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Glyndŵr's Banner, Wales


Last modified: 2012-06-30 by rob raeside
Keywords: wales | dragon: golden | lions: 4 | lion rampant | glyndŵr | owain glyndŵr |
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[Glyndwr's banner] image by James Frankcom

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About the flag

The Lion on Gold and Red, is the Banner of Owain Glyndwr, as born on his shield.
Philip R. Williams
, 19 September 2002

The flag which is referred to as the 'Owen Glyndwr flag' is actually the the Prince of Wales flag and was used by Glyndwr as he claimed to be the true prince of Wales. This armorial bearing is now used by the modern 'prince of Wales' [sic] as his emblem in Wales.
Muiris Mag Ualghairg, 18 April 2003

Owain Glyndwr had a claim to the throne of all Wales because through his father he inherited the throne of Powys Fadog (north Powys) and through his mother the throne of Dehuebarth. The arms of Powys are a red lion rampant on a gold background, and the arms of Dehuebarth are the reverse. Together they are Glyndwr's arms and his alone. The Arms of Gwynedd which are not included are three red lions passant on a white background.
James Frankcom, 16 September 2005

The quartered and counterchanged flag was not Glyndwr's personal blazon (Glyndwr had been Arundel's squire in the Scottish campaigns and refused to pay the money demanded of him to furnish his knighthood - so I presume him to not be possessed of a personal coat of arms). These arms are the badge of office of the "twysog cymru" - the elective office of "chief judge of Wales", usually selected from somebody descended from noble parentage who must be qualified to interpret the complex legal system created by Hwyel Dda in the 9th century whose system of inheritance prevented the accumulation of undue wealth and influence and which essentially condemned the rule of the English feudal lords and rejected the idea that noblemen stood outside of the law - the issue with Lord Grey that triggered the war, when Glyndwr found that the king chose to back wealth and privilege instead of upholding Glyndwr's legal rights. It deeply annoys a fair number of people to see Prince Charles being styled "Twysog" as if the office could be bestowed by the crown (or inherited - people claiming to be the "true" twysog cymru are equally annoying). It offended 13th century Welshmen when the Llewelyns tried to "modernise" Wales by feudalising the office to keep it in their family. Prior to Glyndwr, the previous elective twysog was Owain Llawgoch who was assassinated in France as he tried to assemble an invasion to attack England on the British mainland as an ally of the French king, and he was bearing this coat of arms in the wars there whilst Glyndwr fought in Scotland.

The banner that Glyndwr is reported to have carried into battle was the Golden Dragon (on a white field I think) i.e. Glyndwr was filling both the role of twysog and "dwg"(war-leader) - the dragons were battle flags in Wales, being derived from the Roman Cavalry's standards (not the infantry cohorts) which had originally been foreign mercenaries from somewhere in what is now Turkic Asia, peoples who lived in the saddle and are reputed to have worshipped swords that they stuck point first into the ground and prayed before, as Christians later prayed on the hilts of their swords. Their banners were as described by another contributor, a sort of windsock attached to a mask on a pole that depicted a dragon's head (see pictures of Ishtar Gate from Babylon to see what their dragons looked like). Emrys is the dwg who reputedly made this the emblem of the Brythonic armies in the 5th century - long before "king" Arthur / Arddhir?="long-bear", pendragon / penddraig = "head of the dragon". In the absence of any monolithic Welsh states due to the triple-codex legal system, it is unlikely that anybody conceived of there being any kind of national flag or emblem involving the golden dragon - it was only unfurled in a time of war, and was probably regarded with deep apprehension as a magical talisman - possessed of the power to start wars if openly displayed, and closely guarded for everyone's safety. It may well have been feared as demonic by Christianised Brythons. There is mention in early sources of the Brythons' use of crosses in battles, but nobody is sure what the sources mean. As the last remnant of Christian civilisation in the north west of Europe, attacked by pagan Gaels, Saxons and Picts, the most probable unifying symbol that could create a sense of national identity on a flag would be a cross - but they might have carried holy relics into battle in reliquaries, i.e. bits of martyrs' crosses.
David Barry Lawrence
, 7 March 2004

