The Saltire - Flag of Scotland
Scottish History > Flag of Scotland
There is more than one story of how the Saltire, believed to be the oldest flag in Europe, came to be the Flag of Scotland. This is one of them.
Scotland’s patron saint, St Andrew, was one of the Apostles crucified by the Romans. Refusing to be nailed to a cross the same shape as that of Jesus, he was crucified on a diagonal cross.
The word ‘Saltire’ is derived from the French word ‘sauteur’ meaning ‘jumper’. This is in reference to horse jumping, and the connection is the resemblance of the crossed poles fences used in horse jumping to that of a diagonal cross.
After the crucifixion, St Regulus is said to have had a vision asking him to take the bones of St Andrew to a far off land. This he duly did, and the remains arrived in Scotland, in the place now called St Andrews.
The Saltire became the national flag of Scotland in the year 832AD, in the sky above a battlefield near the village of Athelstaneford in East Lothian.
On this occasion the Scots were the invaders as East Lothian was part of the kingdom of Northumbria. On the eve of the battle, King Angus, who was leading the Scots and Picts, is reported to have had a vision in which St Andrew appeared to him, and assured him victory would be his.
Arriving at the battlefield the next day, the Scots and Picts were heavily outnumbered, and Angus and the Scots army knelt down to pray to St Andrew, vowing that if he emerged victorious, Andrew would be our patron saint and his cross would become the national flag of Scotland.
As the forces of Scotland and England faced each other to commence battle, a strange thing happened. White clouds formed the shape of a diagonal cross, set against the background of the light blue sky.
Inspired, the Scots went on to victory when the English leader Aethelstan was killed and the Northumbrians fled. From that time the Saltire became the flag of Scotland, and Scottish soldiers wore the Saltire on their bonnets and tunics for identification on the battlefield.
In the kirk yard of Athelstaneford Parish Kirk there is a memorial marking the ‘Battle of the Saltire’ depicting the battlefield, the two armies and the sky above them.
The crucified image of St Andrew appeared in the seal of Scotland in 1289, but following the Union of the Parliaments in 1707 use of the Saltire was rare until there was a resurgence in its use in the 20th century.
Now recognised legally as Scotlands national flag, it is used by Scottish teams in international competitions and flown from public buildings, either on it’s own or side by side with the Union Flag.
When it was incorporated in the union flag the saltire was shown in a darker navy blue and many flag makers have adopted this colour.
In 1936 the Saltire Society was founded to preserve and enhance Scottish society and culture, and more recently embassies of the United Kingdom have flown the Saltire on 30th November, to mark St Andrew's Day.
The Lion Rampant is sometimes mistakenly thought to be the flag of Scotland, but in actual fact, it is the flag of the Monarch of Scotland.
Saltire photograph by Awottawa
More Scottish History :
Scotland History Tours
Feel the romance of Scotland. These tours concentrate not only on the history, but on the folklore and numerous tales associated with our rich heritage.
Back To Top
Home | About | Contact | Privacy | Site Map