Thistle Order

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Insignia of a Knight of the Thistle Order

The Order of the Thistle ( The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle , and Order of St. Andrew called) is a Scottish military orders , donated the 1,687th Admission to the order confers personal nobility with the title Sir . The Ordenstag is November 30 and the Order of the Church St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh .

The Order of Thistle ranks second in the ranking of the British Orders , after the Order of the Garter and before the Order of Saint Patrick .

The reference to the thistle is explained by its importance as a heraldic flower and thus one of the national symbols of Scotland.


Banner of the Knights of the Thistle Order (St Giles' Cathedral)

The Baroque age, with its love of tales, was particularly adept at creating legends of orders, coats of arms and gender. The founding document of the thistle order refers to alleged earlier cooperatives of the order, which already existed in the 8th and 9th centuries, and to a renewal in 1540 under King James V , father of Maria Stuart . He is said to have set the number of knights at 12 - as many as the apostles - and dedicated the order to the apostle Andrew. None of these legends can be scientifically proven.

In any case, it is certain that King James VII "renewed" the order on May 29, 1687 and, true to the legend, set the number of knights to 12 and the sovereign. He did this at a time when his Catholic reign in England was already highly controversial, while the House of Stuart still had numerous followers in his old home Scotland. His intention was to attract the most influential nobles in the country to himself. It also came to light in the order's motto: Nemo me impune lacessit (German: “Nobody challenges me with impunity”). Of course, this did not prevent him from being overthrown by the Glorious Revolution the following year .

No new knights were appointed under his Protestant daughter Queen Maria II and her husband William of Orange . It was only his Protestant daughter Queen Anne who renewed the statutes of the order on December 31, 1703 and appointed further knights from the following year. George IV increased the permitted number of knights to 16 on May 8, 1827, which is still the case today.

The knights of the order gather once a year in the presence of the sovereign for a service in the order chapel, a side chapel of the Edinburgh cathedral, the stalls of which are decorated with the banners of the previous and current knights. This is followed by a celebratory meal in the throne room of Holyrood Palace .

Medal bearer

The order includes only one class, that of the Knight Companion . The number of 16 knights is said to include twelve to fourteen Scots and only two English.

In addition, there are members of the British royal family: These can be accepted into the order as Royal Knights Companion and are not included in the number of 16.

Foreigners are not admitted to the order. The only exception for 250 years was made for the King of Norway , Olav V , who was accepted as the Stranger Knight Companion ; he came over to Scotland on his yacht every summer to visit the royal family at Balmoral . He was also not counted in the number of 16.

The Royal Knights Companion and Stranger Knights Companion are collectively referred to as the Extra Knights Companion .

According to the order's statutes of 1703, an admission requirement was that each candidate had the dignity of a Knight Bachelor hold. Since this dignity cannot be bestowed on women, apart from the ruling monarch as sovereign of the order, de facto no women could be accepted into the order. In 1937, as the first woman Queen Consort Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was accepted as a Supernumerary Lady of the Thistle in the order. In 1987, Queen Elizabeth II finally changed the statutes of the order, so that since then women can also be accepted into the order as Lady Companions .


The insignia of the one-class thistle order are the collane , which consists of two types of enamelled elements: thistles and diamond branches. Furthermore, as a sign of the order of the Collane ( Badge Appendant ) there is a picture of St. Andrew in the church regalia , who holds a white enamelled St. Andrew's cross in front of him and is surrounded by golden rays. In the lapel the order of the Collane has a thistle of gold on a green field, which is enamelled in green and red. These two, the collar and their medal, may only be worn on special collar days ; the usual sign of the order, an oval gold shield with St. Andrew and the St. Andrew's cross, which are surrounded by a ribbon with the motto of the order Nemo me impune lacessit , is worn on a green sash from the left shoulder to the right hip. The silver medal star, which is worn with both the collar and the sash, has four arms, on which lies the St. Andrew's cross, which has a round gold medallion in the middle. The medallion shows a green enamelled thistle and is surrounded by a ribbon with the motto of the order.


  • Gustav Adolph Ackermann: Order book of all in Europe flourishing and expired orders and decorations . Rudolph & Dieterici, Annaberg 1855 (reprint: Autengruber, Offenbach am Main 1997, ISBN 3-932543-05-X , pp. 116-117 ( Classics of Phaleristics 1)), online .
  • Paul Hieronymussen: Orders, Medals and Decorations of Britain and Europe in Color . Blandford Press, London 1975, ISBN 0-7137-0445-4 .
  • NN : Thistle Order , in: Heide N. Rohloff (Ed.): A royal millennium. Stagings of a monarchy , catalog and manual for the exhibition of the British Crown Jewels (in replica) [The British Heritage Exhibition], Hanover: Congress Centrum; Tourismus Center, 1997, pp. 79f.
  • William Arthur Shaw: The Knights of England. Volume 1, Sherratt and Hughes, London 1906, pp. Vii f.

Web links

Commons : Scottish Order of the Thistle  - collection of images, videos and audio files