History of the Red Dragon THE RED DRAGON OF WALES (Copyright Dr.William Crampton, 1995) Written for... Charles E.F.Ashburner Flagmakers International Ltd, 20 Clarion Court, Llansamlet, Swansea SA6 8RF, Wales, UK. Telephone (+44) 1792 700 795. Fax (+44) 1792 700 802 Email. firstname.lastname@example.org By... Dr.William Crampton The Flag Institute, 10 Vicarage Road, Chester CH2 3HZ, UK. Telephone (+44) 1244 351 335. Fax (+44) 1244 341 894. Email. email@example.com Circulate with permission of author.
THE DRAGON The draco was a standard used in the Roman Army, particularly associated with the mounted auxiliaries rather then the Legions. It came into use in the second century AD and was probably borrowed from on of Rome's neighbours, such as the Parthians, the Sarmatians, or the Dacians. It consisted of a hollow metal head fitted to a staff; behind the head was a hollow tube of fabric which could fill with wind. An example of a dragon head of this type survives in the museum at Koblenz in Germany. Some say that the head also contained a whistle and other s that it could contain hot coals to make it seem as if the dragon were breathing fire. The dragons depicted in the memorials look more like fish than anything else, and it seems as if what were once fins developed into wings. It was only in the days of heraldry that the creatures acquired legs and claws, but they seem always to have had long barbed tails. Dragons in one form or another were used all round the Roman Empire, including Britain, and it is thought that such a standard was in use by the Romanised Britons who were left to fend for themselves from about 400AD onwards. Thus the standard came to be associated with the Celtic heroes Uther Pendragon and Arthur. Pendragon means "dragon head" and was perhaps a title rather than a name. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth Uther had a vision of a dragon which appeared in a comet, and when he became king had two dragons made, one of which was set up in Winchester and one which went with him as his standard. But since this author also credits Uther and Merlin with the creation of Stonehenge we need to treat the story with caution. Geoffrey of Monmouth also assets that the Saxons adopted the dragon, in Merlin's interpretation of the dream of Vortigern: Alas for the Red Dragon, for its end is near. Its cavernous dens shall be occupied by the White Dragon, which stands for the Saxons whom you have invited over. The Red Dragon represents the people of Britain, who will be overrun by the White One....'. The saxon dragon turned out to be gold and is probably the ancestor of the wyvern badge of Wessex. Also it is perhaps because of this reference that the dragon associated with the Welsh, the descendants of the Britons, is now depicted as red. The dragon went on to be taken over my the Normans, and was still in use by them as the Battle of Crecy (1346). It was also, however, attributed to Owain Glyndwr, but without any real evidence. Renaissance heralds also attributed it to Cadwalladr (ob. 682), the Prince of Gwynedd held to be the last native knight of Britain. THE COLOURS GREEN AND WHITE It seems likely that the colours of Wales and of the Tudor dynasty--green and white-- came before the adoption of the green and white leek as a Welsh badge. Llewellyn the Great is described in a poem of about 1200 as wearing green and white and another prince at a later period as having retainers dressed in green and white. Soldiers taken to France by the Black Prince in 1346 were dressed in white and green, colours which were also used by his son Richard II. Green and white flags were used by Henry of Richmond, who became King of England by conquest in 1485 and were thereafter extensively used by Mawr. Shakespeare lived in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Henry VII's grand-daughter, and made many references to Tudor heraldry in his plays. He also has Fluellen' acting up with a leek on St David's Day in Henry V. The leek, and the colours white and green were adopted for the Welsh Guards raised in 1915. The leek is very much a secondary emblem of Wales, and is not used in royal or national heraldry except by the Welsh Guards, who place leeks on their hats on 1 March. It most likely came into existence as a badge because it is green and white. RED DRAGON ON GREEN AND WHITE This combination cannot be tracked back much further that Henry VII who definitely adopted the colours green and white in memory of Llewellyn Mawr. The standard he raised at Dale on 7 August 1485 is a typical Renaissance standard, long and tapering to a divided point, white over green with the Red Dragon over all near the hoist, and the field covered with red roses. When he became King after defeating Richard III at Bosworth (22 August) he had the standard laid up in St Paul's. A Red Dragon was added to the royal arms as a supporter, and a Rough Dragon Pursuivant to the College of Arms. Henry's eldest son was to have been the new King Arthur, but he died before reaching the throne. But Prince Arthur's Books, an elaborate guide to heraldry which was compiled for the Prince by the College of Arms, depicts the Red Dragon badge on a field of white and green. In the reign of Henry VIII, his second son, white and green flags became common on royal ships such as the Henry Grace a Dieu and the Mary Rose. In the reign of Henry VIII Wales was formally and legally united with England. White and green were also favourite colours of Queen Elizabeth and she continued to use them and the Red Dragon until her death in 1603. THE ROYAL DRAGON The Red Dragon remained a royal badge, although it was not used much until the 19th Century. It appeared on one of the Colours of the English Life Guard of Foot during the civil war and was later used as a badge on the Colours of the 1st Foot Guards in 1664, although in a rather subordinate position. This regiment became the modern Grenadier Guards, and the Red Dragon continues as one of their badges, being used by the 8th Company. This and most of the other badges of the Regiment are dated back to Charles II in 1661. In 1801 the King (George III) adopted Royal Badges for England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and the Welsh Badge was the Red Dragon. In 1901, the badge of the Red Dragon was added to the arms of the Prince of Wales (later George V). The badge was described as a Dragon passant gules (on a mount vert) with a label of three points argent, and in the form of arms then used the badge was placed on the sinister side of the crest. (Today the badge of Wales and the Prince's Feathers appear in the base on either side of the shield of Cornwall). A flag bearing this badge (but without the label) is the prerogative of the Premier Baronet of Wales, and was carried by Sir