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Blue Blanket


King James III was an unusual king in that he was prepared to ignore the great magnates of the land and appoint to positions we would now call ministerial or civil service jobs people whom he considered suitable. The great nobles believed these jobs to be theirs by right, so this got him into deep trouble. In 1482, in the face of a rebellion by the nobility, he also found himself under pressure from an English army sent by King Edward IV: at this point too the king was seized by two of his uncles and imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle.
The details of what happened next are obscure, but with the help of his wife, Margaret of Denmark and other supporters James was set free. These supporters included the Edinburgh craftsmen to whom he presented a banner ten feet two inches long and six feet six inches wide with a blue background.
This was the famous Blue Blanket, entrusted into the keeping of the Edinburgh Hammermen, i.e. mediaeval blacksmiths and engineers and the like and apparently if the Deacon Convener of the Trades of Edinburgh causes this banner to be unfurled in public all the craftsmen in Scotland are supposed to rally to his side in support of the king or queen. Thankfully, this has not been recently tested!
However, the blue blanket is a famous legend to this very day; there was a public house in the High Street named after it and at least two versions of the banner itself still exist, one in the Trades Maiden Hospital and one in the National Museum of Scotland.


This was the ancient banner of the trades of Edinburgh. On its appearance, not only the artificers were obliged to repair it, but all the artificers or craftsmen within Scotland were bound to follow and fight under the Convener who took charge of it.
According to an old tradition, this standard was employed in the Holy Wars by a body of crusading citizens of Edinburgh, and was the first that was planted on the walls of Jerusalem, when that city was stormed by the Christian army under the famous Godfrey de Bouillon.
It is told in connection with this standard, that James III, having been kept a prisoner for nine months in the Castle of Edinburgh, by his rebellious nobles, was freed by the citizens of Edinburgh, who raised the Blue Blanket, assaulted the Castle and took it by surprise. Out of gratitude for their seasonable loyalty, James, besides certain privileges, presented them with another banner - a blue silken pennon, with powers to display the same in defence of their King, country, and their own rights, when these were assailed.
The original and more celebrated banner is, we are glad to be able to state, also still in existence, and was exhibited at the opening of St. Giles' Church.

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