This flag (4 lions rampant on red and gold) has become extremely popular in Wales recently, particularly in North Wales. Last summer it was widely flown in Harlech and in Pwllheli, both towns in the Gwynedd heartland of Welsh-speaking Wales. Currently a number are being flown together with Red Dragon flags in Mold in Flintshire to celebrate the forthcoming town carnival. This is interesting since Mold is only 10 miles from the English border and is predominantly English- speaking. Last year the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff tried to ban football supporters from displaying this flag and the St. David's Cross at Wales' international matches on the grounds they were political. They relented after a angry deluge of letters to the Western Mail.
David Griffiths, 16 July 2004

Glyndŵr's four lions banner: Glyndŵr to show his royal descent from the ''high kings of Wales'' (Princes of Gwynedd) adopted their 13th century ''Royal Flag of Wales'' but which were 4 lions passive, this latter flag was also used by the famous Welsh Mercenary of the 14th Century Owain Lawgoch to show his royal descent from the aforementioned princes of Gwynedd. There are coloured pictures of Owain Lawgoch and his flag (one making common mistake of getting colours in wrong arrangement) in medieval manuscripts. There is in National Museum of Wales a 'boss' from a horse's bridle showing Glyndwr's four rampant lions. Below you will note the successful recent contemporary use of 'Baneri Glyndŵr'. Not so however, the four lions passive of the ''high kings'' native royal princes of Gwynedd. Although there are hand made versions in use and were revived for use by the patriotic 'Cymric Consciousness'' movement 'Cofiwn' in 1982 to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the assassination of Llywelyn III at Cilmeri in central Wales. One was in fact flying at Cilmeri last year and another was raised at site of Llywelyn III court 'Llys Rhosyr' in December 2004 to mark placement of a flag pole there.

NB: The 4 Lions passive above were stolen by the English on conquest of Wales in 1282-83 and are now used by the English pretender ''Princes of Wales'' but with an ''English Crown'' at center. Probably for such ''tainted'' reason true Welsh Patriots today prefer Glyndŵr's 4 Lions rampant.
G. Gruffydd
, 2 March 2005

Since we launched our 16 September - 'Dydd Dathlu Owain Glyndŵr' campaign in the year 2000 with the aid of the 'Glyndŵr ribbon' and flag, we have seen the flag recognised and flown by a growing number of councils namely Caernarfon, Bala, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Pwllheli, Carmathen, Caerffili, Dolgellau and since 21 June 2004 (Dydd y Senedd) Machynlleth, Corwen and of course, this year, Aberystwyth and, no doubt, many other Councils will voluntary follow suit upon request. So far, only Flint council has actually refused and now that Prince Owain's flag is so widely recognised throughout Cymru, we sincerely hope that they will reconsider.

Further, this year we presented the National Eisteddfod with a large 'Baner Glyndŵr' which will, henceforth fly annually at this prestigious event and we hope that Yr Urdd Annual Eisteddfod and other festivals and shows will follow suit. This year we have also witnessed the paddle steamer the 'SS Waverly' proudly fly Glyndŵr's flag from her bow and I have also seen it flying from a number of canal barges and yachts - meaning that we can now quite correctly claim that Baneri Glyndŵr flies on land and sea and sooner or later, we are sure, it will take to the skies. I do not know how long it will take before it goes into space - but we are working on it?