Hugo Boothby at the Investiture in 1969. In 1911 there was some agitation for wider recognition of the emblems of Wales, and the King (George V) was petitioned to add the Red Dragon to the Royal Standard and the coinage. He referred the matter to a Committee of the Privy Council, which recommended that something might be done with the arms of the Prince of Wales. His son Edward, later Edward VIII, had just been granted this title. The King approved the substitution of the arms of Wales for those of Saxony on the Prince's achievement of arms, as from 6 March 1911, making the Prince's arms as they are used today by Prince Charles. Prince Edward was invested at a ceremony in Caernarfon Castle on 13 July 1911, a few weeks after his father had been crowned king. This was the first time a solemn public ceremony was held, and certainly the first time it was held in Wales. When the Welsh Guards were formed in 1915 the dragon on their King's Colour was of gold, with the royal crown and the motto Cymru am Byth ( Wales for Ever'). The company badges commemorate royal and noble personages from Welsh history. THE PRINCELY ARMS OF WALES Llewellyn Mawr (ob. 1240) is the first Prince to be credited with these arms, although his father Owain Gwynedd is also said to have had a coat of arms. The arms are very like those of England, in being red and yellow with some lions, albeit in a different arrangement. Llewellyn was married to Joan, an illegitimate daughter of the English King John. He was called The Great' because he was the effective ruler of the north and central Wales and was the first to call himself Prince of Wales. Llewellyn the Last secured a greater territory, however, before he was killed in battle against Edward I in 1282. He was briefly succeeded by his brother Dafydd, who was captured by Edward and then executed at Shrewsbury Cross in 1283. Thereafter the House of Gwynedd only continued through intermarriages with others, including the Mortimers and the Tudors, and Wales was partitioned by the terms of the Statute of Rhuddlan (1284). Edward I promised the Welsh a Prince of their own who could not speak a work of English, but this turned out to be his own son Edward, born in Caernarfon Castle. It is said that Owain Glyndwr adopted the same arms, when he became master of Wales in 1404, but others say that on his arms the lions were in a rampant posture (not the passant guardant used in the arms of Llewellyn Mawr). The arms of Wales were used by Queen Elizabeth in conjunction with the arms of England and of Ireland, and a banner of the arms was carried at her funeral. As we have noted above, the arms were revived in 1911 for the Prince of Wales and have been in use ever since. On one 21 May 1968 the arms were made into an armorial banner for use by the Prince in Wales, although for some explained reason a green inesutcheon was added over all in the centre, bearing the Prince's coronet. This form of coronet was apparently established by Charles II on 9 February 1661. THE RED DRAGON There is little pictorial or documentary evidence of the use of the Red Dragon flag in the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. Neubecker gives a reference to the flag dated 7 April 1832, but in practice the flag was unknown to reference books, flag charts and other sources of information until its publication in the National Geographic Flag Number of 1917. H Gresham Carr asserts, however, that a flag in the form we know today was used at the Investiture of 1911. On one the other had the flag book which he later edited, Warne's Flags of the World, which was published at intervals from 1897 to 1981, does not mention the flag until the 1930s. It did appear in Baxter's National Flags, also published by Warne (1934). In the 1930s controversy arose over the exact form of the flag. At the time of the celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of George V (1935) the Ministry of Works was prevailed upon to use the strictly heraldic form of flag, consisting of a white field with the dragon standing on a grassy mound, as in the Prince's badge. This form was also used during George VI's Coronation' Visit to Caernarfon in July 1937, when the castle's Eagle Tower was draped with such flags. It was also used at the official opening of the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff in March 1938 and was still in existence at the time of Princess Elizabeth's wedding in 1947. The general view in Wales was, it seems, that variations from the well-known and traditional form were unacceptable. This was further reinforced by the attempt to create an official badge-flag in the 1950s. On one 11 March 1953 the Queen announced her approval of a new Royal Badge for Wales (as distinct from the Prince's badge). This consists of the dragon on a white and green shield which is surrounded by a belt with the words Y Ddraig Goch Ddyry Cychwyn and surmounted by a Royal Crown. The motto is translated as The Red Dragon gives impetus'. The creation of this badge followed further representations made to the Queen for the alteration of the royal arms to include Wales, or for royal arms for use in Wales. A Committee of the Privy Council recommended that instead of such a drastic move the badge of Wales should be altered and augmented.' This new badge is now used for all official purposes in Wales. The Welsh Office (created in 1951) began to use a flag with this badge on it, and such a flag was illustrated as that of Wales in the Admiralty's Flags of All Nations (1955). This development was not what was desired by proponents of Welsh cultural identity, and pressure was exerted by such bodies as the Gorsedd of Bards, the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion and Welsh Mps, to effect a reversion to the original flag. This led to a statement from the Welsh Office, dated 2 May 1958, to say that either form of the flag could be used in future, ie either the one with the augmented badge or the one with the red dragon alone. This again was insufficient for Welsh sentiment, and on 23 February 1959 the Welsh Minister announced that ...only the Red Dragon on a green and white flag, and not the flag carrying the augmented royal badge, shall be flown on Government buildings in Wales and, where appropriate, in London.' Thus two unacceptable variants, the green mound flag and the augmented badge flag, were seen off, and the plain Red Dragon won the day and still remains the only official flag of Wales. It still has a rival, however, in the so-called Cross of St David (a black flag with yellow cross throughout) which is popular in some quarters, and is sometimes used to represent Wales.
Permission for the above text was gratefully provided by the Flag Institute on behalf of Dr. Crampton who sadly passed away last year.