HOW THE FRENCH AND THE SCOTS BECAME FRIENDS
Years passed on and many kings ruled in Scotland.
They were years of war and bloodshed, for the country
was still divided into different kingdoms, and besides the
Picts and Scots and Britons, there were Saxons, who,
although they could not succeed in conquering Scotland
as they had conquered England, had settled in the part
south of the Forth. Sometimes the Picts and Scots
fought against each other ; sometimes they joined and
fought against the Britons ; or again they would join
with the Britons and fight against the Saxons. But
always and always the story is of war.
At last there arose a good and wise king called
Achaius. He tried to rule well and bring peace to his
In the time of Achaius the greatest ruler in Europe
was Charlemagne, King of France and Roman Emperor.
He was very powerful, but even he dreaded the wild
Saxons, for they invaded France as they invaded Briton,
and did many wicked and cruel deeds.
When Charlemagne heard how the Picts and the
Scots resisted the Saxons and remained free, he resolved
to make a league with them against their common enemy.
He wanted too, to make his people love learning, and in all
the world he could hear of no people so learned as the
Scots. He resolved therefore to send to them and ask
them to come to teach his people. So he called some of
his greatest nobles and sent them with a message to
Achaius, King of Scots.
These nobles stepped into a beautiful ship with purple
sails and gilded prow and sailed away to Scotland. As
soon as they landed they were led to the court of King
Achaius, who greeted them kindly and treated them with
‘ Noble King,’ said the messengers, bowing low before
Achaius, ‘ our master, the most Christian Prince Charle
magne, sends you greeting. The fame of your good
name and of the love you bear to the Christian faith has
come to him. He has heard too of the learning and the
bravery of your people, and of how they have resisted the
heathen Saxons who have invaded Britain and done many
evil and cruel deeds there. Our noble King desires there
fore to be in fellowship with you and with your people, so
that Scotsmen shall help Frenchmen and Frenchmen shall
help Scotsmen. To this end let it be sworn between us
that whenever the Saxons come with an army to France
the Scots shall invade England. And if the Saxons come
with an army to Scotland then the French shall take their
ships and invade England.’
When the messengers had made this long speech they
again bowed low and waited for King Achaius to answer.
‘I thank your noble King for the love he shows
towards me,’ he replied, ‘ and when I have taken counsel
with my lords and nobles you shall have my answer to
carry back to him.’
Then the messengers were led to splendid rooms in the
King’s palace. Everything was done to please and amuse
them. There were great banquets and hunting parties
in which some of the nobles took part, but the greatest
and wisest gathered round the King to give advice.
FRENCH AND SCOTS BECOME FRIENDS 21
Long they talked, for the lords and nobles could not
agree. ‘ Why should we make friends with a people from
over the sea ?’ said one noble. ‘ Would it not be far more
sensible to make friends with the Saxons who live in the
same island as we do ?’
‘ No,’ said another, ‘ we can never be sure of the
Saxons, they are full of falseness and treason. What
misery and trouble have fallen upon the Britons through
the deceit of the Saxons. Do not mistake, they do not
wish to be our friends. They have conquered Britain,
they also desire to conquer our land. Therefore if we
intend to avoid the hatred of our most fearful enemies ;
if we intend to honour the faith of Christ for whose
defence the French now bear arms ; if we have more
respect for truth than falsehood ; if we labour for the
fame and honour of our nation ; if we will defend our
country and bring it to peace ; if we will defend our
liberty and our lives, which are most dear to man, let us
join with France, and let this bond be a defence to our
country in all times to come.
Then all the lords and nobles shouted, ‘ It is well said.
Let it be done.’
King Achaius then sent to the messengers, command
ing them to come to court the next day to hear his
answer. That night there was great feasting and rejoic
ing in the palace, and next day the King in his royal
robes, surrounded by his nobles, waited to receive the
messengers of the French King.
‘ My lords,’ said the King, ‘ I desire you to take to
your master, the most Christian King Charlemagne, my
greeting and thanks. Say to him that my people and I
desire above all things to enter into a bond with him,
which shall last for all time, and be for ever a joy to both
nations. To make the bond more sure, I send back with
you my own brother, who is a true and trusty knight, and
with him shall go a company of soldiers and four wise
men. The soldiers shall fight for the Emperor whenever
he goes against the enemy, and the wise men shall teach
Then the messengers rejoiced greatly, and thanking
the King they departed to their own land. The Scottish
soldiers who went with them formed the beginning of a
French Scots guard which afterwards became famous, and
the four wise men founded schools and colleges in France,
and so added honour to the name of Scotsman.
King Achaius had taken for his standard a red lion
rampant (that is, standing upon his hind legs) upon a
yellow ground. Now, in order that the nobles might
never forget his bond with France, he surrounded the
red lion with a double row of fleurs-de-lis, the emblem of
France. This was meant to show that the fierce lion of
Scotland was armed with the gentleness of the lilies of
France, and that the two peoples were friends for ever.
Wise people say that the story of Achaius and Charle-
magne can only be a fairy tale, for that at the time when
Charlemagne ruled, the people of Scotland were still a
poor, half-savage, ignorant people, and that a great king
like Charlemagne could have learned nothing from them,
and that he would not have wished to make a bond with
However that may be, you will find as this story goes
on that the French and the Scots were friends through
many ages, and if you look at the Scottish Standard you
will see that the lion is surrounded by the lilies of France.
It is said that King Achaius founded the Order of the
Knights of the Thistle. This is the great order of knight-
hood in Scotland, just as the order of the Garter is the
great order of England.
FRENCH AND SCOTS BECOME FRIENDS 28
When King Achaius founded the Order of the Thistle,
he made only thirteen knights—himself and twelve others.
This was in imitation of Christ and his twelve apostles.
So it was considered a very great honour to be made a
Knight of the Thistle. There were never more than
thirteen Knights of the Thistle until hundreds of years
later, when King George IV. made a law that there should
The ornament worn by the Knights of the Thistle is
a picture of St. Andrew with his cross surrounded by
thistles and rue. The thistle was the badge of the Scots.
Rue was the badge of the Picts. Thistles prick and hurt
you if you do not touch them carefully ; rue soothes and
heals, and was supposed to cure people who had been
Some people say, however, that this Order was not
founded in the time of King Achaius but in the time of
King James v., a King who lived many, many years later.
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