish Catholics for their loyalty but the initiative actually came from John, 1st Earl and 1st Jacobite Duke of Melfort, then Secretary of State for Scotland. Only eight members out of a possible twelve were appointed; these included Catholics, such as Melfort and the Lord Chancellor of Scotland, his elder brother James, 4th Earl and 1st Jacobite Duke of Perth, plus Protestant supporters like the Earl of Arran.
After James was deposed by the 1688 Glorious Revolution and no further appointments were made until his younger daughter Anne did so in 1703. It remains in existence and is used to recognise Scots 'who have held public office or contributed significantly to national life.'
The Kings of Scots, later the Kings of Great Britain and of the United Kingdom, have served as Sovereigns of the Order. When James VII revived the Order, the statutes stated that the Order would continue the ancient number of Knights, which was described in the preceding warrant as "the Sovereign and twelve Knights-Brethren in allusion to the Blessed Saviour and his Twelve Apostles". In 1827, George IV augmented the Order to sixteen members. Women (other than Queens regnant) were originally excluded from the Order; George VI created his wife Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon a Lady of the Thistle in 1937 via a special statute, and in 1987 Elizabeth II allowed the regular admission of women to both the Order of the Thistle and the Order of the Garter.
From time to time, individuals may be admitted to the Order by special statutes. Such members are known as "Extra Knights" and do not count towards the sixteen-member limit. Members of the British Royal Family are normally admitted through this procedure; the first to be so admitted was Prince Albert. King Olav V of Norway, the first foreigner to be admitted to the Order, was also admitted by special statute in 1962.
The Sovereign has historically had the power to choose Knights of the Order. From the eighteenth century onwards, the Sovereign made his or her choices upon the advice of the Government. George VI felt that the Orders of the Garter and the Thistle had been used only for political patronage, rather than to reward actual merit. Therefore, with the agreement of the Prime Minister (Clement Attlee) and the Leader of the Opposition (Winston Churchill) in 1946, both Orders returned to the personal gift of the Sovereign.
Knights and Ladies of the Thistle may also be admitted to the Order of the Garter. Formerly, many, but not all, Knights elevated to the senior Order would resign from the Order of the Thistle. The first to resign from the Order of the Thistle was John, Duke of Argyll in 1710; the last to take such an action was Thomas, Earl of Zetland in 1872. Knights and Ladies of the Thistle may also be deprived of their knighthoods. The only individual to have suffered such a fate was John Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar who lost both the knighthood and the earldom after participating in the Jacobite rising of 1715.
The Order has five officers: the Dean, the Chancellor, the Usher, the Lord Lyon King of Arms and the Secretary. The Dean is normally a cleric of the Church of Scotland. This office was not part of the original establishment, but was created in 1763 and joined to the office of Dean of the Chapel Royal. The two offices were separated in 1969. The office of Chancellor is mentioned and given custody of the seal of the Order in the 1687 statutes, but no-one was appointed to the position until 1913. The office has subsequently been held by one of the knights, though not necessarily the most senior. The Usher of the Order is the Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod (unlike his Garter equivalent, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, he does not have another function assisting the House of Lords). The Lord Lyon King of Arms, head of the Scottish heraldic establishment and whose office predates his association with the Order serves as King of Arms of the Order. The Lord Lyon often—but not invariably—also serves as the Secretary.
Aside from these special occasions, however, much simpler insignia are used whenever a member of the Order attends an event at which decorations are worn.
However, on certain collar days designated by the Sovereign, members attending formal events may wear the Order's collar over their military uniform, formal wear, or other costume. They will then substitute the broad riband of another order to which they belong (if any), since the Order of the Thistle is represented by the collar.
Upon the death of a Knight or Lady, the insignia must be returned to the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood. The badge and star are returned personally to the Sovereign by the nearest relative of the deceased.
One unusual recipient of the Order of the Thistle was James, Earl of Southesk (1827-1905). He was recognized by the Order for his adventurous spirit and his passion for the wilds of Canada. His portrait in marble by William Grant Stevenson depicts a stern man who had placed himself at some risk as he travelled through the Canadian wilderness and wrote about his admiration for the native peoples of North America.
When James VII created the modern Order in 1687, he directed that the Abbey Church at the Palace of Holyroodhouse be converted to a Chapel for the Order of the Thistle, perhaps copying the idea from the Order of the Garter (whose chapel is located in Windsor Castle). James VII, however, was deposed by 1688; the Chapel, meanwhile, had been destroyed during riots. The Order did not have a Chapel until 1911, when one was added onto St Giles High Kirk in Edinburgh. Each year, the Sovereign resides at the Palace of Holyroodhouse for a week in June or July; during the visit, a service for the Order is held. Any new Knights or Ladies are installed at annual services.
