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Why Is The Nine Of Diamonds The Curse Of Scotland?


Every good tour of Glasgow or any other city has to include myths and legends, which Scotland is full of. One of them is that the playing card the nine of diamonds, is believed to be the Curse of Scotland. There are several versions to give grounds for this legend.

1) James IV, King of Scots, before the Battle of Flodden (1513) against England, spent time searching for a missing card — the nine of diamonds — time which could have been spent in preparing for the battle.

2) A thief tried to steal the Jewels from the Crown of Mary Queen of Scots' and got away with nine diamonds. As a result all Scotland had to pay tax for the theft.

3) Another story dates back to the massacre at Glencoe

(1692) where Sir John Dalrymple, 1st Earl of Stair, wrote the order to massacre the Glencoe MacDonalds on the nine of diamonds playing card.

Moreover, the Stair coat of arms resembles remarkably the nine of diamonds, thus the card became known as the Curse of Scotland.

4) The next story goes that on the eve of the Battle of Culloden (1746), between the house of Stuart and Hanover, the Duke of Cumberland was playing cards. A young officer arrived and asked him about the orders for the battle. After receiving a reply of "no quarter" to the Jacobites and fearing of the massacre, the young officer asked for the order to be written down. In annoyance the Duke wrote the order on a playing card – supposedly the nine of diamonds.

5) There is a proverb that every ninth King of Scotland would be a Tyrant, who by Civil Wars, and all the fatal consequences of ‘intestine discord’, plunging the Divided Kingdom into strange Disorders.

6) According to the following version in the card game ‘Pope Joan’, popular in the 19th century, the nine of diamond is the most powerful card, and it is called the "Pope". The Scots detested the Pope. He was sometimes known to Scots Presbyterians as the Antichrist. And as the most powerful 9 of diamonds card is Pope; then it is the curse of Scotland.

7) Gurney Benham in describing the same card game suggests that ‘the crown of Scotland contained only nine stones, as they never could afford a tenth’. And that is why the nine of diamonds is the Curse of Scotland.

These are the most famous versions. You may believe them or not, but they are making part of the folklore and thus give some richness to the flavour of the Scottish history. If you like myths and legends then you should definitely go on our Glasgow Tour and you can pick your favourite.

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