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Who, or what, is the Lord Lyon?

There’s an iconic photograph from 1977, showing Scottish football fans invading Wembley in celebration after a 2-1 victory over England. It was taken right after a crossbar had been broken, and while chunks of the pristine Wembley turf were being procured for eventual resettlement in back greens all over Scotland. Yet, despite those heinous crimes of vandalism and theft, to which could be added, probably, drunkenness, public disorder, and a wheen of other ‘offences’, amongst all of the tartan-bunneted Bay City Roller lookalikes, the lad right in the centre of the frame is guilty of the most serious crime of all, one which is punishable by death – he’s carrying a Lion Rampant, and that carries a maximum penalty of decapitation! Yes, really…

The following year, in 1978 an entrepreneurial linen merchant produced a souvenir bedspread, adorned with the Lion Rampant, targeted at those very same Scottish football supporters. When the Lyon Court got wind of this, the linen merchant was apparently threatened with the death penalty, under a 1592 Act of the Scottish Parliament which has never been repealed. Charged with ‘usurpation’, his particular form of treason was eventually punished by imposing a fine of £100 per day for as long as his bedspread continued to be sold. At least he kept his heid!

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iScot Magazine
April 2018
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