Each member of the Order, including the Sovereign, is allotted a stall in the Chapel, above which his or her heraldic devices are displayed. Perched on the pinnacle of a knight's stall is his helm, decorated with mantling and topped by his crest. If he is a peer, the coronet appropriate to his rank is placed beneath the helm. Under the laws of heraldry, women, other than monarchs, do not normally bear helms nor crests; instead, the coronet alone is used (if she is a peeress or princess). Lady Marion Fraser had a helm and crest included when she was granted arms; these are displayed above her stall in the same manner as for knights. Unlike other British Orders, the armorial banners of Knights and Ladies of the Thistle are not hung in the chapel, but instead in an adjacent part of St Giles High Kirk. The Thistle Chapel does, however, bear the arms of members living and deceased on stall plates. These enamelled plates are affixed to the back of the stall and display its occupant's name, arms, and date of admission into the Order.
Upon the death of a Knight, helm, mantling, crest (or coronet or crown) and sword are taken down. The stall plates, however, are not removed; rather, they remain permanently affixed to the back of the stall, so that the stalls of the chapel are festooned with a colourful record of the Order's Knights (and now Ladies) since 1911. The entryway just outside the doors of the chapel has the names of the Order's Knights from before 1911 inscribed into the walls giving a complete record of the members of the order.
Knights and Ladies of the Thistle are assigned positions in the order of precedence, ranking above all others of knightly rank except the Order of the Garter, and above baronets. Wives, sons, daughters and daughters-in-law of Knights of the Thistle also feature on the order of precedence; relatives of Ladies of the Thistle, however, are not assigned any special precedence. (Generally, individuals can derive precedence from their fathers or husbands, but not from their mothers or wives.)
Knights of the Thistle prefix "Sir", and Ladies prefix "Lady", to their forenames. Wives of Knights may prefix "Lady" to their surnames, but no equivalent privilege exists for husbands of Ladies. Such forms are not used by peers and princes, except when the names of the former are written out in their fullest forms.
Knights and Ladies use the post-nominal letters "KT" and "LT" respectively. When an individual is entitled to use multiple post-nominal letters, "KT" or "LT" appears before all others, except "Bt" or "Btss" (Baronet or Baronetess), "VC" (Victoria Cross), "GC" (George Cross) and "KG" or "LG" (Knight or Lady of the Garter).
Knights and Ladies may encircle their arms with the circlet (a green circle bearing the Order's motto) and the collar of the Order; the former is shown either outside or on top of the latter. The badge is depicted suspended from the collar. The Royal Arms depict the collar and motto of the Order of the Thistle only in Scotland; they show the circlet and motto of the Garter in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Knights and Ladies are also entitled to receive heraldic supporters. This high privilege is shared only by members of the Royal Family, peers, Knights and Ladies of the Garter, and Knights and Dames Grand Cross of the junior orders of chivalry and clan chiefs.
Events from the year 1703 in the Kingdom of Scotland.1821 Coronation Honours
The 1821 Coronation Honours were appointments by King George IV to various orders and honours on the occasion of his coronation on 19 July 1821. The honours were published in The London Gazette on 14, 24 and 28 July 1821.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour.1911 Coronation Honours
The Coronation Honours 1911 for the British Empire were announced on 19 June 1911, to celebrate the coronation of George V which was held on the 22 June 1911.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.1933 New Year Honours
The 1933 New Year Honours were appointments by King George V to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of the United Kingdom and British Empire. They were announced on 30 December 1932.The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.1937 Coronation Honours
The 1937 Coronation Honours were awarded in honour of the coronation of George VI.1945 New Year Honours
The 1945 New Year Honours were appointments by many of the Commonwealth realms of King George VI to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of those countries. They were announced on 1 January 1945 for the British Empire, Canada, and the Union of South Africa to celebrate the past year and mark the beginning of 1945.
The recipients of honours are displayed here as they were styled before their new honour, and arranged by honour, with classes (Knight, Knight Grand Cross, etc.) and then divisions (Military, Civil, etc.) as appropriate.2018 Birthday Honours
The 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours are appointments by some of the 16 Commonwealth realms of Queen Elizabeth II to various orders and honours to reward and highlight good works by citizens of those countries. The Birthday Honours are awarded as part of the Queen's Official Birthday celebrations during the month of June. The Queen's Birthday Honours for the United Kingdom were announced on 9 June; the honours for New Zealand were announced on 4 June and for Australia on 11 June.
