Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Welsh Dragon - Y Ddraeg Goch (LBE)

I've been unable to find information on why the Welsh dragon has the names it does. Yes, I did say "names" because it is known by several. The most common (at least, the ones I've heard most) being "Dilwyn" or "Dewi" but I'm sure there are others. I'm pretty sure the "Dewi" is after St David (Dewi being one of the Welsh forms of the name David) but have no idea where the "Dilwyn" came from. I was, however, able to find this bit of information on the history of the use of the dragon as a symbol. Perhaps it will serve as a stepping stone for those who are better than I am at extracting information from the vast collection of web sites out there?


THE RED DRAGON - Y Ddraig Goch

Although an integral part of the United Kingdom, Wales is not represented on the national flag, or Union Flag, more popularly known as the Union Jack.

The proud and ancient battle standard of the Welsh is The Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) and consists of a red dragon, passant, on a green and white background. As with any ancient symbol, the appearance of the dragon has been adapted and changed over the years, and hence several different variations exist.

Union Flag

The current flag was officially adopted in 1959, and is based on an old royal badge used by British kings and queens since Tudor times. The red dragon itself has been associated with Wales for centuries, and as such, the flag is claimed to be the oldest national flag still in use. But why a dragon? The answer to that particular question is lost in history and myth.

One legend recalls Romano-British soldiers carrying the red dragon (Draco) to Rome on their banners in the fourth century, but it could be even older than that.

It is considered that the Welsh kings of Aberffraw first adopted the dragon in the early fifth century in order to symbolise their power and authority after the Romans withdrew from Britain. Later, around the seventh century, it became known as the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, king of Gwynedd from 655 to 682.

Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae, written between 1120 and 1129, links the dragon with the Arthurian legends, including Uther Pendragon the father of Arthur whose name translates as Dragon Head. Geoffrey’s account also tells of the prophecy of Myrddin (or Merlin) of a long fight between a red dragon and a white dragon, symbolising the historical struggle between the Welsh (red dragon) and the English (white dragon).

The oldest recorded use of the dragon to symbolise Wales however, is from the Historia Brittonum, written by the historian Nennius around 820.

The red dragon was even said to have been used as the British standard at the Battle of Crecy in 1346, when the Welsh archers, dressed in their beloved green and white, played such a crucial role in defeating the French.

And although Owain Glyndwr raised the dragon standard in 1400 as a symbol of revolt against the English Crown, the dragon was brought to England by the House of Tudor, the Welsh dynasty that held the English throne from 1485 to 1603. It signified their direct descent from one of the noble families of Wales. The green and white stripes of the flag were additions of Henry VII, the first Tudor king, representing the colours of his standard.

During Henry VIII's reign the red dragon on a green and white background became a favourite emblem on Royal Navy ships.

As the national flag of Wales, the red dragon appears to have regained popularity in the early part of the twentieth century, when it was used for the 1911 Caernarfon Investiture of Edward, Prince of Wales. It wasn't until 1959 however, that it became officially recognised as the national flag of the principality.

The Red Dragon now flies proudly over public and private buildings throughout Wales, and thousands still cross the border into England every other year, when the two nations meet for their ‘historic struggle’ on the rugby battlefield known as Twickenham. Welshmen, women and children carrying the dragon as a symbol of pride in their history and culture.

© Historic UK

More British HistoryHistory of England - History of Scotland - History of Wales


Intense Guy said...

Thank you Tori! Looks like Dilwyn's pretty old. It's a good thing that dragons live on and on, I've heard as long as 300 years or more, unless some nasty knight shows up with a magic sword.

Since the origins of Dilwyn go back even beyond King Authur's time - and see why the history is a bit fuzzy. It's not even all that clear on King Authur himself.

As an aside, things royal are confusing to me - are Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II, Tudors? and does that mean they are Welsh?

ChicagoLady said...

The Tudor reign ended in 1603 after Elizabeth I never married. The next heir to the throne was James VI of Scotland, beginning the Stuart reign. Prince Charles and Elizabeth II are Windsors, several families removed from the Tudors and Stuarts.


Intense Guy said...

Ah. Thank you for the explanation and the link ChicagoLady. I guess what makes it complicated for me is the "adopted name and number" thing - Queen Elizabeth II is not being related to Queen Elizabeth I.

I won't even start to get into not realizing there weren't any Fourdors.

Jayde_Bramblerose said...

wow tori what a mind of imformation you are, and to go back to the 800's as well, thank you so very much for all that great imformation, and i see you have put a link at the bottom of your blog,i will take a look later as i love history :) .

Tori_z said...

Don't feel bad... You know more about some aspects of British history than I do. Though that was one of the few historical questions I could have provided an answer to without looking anything up. ;)

Thanks for posting that link. :)

I don't really deserve credit for this post. I just copied and pasted the article. LOL!

Punkn said...

Very interesting information, Tori. I love history - just wish I had more time to read about it. Maybe in my next life.

Tori_z said...

Glad you enjoyed reading the post. I'm not planning on deleting my blog at any point, so if you don't get to read all the historical articles I post then maybe if you do get some extra free time next life you can come back and read them then? :)

Kati said...

Hey, that's some pretty cool information!!!! Even if you think it's just not enough, I found it pretty awesome.

Tori_z said...

Glad you enjoyed it. :)