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Welsh national emblems

[image: 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

3 comments

jacob simon on 26 April 2012, 20:54

Why not illustrate (or include links to) some of your wonderful portraits of Welshmen holding or wearing leeks?

Amgueddfa Cymru on 14 March 2012, 15:58

Dear Mr Parry,
Many thanks for your question relating to the colours on the Welsh flag. The symbolism you were taught regarding the red, white and green is actually connected to the Welsh youth movement 'Urdd Gobaith Cymru' (The Welsh League of Youth), founded in 1922 by Syr Ifan ab Owen Edwards. In 1944 a triangular badge in white, red and green was created for the Urdd, with the white representing 'Christ', red 'Fellow Man' and green 'Wales'. The Urdd's motto from then on was 'I will be faithful to Wales, to Fellow Man and to Christ'.

With regards to the Welsh flag, legend has it that the troops of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales (died 1282), were adorned in green and white, whilst the Welsh soldiers who fought in the Battle of Crecy in 1346 wore chequered green and white. The red dragon itself is said to have been introduced into Britain by the Roman legions. Henry VII used a derivative of the modern Welsh flag at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485; Henry's Welsh ancestry deriving from the Tudors of Penmynydd, Anglesey, themselves descended from the Princes of Gwynedd, which takes us back to the green and white of Llywelyn's period.
Hope this helps,

Geraint Thomas, Interpretive Craftsmen, Amgueddfa Cymru

alwyn parry on 14 March 2012, 02:15

i was taught that the white background was for God,the red for the people and their language and green for the land any truth in this?

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