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National symbols of Wales

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The national symbols of Wales include various official and unofficial images and other symbols.


As an emblem, the red dragon (Welsh: Y Ddraig Goch) of Wales has been used since the reign of Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd from around 655 AD and is present on the national flag of Wales, which became an official flag in 1959.[1]

The flag of the Princely House of Aberffraw, blazoned Quarterly or and gules, four lions passant guardant two and two counterchanged langued and armed Azure.[2]
The banner of Owain Glyndŵr is associated with Welsh nationhood.[3] It was carried into battle by Welsh forces during Glyndŵr's battles against the English, includes four lions on red and gold. The standard is similar to the arms of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (Llywelyn the Last), the last Prince of Wales before the conquest of Wales by Edward I of England. The design may also be influenced by the arms of Glyndwr's parents, both of whom had lions in their arms.[4] There's no evidence to suggest this was ever used as a flag, but they are used in today on public buildings.
The Flag of Saint David, the patron Saint of Wales is sometimes used as an alternative to the national flag, is flown on St David's Day.[5]

Welsh heraldry[edit]

The Red Dragon (Welsh: Y Ddraig Goch) of Wales is a symbol of Wales that appears in "Cyfranc Lludd a Lleuelys", Historia Brittonum, Historia Regnum Britianniae, and the Welsh triads. According to legend, Vortigern (Welsh: Gwrtheyrn) King of the Celtic Britons from Powys is interrupted whilst attempting to build fort at Dinas Emrys. He is told by Merlin/Ambrosius (Welsh: Myrddin) to dig up two dragons beneath the castle. He discovers a red dragon representing the Celtic Britons (now Welsh) and a white dragon representing Anglo-Saxons (now English). Merlin/Ambrosius prophesies that the Celtic Britons will reclaim the island and push the Anglo-Saxons back to the sea.[6][7] As an emblem, the red dragon has been used since the reign of Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd from around 655AD and is present on the national flag of Wales, which became an official flag in 1959.[1]
Traditional Arms of the House of Aberffraw, Gwynedd and the personal arms of Llywelyn the Great.[8]
Owain Glyndŵr's shield of arms was adopted by Glyndŵr as Prince of Wales, from 1400.[9]
The Welsh coat of arms, or Royal Badge of Wales, which is based on the arms of the native princes of Wales from the 13th century.[10]

British (formerly English) monarchy heraldry[edit]

The badge represents the Duke of Cornwall or Heir Apparent of the British monarchy (commonly known as the Prince of Wales's feathers).[11] It consists of three white feathers emerging from a gold coronet and the German motto Ich dien (I serve). Several Welsh representative teams, including the Welsh rugby union, and Welsh regiments in the British Army (the Royal Welsh, for example) use the badge or a stylised version of it. There have been attempts made to curtail the use of the emblem for commercial purposes and restrict its use to those authorised by the Prince of Wales.[12] The use of the emblem to symbolise Wales is controversial, such as its use by the Welsh rugby union.[13][14][15][16]

Plants and animals[edit]

The leek is the national emblem of Wales.[17] According to legend, King Cadwaldr of Gwynedd ordered Welsh soldiers to identify themselves by wearing the leek on their armour in an ancient battle.[18]
The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, worn on St David's Day (1 March) in Wales. The daffodil may be known as Welsh: cenhinen Bedr (Saint Peter's leek).[19]
The Sessile Oak, also called the Welsh Oak is the national tree of Wales.[20]
The red kite is sometimes named as the national symbol of wildlife in Wales.[21]

Welsh Language[edit]

The Welsh language is considered a symbol and icon of Wales and considered a "cornerstone of Welsh identity". Spoken throughout Wales by around 750,000 people, it is present on television, radio, road signs and road markings.[22]

Welsh mottos[edit]


Hen Wlad fy Nhadau being sung at a Wales rugby game

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau is the traditional national anthem of Wales.[30] The words were written by Evan James and the tune was composed by his son, James James, both residents of Pontypridd, Glamorgan, in January 1856.[30][31] The earliest written copy survives and is part of the collections of the National Library of Wales.[31]

Male voice choirs are considered a Welsh symbol. Traditional members of the movement include the Treorchy choir and the Morriston choir. More recently, the success Only Men Aloud has also played a part in continuing this tradition.[22]

The Welsh harp, also known as the triple harp is considered to be the national instrument of Wales.[32]


The earliest known dated lovespoon from Wales, displayed in the St Fagans National History Museum near Cardiff, is from 1667, although the tradition is believed to date back long before that.[33]