The recipients of honours are displayed as they were styled before their new honour. They are arranged by the country (in order of precedence) whose ministers advised the Queen on the appointments, then by honour with grades, i.e. Knight/Dame Grand Cross, Knight/Dame Commander etc., and then by divisions, i.e. Civil, Diplomatic and Military as appropriate.Chancellor of the Order of the Thistle
The Chancellor of the Order of the Thistle is an office of the Order of the Thistle, established in 1687. The Chancellor is normally one of the knights, though not necessarily the most senior.Dame
Dame is an honorific title and the feminine form of address for the honour of damehood in many Christian chivalric orders, as well as the British honours system and those of several other Commonwealth countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, with the masculine form of address being sir. It is the female equivalent for knighthood, which is traditionally granted to males. Dame is also style used by baronetess in their own right.
A woman appointed to the grades of Dame Commander or Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Saint John, Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Most Honourable Order of the Bath, the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, the Royal Victorian Order, or the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire becomes a dame. Since there is no female equivalent to a Knight Bachelor, women are always appointed to an order of chivalry. Women who are appointed to the Most Noble Order of the Garter or the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle are given the title of Lady rather than Dame.David Ogilvy, 12th Earl of Airlie
Colonel David Lyulph Gore Wolseley Ogilvy, 12th and 7th Earl of Airlie (18 July 1893, Cahir, County Tipperary, Ireland – 28 December 1968) was a Scottish peer, soldier and courtier.He was the eldest son of David Ogilvy, 11th Earl of Airlie, and his wife, the former Lady Mabell Gore. He inherited his father's titles in 1900 at the age of six, and was one of the trainbearers to Mary of Teck at her coronation in 1911. He became a Representative Peer for Scotland in 1922, was appointed a Lord-in-waiting in Stanley Baldwin's government in 1926, and was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1929.In 1937, he became Lord Lieutenant of Angus and was appointed Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth in 1937. As a senior member of the royal household, he was a guest at the 1947 wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh. In 1938, he was elevated to Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, made a Knight of the Order of the Thistle in 1942 and was appointed Chancellor of the Order of the Thistle in 1956.Dean of the Thistle
The Dean of the Thistle is an office of the Order of the Thistle, re-established in 1687. The office is normally held by a minister of the Church of Scotland, and forms part of the Royal Household in Scotland.
In 1886 the office of Dean of the Chapel Royal was revived and united by royal warrant to that of Dean of the Thistle, eventually being separated in 1969.Eric Anderson (teacher)
Sir William Eric Kinloch Anderson, (born 27 May 1936), is a retired teacher and educator and was Provost of Eton College from September 2000 to 30 January 2009.Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod
The Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod is the Gentleman Usher to the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, established in 1687.Iain Torrance
Iain Richard Torrance, (born 13 January 1949) is a retired Church of Scotland minister, theologian and academic. He is Pro-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, Honorary Professor of Early Christian Doctrine and Ethics at the University of Edinburgh, President and Professor of Patristics Emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Extra Chaplain to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland. He was formerly Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Dean of the Chapel Royal in Scotland, and Dean of the Order of the Thistle. He is married to Morag Ann (née MacHugh), whom he met while they were students at the University of St Andrews, and they have two children.Jacobite Peerage
After the deposition by the English parliament in February 1689 of King James II and VII from the thrones of England and Ireland (the Scottish Estates followed suit on 11 April 1689), he and his successors continued to create peers and baronets, which they believed was their right. These creations were not recognised by James's de facto successors or British law, but the titles were used in Jacobite circles in Continental Europe and recognised by France, Spain and the Papacy. The following tables list the peerages and baronetcies created by the Stuart claimants in exile. The tables present the situation from the Jacobite perspective, and so titles granted after 1689 by King James II & VII's de facto successors to the throne, whose authority was not recognised by Jacobites, are represented in inverted commas.Nemo me impune lacessit
Nemo me impune lacessit (No one "cuts" (attacks/assails) me with impunity) was the Latin motto of the Royal Stuart dynasty of Scotland from at least the reign of James VI when it appeared on the reverse side of merk coins minted in 1578 and 1580. It is the adopted motto of the Order of the Thistle and of three Scottish regiments of the British Army. The motto also appears, in conjunction with the collar of the Order of the Thistle, in later versions of the Royal coat of arms of the Kingdom of Scotland and subsequently in the version of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom used in Scotland. It has been loosely rendered in Scots as Wha daur meddle wi' me? (in Scottish Gaelic Cha togar m' fhearg gun dìoladh, pronounced [xa ˈt̪okəɾ ˈmɛɾak kuɲ ˈtʲiəl̪ˠəɣ] (listen)). It is also alternatively translated into English as No one can harm me unpunished.New Zealand royal honours system
The New Zealand Royal Honours system, a system of orders, decorations and medals, recognises achievements of, or service by, New Zealanders or others in connection with New Zealand. Until 1975 New Zealand used the British honours system. Since then the country has introduced a number of uniquely New Zealand honours, and as of 2018 only the dynastic British honours continue in active use in New Zealand, with the exception of the Order of the Companions of Honour (Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, a New Zealand soprano, was given the award in 2018).
