Nemo me impune lacessit

[ne-moh me im-poo-ne lah-kes-sit; Eng. nee-moh mee im-pyoo-nee luh-ses-it]
Nemo me impune lacessit is the Latin motto of the Order of the Thistle and of three Scottish regiments of the British Army. 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 provokes me with impunity, or rendered in Scots as Wha daur meddle wi' me? ("Cha togar m' fhearg gun dìoladh" in Scottish Gaelic).

Present and historical use of the motto

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.

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. (In Defens being an abbreviated form of the full motto In My Defens God Me Defend).

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 and is now one of the rifle companies of 5th/6th Battalion Royal Victoria Regiment. 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.

Possible origin of the motto

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 touches 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.

The phrase "Wha daur meddle wi' me?" also appears in a traditional border ballad entitled "Little Jock Elliot", which recalls the exploits of a 16th century border reiver, with particular reference to an infamous encounter with James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, 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


See reference links inline above.

External links

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