|For centuries Norse invaders had raided the coasts of Scotland. Despite heroic defence by the Scottish people these raids became ever fiercer and the Vikings began to settle in conquered lands. Norse kings then laid claim to large tracts of Scotland, notably the western isles.|
In 1263, with the balance of power delicately balanced, the Scottish army under Alexander III was aligned against the might of the Vikings. At night, the Scots lay resting, renewing their energies for the decisive battle that would come with the dawn. The Vikings sought to surprise the Scots be creeping up stealthily, barefoot and overwhelming them as they slept. Their ruse might have succeeded had not a leading Viking trod upon the spiky thistle and cried out in agony, thereby alerting the Scots. The defenders fell upon the Norsemen, who fled in their longships in disarray and sailed off north to their Scandinavian homelands.
The threat to Scotland was ended! The thistle thus became the emblem of Scotland, bearing the motto: "Nemo me impune lacessit" meaning "No one hurts me with impunity."