|The dragon has long been a symbol of Wales. It features (in its proper
red colour) on the national flag and is often to be found marking goods
of Welsh origin. How did this exotic oriental beast find its way to Wales?
The dragon was perhaps first seen in Wales in Roman times. The Romans were
thought to have gained knowledge of the dragon from their Parthian enemies
(in lands later to become part of the great Persian Empire) and it is to
be seen carved on Trajan's column. It is possible that the dragon had been
seen in the West much earlier than this, as a result of Alexander
the Great's epic journey which commenced it 334 B.C. Alexander marched
as far as northern India and after his death, the break up of his mighty
empire saw an increase in trade with Africa and India and for the
first time commerce with China.
The Roman draco was a figure fixed by the head to the top of a staff, with body and tail floating in the air and was the model for the dragon standard used by the Anglo Saxons. In the Bayeux Tapestry, this device is depicted as the standard of King Harold, although written records seem to disagree. In 1190 "the terrible standard of the dragon" was borne before the army of Richard Coeur-de-Lion in an attack at Messina.
The seventh century Welsh hero Cadwaladr carried the dragon standard and the
dragon had become a recognised symbol of Wales by the time Welsh archers were
serving in the English army at the battle of Crecy in 1346. It is said that a
dragon banner was thrown over the Black Prince when he was unhorsed at Crecy, in
protection while his enemies were beaten off. The future King Henry VII carried
the dragon banner at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. This battle signalled the end of the War of the Roses between
Lancastrian and Yorkist factions and led to unification. Henry later decided
that the red dragon should figure on the official flag of Wales. |
|John Weston / Data Wales 2000|