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Welsh national emblems

Baner cenedlaethol Cymru

The Red Dragon is the heraldic symbol of Wales, and is incorporated into the Welsh national flag.

According to tradition, the red dragon appeared on a crest borne by Arthur, whose father, Uthr Bendragon, had seen a dragon in the sky predicting that he would be king.

The dragon as a symbol was probably introduced into Britain by the Roman legions. Medieval Welsh poets often compared their leaders to dragons in poems praising their bravery. For example, Gruffydd ab yr Ynad Coch said of Llewelyn ap Gruffudd Pen dragon, pen draig oedd arnaw ('A dragon's head he had').

Between 1485 and 1603, the dragon formed part of the arms of the Tudor dynasty, but it was replaced on the royal coat of arms with a unicorn by order of James I.

The red dragon re-appeared as the royal badge for Wales in 1807, and from then on it was often seen in the regalia of Welsh patriotic societies. At the suggestion of the Gorsedd of the Bards, it was officially recognised by the Queen in 1959, and is now widely used as the national flag.

The leek and the daffodil

Both the 6th-century poet Taliesin and the 13th-century Red Book of Hergest extol the virtues of the leek, which, if eaten, encouraged good health and happiness. Small wonder, therefore, that a national respect grew around this plant, which was worn by the Welsh in the Battle of Crecy and, by 1536, when Henry VIII gave a leek to his daughter on 1 March, was already associated with St David's Day. It is possible that the green and white family colours adopted by the Tudors were taken from their liking for the leek.

In comparison with the ancient Welsh associations of the leek, the daffodil has only recently assumed a position of national importance. An increasingly popular flower during the 19th century, especially among women, its status was elevated by the Welsh-born prime minister David Lloyd George, who wore it on St David's Day and used it in ceremonies in 1911 to mark the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon.

Article Date: 24 February 2012

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