Archdruid (Welsh: Archdderwydd) is the title used by the presiding official of the Gorsedd. The Archdruid presides over the most important ceremonies at the National Eisteddfod of Wales including the Crowning of the Bard, The Award of the Prose Medal and Chairing of the Bard. Although Iolo Morganwg was the first to preside over the Gorsedd when the National Eisteddfod came into being, his successor David Griffiths, under the bardic name "Clwydfardd", was the first to be known by the official title "Archdruid".
The Archdruid's regalia, devised by the early revivers of the eisteddfod during the early 19th century, includes a crown, sceptre and breastplate in the form of a torc. These were redesigned in 1896 by Hubert von Herkomer, to be made of gold and decorated with oak leaves, symbolising the sacred groves associated with druidry. (The Welsh word for "oak" is "derw" from which "druid" is thought to be derived.) A special ring of office was also introduced. The current sceptre has been in use since 1910, and a stola or cape was first worn in 1911 by the Archdruid "Dyfed".
Since 1932, only former winners of the Eisteddfod Crown or Chair have been qualified to become Archdruid. By the beginning of the twenty-first century Prose Medal winners were included in this élite band and the first to be elected under this ruling was Robyn Llŷn (Robyn Léwis) (2002–05) Christine James, who became Archdruid in 2013, is both the first woman and the first Welsh learner (i.e. a person not brought up with Welsh as his or her first language) to have held the title.
Since the Second World War, only one Archdruid has served more than one three-year term. Albert Evans-Jones ("Cynan") was elected in 1950 and again in 1963, and was regarded as a liberal influence on the festival; he publicly accepted that the eisteddfod as it stands has no direct descent from druidic culture. He was knighted in 1969 for his services to Welsh culture, the only Archdruid to have been so honoured.
List of Archdruids of Wales
The following is a list of Archdruids.
- David Griffith (Clwydfardd) 1860–1894
- Rowland Williams 1895–1905
- Evan Rees (Dyfed) 1905–1923
- John Cadvan Davies, 1923
- Howell Elvet Lewis, 1924–1928
- John Owen Williams (Pedrog) 1928–1932
- John Jenkins 1932–1936
- John James Williams ("J. J.") 1936–1939
- William Williams, 1939–1947
- William Evans (Wil Ifan), 1947–1950
- Albert Evans-Jones, 1950–1953
- John Dyfnallt Owen, 1954–1957
- William Morris, 1957–1960
- Edgar Phillips, 1960–1962
- Albert Evans-Jones, 1963–1966
- E. Gwyndaf Evans, 1966–1969
- Gwilym Tilsley, 1969–1972
- Brinley Richards, 1972–1975
- R. Bryn Williams, 1975–1978
- Geraint Bowen, 1978–1981
- James Nicholas, 1981–1984
- W. J. Gruffydd (Elerydd), 1984–1987
- Emrys Roberts, 1987–1990
- William George, 1990–1993
- John Gwilym Jones, 1993–1996
- Dafydd Rowlands, 1996–1999
- Meirion Evans, 1999–2002
- Robyn Léwis, 2002–2005
- Selwyn Griffith (Selwyn Iolen), 2005–2008
- Dic Jones 2008–2009
- T. James Jones (Jim Parc Nest) 2009–2012
- Christine James 2013– ; the first female archdruid, and the first Welsh learner archdruid .
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