Valuations: What is a Welsh golden dragon doing in Norwich?
James looks at the history behind the national icon of Wales – and a 100-year-old casting
During a recent trip to the manufacturing hub in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter we came across the original Edwardian bronze resin die cast of a Welsh dragon. Having a fondness for unique and one-off items we purchased the casting.
There are no records as to when the dragon was originally made or by whom; however the original cast had to be made and approved prior to the silver casting, therefore it is estimated it dates to circa 1903-1905.
The proud and ancient symbol synonymous with Wales as depicted on the Welsh national flag and standard is The Red Dragon (Y Ddraig Goch) and consists of a red dragon, passant (standing with one foot raised).
The current version of the national flag is based on the ancient royal emblems and badges introduced during the reign of the Tudors. The red dragon has been associated with Wales for centuries and the flag is claimed to be the oldest national one still in existence.
One legend recalls RomanoBritish soldiers carrying the red dragon (draco) to Rome on their banners in the fourth century. It is thought 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, during the seventh century, it became known as the Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, king of Gwynedd from 655 to 682.
The oldest recorded use of the dragon to symbolise Wales, however, is from the Historia Brittonum, written by the historian Nennius around 820.
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) and the English (white).
The red dragon was used as the British standard at the Battle of Crecy in 1346, when the Welsh archers, dressed in their beloved green and white, played a crucial role in defeating the French.
The manufacturing records show that the first recorded use for our dragon was for a centre table decoration commission for the city of Cardiff and presented by John Patrick Crichton-Smith the 4th Marquess of Bute and 9th Earl of Dumfries in 1906. During the First World War the second son of the 3rd Marquess, Lord Ninian Crichton-Smith, MP for Cardiff, was killed in action and another centre piece was commissioned by Cardiff City football club whose ground was named after the fallen colonel.
The cast has since been used on various projects, from the commemorative presentation for the coronation of the Prince of Wales, various city commissioned commemorative items, as well as presentations for the Eisteddfod, sporting institutions, universities and academies and personal presentations to distinguished Welsh members along with numerous military presentations.
ABOVE: The casting acquired by James
BELOW: The Welsh flag