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 the 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 Griffith, 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, a sceptre, and a 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 elite 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
|1895–1905||Rowland Williams||Hwfa Môn|
|1923||John Cadvan Davies||Cadfan|
|1924–1928||Howell Elvet Lewis||Elfed|
|1928–1932||John Owen Williams||Pedrog|
|1936–1939||John James Williams||J. J.|
|1947–1950||William Evans||Wil Ifan|
|1950–1953||Sir Albert Evans-Jones||Cynan|
|1954–1957||John Dyfnallt Owen||Dyfnallt|
|1957–1960||William Morris||William Morris|
|1963–1966||Sir Albert Evans-Jones
|1966–1969||E. Gwyndaf Evans||Gwyndaf|
|1975–1978||R. Bryn Williams||Bryn|
|1981–1984||James Nicholas||Jâms Nicolas|
|1984–1987||W. J. Gruffydd||Elerydd|
|1987–1990||Emrys Roberts||Emrys Deudraeth|
|1990–1993||William R. P. George||Ap Llysor|
|1993–1996||John Gwilym Jones||John Gwilym|
|2002–2005||Robyn Léwis||Robin Llŷn|
|2005–2008||Selwyn Griffith||Selwyn Iolen|
|2008–2009||Dic Jones||Dic yr Hendre|
|2010–2013||T. James Jones||Jim Parc Nest|
|2013–2016||Christine James[notes 2]||Christine|
|2016–||Geraint Lloyd Owen||Geraint Llifon|
- Clwydfardd claimed "I was appointed Archdruid in the year 1860; but it was in the Wrexham Eisteddfod in the year 1876 that I was licensed as the Archdruid of the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain", but the Gorsedd's website gives 1888.
- Christine James was the first female archdruid and the first Welsh learner archdruid.
- Hanes Gorsedd y Beirdd. Bowen, Geraint and Bowen, Zonia; Cyhoeddiadau Barddas ,1991
- "The Archdruid". National Museum Wales. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
- Freeman, Mara. "Tree Lore: Oak". Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- "Archdruid's Robes and Regalia". National Museum Wales. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- "Eisteddfod names Christine James first woman archdruid". BBC News. 23 June 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- "Pwllheli to honour former National Eisteddfod Archdruid Cynan". Daily Post. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- "Archdderwydd". Gorsedd y Beirdd (in Welsh). Retrieved 20 September 2016.