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Nemo me impune lacessit is the Latin motto of the Order of the Thistle and of three Scottish regiments of the British Army. [1] 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 is often translated as No one attacks me with impunity, or rendered in Scots as Wha daur meddle wi' me?[2] ("Cha togar m' fhearg gun dìoladh" in Scottish Gaelic). It is also alternatively translated into English as No one can harm me unpunished.

Contents

Present and historical use of the motto

Arms of Charles II, King of Scots, showing on a blue scroll the motto of the Order of the Thistle

The motto of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, the Scottish chivalrous order, is also that of the British Army regiments The Royal Regiment of Scotland, Scots Guards and Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. It was also the motto of several former units of the British Army, including the Royal Scots, Royal Scots Greys, Royal Highland Fusiliers and Black Watch, some of which went on to be amalgamated to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006. The motto is also that of the Royal Company of Archers and has been displayed upon the unit's second standard since 1713, following the grant of a Royal charter by Queen Anne.

During the reign of Charles II, the motto, appearing on a scroll beneath the shield and overlying the compartment, was added to the Royal coat of arms of Scotland and, since 1707, has appeared in the Scottish version of the arms of British Monarchs, including the present Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom used in Scotland. The motto appears in conjunction with the collar of the Order of the Thistle, which is placed around the shield. (The collar of the order appears in earlier versions of the Royal coat of arms of Scotland, but without the order motto).

The motto of the Order of the Thistle, (Nemo me impune lacessit), should not be confused with the motto of the Royal arms, (In Defens), which appears on an escroll above the crest in the tradition of Scottish heraldry.[3] (In Defens being an abbreviated form of the full motto In My Defens God Me Defend).[4]

Armed forces units elsewhere have also adopted this historic motto. In Australia, the motto was also used by the Victoria Scottish Regiment, which subsequently became 5th Battalion Royal Victoria Regiment (RVR) which now forms one of the rifle companies of the RVR. (The motto is also used by the RVR Pipes and Drums Association). The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, a reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Forces, also bears this motto. (The motto appearing upon the regimental cap badge).

The motto is also that of the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment, a reserve mechanised infantry unit of South African Army. In Belgium, the 1st Squadron (Belgium) of the Belgian Air Force bear the motto, so too the 1st Battalion 24th Marines of the United States Marine Corps.

The motto appears as an inscription on the rim of the 1984 and 1994 "Scottish" editions of the British one pound coin and is also referenced in the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Cask of Amontillado" (Poe was adopted by a Scottish merchant). Union College, University of Queensland, Australia, also adopted the motto.

The motto also appears (spelled "Nemo Me Impune Lacesset") above an American Timber Rattlesnake on a 1778 $20 bill from Georgia as an early example of the colonial use of the coiled rattlesnake symbol, which later became famous on the Gadsden flag. The phrase also appears on mourning bands worn over the badges of law enforcement officers in the USA.[5]

Possible origin of the motto

Scotland's Floral emblem.

According to legend, the "guardian thistle" (see Scotch thistle) has played its part in the defence of the ancient realm of Scotland against a night attack by the Danes, one of whom let out a yell of pain when he stepped on a prickly thistle, thus alerting the Scottish defenders. In the motto "No-one attacks me with impunity" (Latin: "Nemo me impune lacessit"), "me" was therefore originally the thistle itself, but by extension now refers to the Scottish regiments which have adopted it.

Another traditional source appears in the form of a Scots proverb; "Ye maunna tramp on the Scotch thistle, laddie", this being immortalised in marble by Glasgow monumental sculptors James Gibson & Co. for the Kelvingrove International Exhibition of 1888.[6] The phrase "Wha daur meddle wi' me?" also appears in a traditional border ballad entitled "Little Jock Elliot", [7] which recalls the exploits of a 16th century border reiver, ('John Elliot of the Park'), with particular reference to an infamous encounter in the summer of 1566 with James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell ,[8] the third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The French city of Nancy has a similar motto, Non inultus premor ("I cannot be touched with impunity"), also a reference to the thistle, which is the symbol of the region of Lorraine.

See also

References

See reference links inline above.

External links

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