History Of The Welsh Flag

For centuries Wales has been represented by a green and white flag with a red dragon in the middle, but what do we actually know about the flag and just why did the Welsh choose to have it symbolise Wales?


The Welsh Flag

The red dragon itself has been associated with Wales for centuries, and the flag is claimed to be the oldest national flag in the world that is still in use. Why a dragon is on the flag is a story of intrigue, 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.

Some consider 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. Around the seventh century, it became known as the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd from 655 to 682 AD.

The oldest recorded use of the dragon is from the Historia Brittonum, written by the historian Nennius around 820 AD.

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 and the English.

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

Owain Glyndwr raised the dragon standard in 1400 as a symbol of revolt against the English Crown, and then 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.


Henry VII Coat of Arms

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 extended its popularity in the twentieth century, when Edward, Prince of Wales used it for his 1911 Caernarfon Investiture. Then in 1959 it became officially recognised as the Welsh national flag, and it now flies proudly over many public and private buildings throughout Wales.

welsh flag at the rugby

The Welsh Flag at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

Welshmen, women and children now display the unusual flag as a symbol of pride in their country’s history and culture.






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