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 a Royal 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 known collars were given to individuals from the 15th century.
James VII (James II of England) 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.
The King is the Sovereign of the Order, and appointments made to the Order are entirely his personal gift, in recognition of men and women who have held public office or have contributed significantly to national life. In addition to the 16 Knights and Ladies, The Queen, The Princess Royal, and The Duke of Rothesay (the Scottish title of The Prince of Wales) have been appointed as Royal Knights of the Thistle.
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
The Thistle Service
Every other year, dressed in their striking green velvet robes, glistening insignia and white-plumed hats, the knights take part in a grand procession to the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle in Edinburgh, for the Order of the Thistle Service. The Knights and Ladies meet for a ceremony at The Thistle Chapel in St Giles' Cathedral, where any new Members are installed into the Order by the Sovereign. The procession begins in the Signet Library in Edinburgh Town Centre, while just outside the Library in Parliament Square collect The Guard of Honour with the Colours (flags) of the Royal Company of Archers (King's Body Guard for Scotland), accompanied by the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
The Sovereign and the Knights, accompanied by the Chancellor, Dean and Secretary of the Thistle, then process into the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle, where The King installs the new Knights. The procession then continues to the Cathedral for the remainder of the Service.
Following the Service there is a short Reception in the Signet Library, and a lunch at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Tickets to the Service
To be able to view the procession, please apply in advance for tickets by writing to:
The Secretary of the Order,
The Chancery of the Thistle,
HM New Register House,
OR you can email: [email protected]