Origins – The Welsh Dragon
The Welsh word for dragon is Ddraig. Just like its English counterpart, the word Ddraig too has been derived from the ancient Greek word ‘drakon’ meaning a serpent. With a large, scaly, snake-like body, four limbs (each limb with a four-fingered claw), bat wings, and a pointed tail resembling an arrow, the Welsh dragon, known as Y Ddraig Goch in Welsh, fits the general idea of dragons being mythical, serpentine beasts.
Befitting the character of a fabled creature, the oldest use of the dragon emblem for Wales is shrouded in mystery. It is believed that the Welsh dragon was first used to symbolize Wales in the Historia Brittonum, written in the year 829 AD. Folklore, however, bestows the honor elsewhere. Popularly, the Welsh red dragon has been considered the battle standard of leaders like King Arthur and other ancient Celts. Henry Tudor was also known to have marched through Wales with the red dragon of Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon as his banner. He had chosen to overlay the dragon on green and white colors of the Tudors. Later, the flag was taken to St. Paul’s Cathedral to be blessed.
Irrespective of its ambiguous origins, the Welsh dragon today can be seen symbolizing all things Welsh including the Welsh government, sports bodies likes Football Association of Wales, Cardiff City F.C etc., local authorities like Cradiff, Swansea, Carmarthenshire etc. and the most importantly, the Welsh national flag.
Welsh Dragon in the Flag of Wales
The flag of Wales has two equal horizontal stripes in colors green and white (white over green). It also depicts the Welsh red dragon superimposed on the white and green field. However, the representation of the Welsh dragon on the flag is not standardized. As a result of this, many renderings of it exist. It is believed that the Welsh dragon on the flag is the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, King Gwynedd and the white and green colors represent the Tudors. Such a flag was first used in 1485 by the Welsh-born Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field. In the year 1901, the dragon was declared the official symbol of Wales. Ten years later, at the investiture of the Prince of Wales, the flag appeared in the present form. However, it was only in the year 1959 that the current flag was officially recognized as the national flag of Wales by Queen Elizabeth II.
The Changing Image of the Welsh Dragon
In ancient times, many European countries used the image of a dragon on their national flags. However, Wales is the only country to have sustained the image on the flag. While the flag has remained relatively unchanged since the times of the Tudors, the representation of the Welsh dragon is not limited to it. From stories to sports logos to branding of toys and edible products, the Welsh dragon has found its way everywhere. Many children in Wales have also grown up listening to the story of the red dragon defeating the white dragon which is, essentially, symbolic of the Welsh defeating the English.
- The most important object in Welsh history: The Welsh dragon (walesonline.co.uk)
- Archaeology, Dragons and Hillforts (charlesenright.wordpress.com)