Welsh dress, 1905

The unique Welsh hat, which first made its appearance in the 1830s, was used as an icon of Wales from the 1840s.[34]

From the 1880s, when the traditional costume had gone out of general use, selected elements of it became adopted as a national costume. From then on it was worn by women at events such as Royal visits, by choirs, at church and chapel, for photographs and occasionally at eisteddfodau. It was first worn by girls as a celebration on Saint David's Day just before the First World War. The costume is now recognised as the national dress of Wales.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Wales history: Why is the red dragon on the Welsh flag?". BBC News. 6 July 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  2. ^ The arms and flag have four squares alternating in gold and red (representing the Royal House of Aberffraw and iron, or Mars the god of War). Each square has a lion of the opposite colour. The lion is looking at the observer and has 3 paws on the ground and one raised high in the air ("passant guardant"); the tongue is stuck-out ("langued") and the claws outstretched claws ("armed"). Both are blue ("Azur". This represents primacy in Wales).
  3. ^ WalesOnline (15 September 2004). "Flying the flag to remember Glyndwr". WalesOnline. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  4. ^ "BBC Wales - History - Themes - Welsh flag: Banner of Owain Glyndwr". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  5. ^ "BBC - Wales - History - Themes - Flag of St David". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  6. ^ "Red Dragon of Wales". www.maryjones.us. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  7. ^ Williams, Ifor (1959). "Gwrtheyrn (Vortigern)". Dictionary of Welsh Biography. National Library of Wales.
  8. ^ Depicted in Cambridge Corpus Christi College Parker Library MS 16 II, fol. 170r (Chronica Majora, c. 1250).
  9. ^ "Medieval copper alloy armorial mount". Museum Wales. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  10. ^ "First Welsh law's royal approval". 9 July 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  11. ^ Williams, Nino (25 November 2018). "The uncomfortable truth about the three feathers symbol embraced by Wales". WalesOnline. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  12. ^ Burson, Sam (2 March 2007). "Stop using my Three Feathers". Western Mail. Cardiff: Media Wales Ltd. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
  13. ^ "Daffodils, leeks and ruffled feathers: do national symbols matter?". The National Wales. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  14. ^ David, Corrie (2 November 2021). "Thousands sign petition for WRU to change emblem to a dragon". WalesOnline. Retrieved 18 February 2022.
  15. ^ Williams, Nino (25 November 2018). "The uncomfortable truth about the three feathers symbol embraced by Wales". WalesOnline. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  16. ^ "Yes Cymru propose alternative crests for WRU that ditch the three feathers". Nation.Cymru. 30 October 2021. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  17. ^ Ben Johnson. "The Leek - National emblem of the Welsh". Historic UK. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  18. ^ "National symbols of Wales". Wales. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  19. ^ "National symbols of Wales". Wales. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  20. ^ "Tree trail with worldwide flavour". 23 July 2004. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  21. ^ The RSPB: Red kite voted Wales' Favourite Bird
  22. ^ a b "National symbols of Wales". Wales. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  23. ^ "Cymru am byth! The meaning behind the Welsh motto". WalesOnline. 6 February 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  24. ^ "December 2008 Newsletter (No. 19)". www.college-of-arms.gov.uk/. College of Arms. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  25. ^ a b "First Welsh law's royal approval". BBC News. 9 July 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  26. ^ "Signed, sealed, delivered: Queen approves Welsh seal". BBC News. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  27. ^ a b c "The £1 Coin - The United Kingdom £1 Coin". www.royalmint.com/. Royal Mint. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  28. ^ "NATO Summit Wales 2014 logo unveiled". GOV.UK. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  29. ^ "Welsh Flag: An official emblem". BBC. 8 August 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2022.
  30. ^ a b "Welsh National Anthem". wales.com. Welsh Government. 2014. Retrieved 24 May 2014. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau gradually became accepted as Wales' national anthem – though to this day, it has no official status as such.
  31. ^ a b "Welsh anthem – The background to Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau". Wales history. BBC Cymru Wales. 1 December 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2010.
  32. ^ "Celebrating the Welsh harp and our traditional Celtic folk roots". Wales. 2 August 2022. Retrieved 6 September 2022.
  33. ^ Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel; Menna, Baines; Lynch, Peredur I., eds. (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 523. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
  34. ^ Christine Stevens, 'Welsh Peasant Dress – Workwear or National Costume', Textile History 33, 63–78 (2002)
  35. ^ Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. pp. 931–932. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.