The Queen of New Zealand awards honours on ministerial advice. However, certain awards remain in the exclusive gift of the Queen.The Honours Unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet administers the New Zealand honours system.Reginald Graham
Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John Reginald Noble Graham, 3rd Baronet (17 September 1892 – 6 December 1980) was a British recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, "for most conspicuous bravery, coolness and resource when in command of a Machine Gun Section."He was born at Calcutta, India, on 17 September 1892, the eldest son of Sir Frederick Graham, 2nd Baronet, and was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge. Soon after the First World War broke out he joined the British army and was posted to 9th Battalion, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's). In 1916 he was seconded to 136 Company, Machine Gun Corps, which was sent to Mesopotamia. During the Samarrah Offensive Lieutenant Graham was in command of a machine-gun section which was co-operating with the 56th Punjabi Rifles (Frontier Force) near Istabulat on the evening of 22 April 1917:
Lt. Graham accompanied his guns across open ground, under very heavy rifle and machine gun fire, and when his men became casualties, he assisted in carrying the ammunition.Although twice wounded he continued during the advance to control his guns and was able, with one gun, to open an accurate fire on the enemy, who were massing for a counter-attack. This gun was put out of action by the enemy's rifle fire, and he was again wounded. The advancing enemy forced him to retire, but before doing so he further disabled his gun, rendering it useless.He then brought a Lewis gun into action with excellent effect till all the ammunition was expended. He was again severely wounded, and forced through loss of blood to retire.His valour and skilful handling of his guns held up a strong counter-attack which threatened to roll up the left flank of the Brigade, and thus averted what might have been a very critical situation.After recovering from his severe wounds Captain Graham, as he had become, was ordered back to Mesopotamia where he continued to serve until January 1918 when his company was transferred to Palestine where he was given command of the unit with the rank of major.
After the war, Graham returned to Scotland to a hero's welcome at his home village of Cardross.
He later worked in India in branches of the family firm, William Graham and Company, founded by his great-great-grandfather in Glasgow.In 1920 Graham married Rachel Sprot, daughter of Sir Alexander Sprot, 1st Baronet. They had one son (who inherited the baronetcy as Sir John Graham, 4th Baronet) and one daughter, Lesley married Jock Wykeham Strang Steel.Graham succeeded to the Baronetcy on the death of his father in 1936. During World War II he was given a temporary rank of lieutenant colonel and served in Scottish Command. He was awarded the OBE in the New Year Honours of 1946, and King Haakon VII's Cross of Liberty in 1949.From 1959 to 1979 Graham was Usher of the Green Rod to the Order of the Thistle and participated in many state occasions including the unveiling of a memorial to King George VI in St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh in 1962. He died aged 88 in Edinburgh. Lady Graham died in 1984.
His medals are held by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum in Stirling Castle.
Reginald Graham's Commemorative Memorial Stone was unveiled at the Cardross War Memorial on 22 April 2017, the 100th anniversary of his gallant action. There is a second Commemorative Memorial Stone to him in the National Memorial Arboretum along with Memorial Stones for all the other VCs who were born abroad.Royal Arms of Scotland
The royal arms of Scotland is the official coat of arms of the King of Scots first adopted in the 12th century. With the Union of the Crowns in 1603, James VI inherited the thrones of England and Ireland and thus his arms in Scotland were now quartered with the arms of England (which was itself quartered with France) with an additional quarter for Ireland also added (the arms would continue to alter in later years). Though the kingdoms of England and Scotland would share the same monarch, the distinction in heraldry used in both kingdoms was maintained. When the kingdoms of Scotland and England were united under the Acts of Union 1707 to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain, no single arms were created and instead, the royal arms as used in either Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom would continue to differ.
Poetically described as "the ruddy lion ramping in his field of tressured gold", the arms are still widely used today as a symbol of Scotland, and are quartered in the royal arms of Queen Elizabeth II along with the arms of England and Ireland.
The arms in banner form is still used by various officials in Scotland and is called the Royal Banner, or more commonly, the Lion Rampant.
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