The Archdruid in his/her splendid regalia is the focal point of all the Gorsedd rites and he/she presides over all its ceremonies. He/she is the supreme authority of all the other Gorseddau and he/she chairs the Gorsedd Board.
Iolo Morganwg, the father of the Gorsedd of the Bards, did not call himself an 'Archdruid'. In his first Gorsedd in 1792 he was the 'Chief Bard' and in the Carmarthen Gorsedd of 1819 he was the 'Official Bard'.
Before long, however, the presidents of the provincial eisteddfodau's gorseddau began to call themselves 'archdruids', but Clwydfardd is considered to be the first official Archdruid. He claimed:
'I was appointed Archdruid … in the year 1860; but it was in the Wrexham Eisteddfod in the year 1876 that I was licensed as the Archdruid of the Gorsedd… of the Bards of the Isle of Britain.'
He held office for the rest of his life.
The number of visual images of his successor, Hwfa Môn, (Rowland Williams) (2002-2005), testify to his role as a national icon. Since 1936 an Archdruid serves for a term of three years only, except during the Second World War, when Crwys (W.Crwys Williams), was Archdruid for eight years. Only one Archdruid, Cynan (1950-54; 1963-6) has served for more than one term. As Tilsli has said of Cynan 'to many people he embodied the Gorsedd of the Bards' and it was Cynan who made the rites of the Gorsedd 'credible and colourful'. It was Cynan's influence, in Fishguard in 1936, which brought order to the ceremony of installing a new Archdruid, when he/she is invested with the crown, breastplate, sceptre and ring of office.
In 1932 it was stipulated that an Archdruid has to be a chaired or crowned bard. By the beginning of the twenty-first century Prose Medal winners were included in this élite band and the first to be elected under this ruling was Robyn Llŷn (Robyn Léwis) (2002-05). About this time too the voting procedure was changed with all members of the Gorsedd, not only the Gorsedd Board, now entitled to vote.