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According to the most popular version of the legend, a joint force of Picts and Scots under King Angus (or Óengus) of The Picts met a Northumbrian army of Angles under King Athelstan at a location near Athelstaneford, four miles north east of Haddington, in East Lothian, in 832.The Picts and Scots were heavily outnumbered, and the night before the battle, King Angus prayed for victory.The Flag of Scotland is the Saltire: the white diagonal cross of Scotland's patron saint, St Andrew, on a blue field.It is one of the oldest flags in the world, dating back, according to the version of the story you believe, to 832, or to 815, or to 761.This makes the legend of the foundation of the Saltire begins to look a little like spin-doctoring in the centuries that followed, in an effort (very successfully) to airbrush the disastrous Battle of Brunanburh out of history in favour of a story that showed Athelstan in a much worse light: and the Scots more favourably.Another version of the same story comes from a Latin history of Scotland, written in the 1440s by Walter Bower.As they did so, a strange cloud formation appeared, forming a broad diagonal white cross against the background of bright blue sky.
The following morning the two armies formed up for battle.
A nice story, but one that has a number of problems. And he didn't lose in battle to the Scots and Picts. At the Battle of Brunanburh, in 937, he led English forces to victory over joint Scottish and Viking armies under King Constantine II and King Olaf III Guthfrithson.
Although the site of the battle is close to the village now called Athelstaneford, Athelstan wasn't actually born until 895. This was one of the most significant battles in British history, defining forever the existence and approximate boundaries of England.
This has the key player the Pictish King Unust, who was fighting the Northumbrians: the story is otherwise the same.
The battle that followed was an improbable victory for the outnumbered Picts and Scots.
And the Saltire has been the Flag of Scotland ever since.