This year, in recognition of 'Blywyddyn Coffad Coroni Tywysog Owain Glyndŵr', we have seen 'Baneri and Bunting Glyndŵr' predominate in the following ''Cydmunedau Glyndŵr'': Harlech, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Dolgellau, Machynlleth, Corwen, Bala, Aberaeron, Pontardulais, Llanymddyfri, Caerffili and, not least, the small village of Coety near Bridgend - home to the most impressive and successful (bi-annual) Gŵyl Glyndŵr held throughout Cymru. Indeed, one can now hardly travel the whole of Cenedl Glyndŵr (Cymru) without seeing 'Baneri Glyndŵr' flying from commercial premises, such as hotels and pubs, as well as from numerous residences. Further, it is increasingly seen flying at major sports events and, in particular, at rugby and football matches. This colourful Four Lion Rampant standard of Glyndŵr carries with it the symbolism of radicalism and justice and is increasingly seen to be a must icon at protest events - such as those seen recently at Wrecsam, Aberfan and Pembre - and your correspondents could not have failed to have seen it predominate along with many wearing Baneri Glyndŵr Shirts at the Somerfields Bala protest recently.

G.Gruffydd, 2 March 2004

Derivation of Glyndŵr's Banner

Many of the banners used by Welsh princes during the period 1100-1400 are from heraldry and would, it is presumed, have been flown as well as born on shields - as they certainly were in England at this time. Several flags I think require discussion.

[Llywelyn ap Iorwerth's banner] image located by James Frankcom, 21 May 2007

Firstly - this is a flag associated with Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (aka Llywelyn Mawr - "the Great") who ruled Gwynedd between c.1195 - 1240. It is thought to be the traditional flag of the Lords of Aberffraw and Prince of Gwynedd (Gwynedd was the dominant kingdom in Wales from the 9th Century onwards and their rulers for a long period had their seat of government at Aberffraw on Ynys Môn (Anglesey)). This flag is also described as being raised by Dafydd ap Llywelyn, his son, and also by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, his great nephew who was the last reigning Prince of Gwynedd being killed in 1282 by the forces of Edward I of England.

After Gwynedd was conquered the title "Prince of Wales" was adopted by the eldest son of the English sovereign. The first English prince of Wales, the future Edward II, was proclaimed by the English king Edward I in the grounds of Caernarfon Castle. At some point they began using a version of this flag with a green shield and a crown in the centre and still do unto this day.

Now look at this:

[Owain Glyn Dwr's banner] image located by James Frankcom, 21 May 2007

This flag is the flag associated with Owain Glyn Dwr, who was a prince from a rival dynasty - that of Powys, not Gwynedd. They are quite different! Please ignore the difference in the yellow tone. Note that the lions are "passant gardant" in the flag of the Princes of Gwynedd, In the flag of Glyn Dwr they are "rampant".

There is a lot of discussion on "the flag" with people not making a valid distinction between the two. It is not a mistake, both flags exist independently. Some people say that Glyn Dwr was the "Tywysog" (meaning the same as Taoisiach in Irish and basically meaning "chief") and that the flag he used was that of the Tywysog and was the same raised by Llywelyn Mawr and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. But this is bunkum! At the time heraldry was everything and a rampant lion would not have been confused with a passant gardant lion. There is no explanation for the difference and similarity. I thought it was a mistake by people copying down the flag designs in the Middle Ages but scholars have checked on my behalf and both flags are described in detail, that of the Llywelyns at the time that they reigned (when there is no mention of Glyn Dwr's banner because he was not yet born), and that of Owain Glyn Dwr at the time of his rebellion and brief reign.

My theory is that Glyn Dwr's banner is derived from his parents. Now this is quite complex, but relevant:


His father was Gruffudd ap Madog, the Lord of Dinas Brân and Glyndyfrdwy. This was the title awarded to the noble family who ruled from Castle Dinas Brân since the end of Welsh independence in 1283. Prior to this they had been styled "Prince of Powys-Fadog" which was the northern division of the old Kingdom of Powys.

Now in 1160 Madog ap Maredudd, the Prince of the once mighty realm of Powys died. Powys had a banner and it is this:

[Madog ap Maredudd's banner] image located by James Frankcom, 21 May 2007

On his death his realm was divided between his sons. The eldest one; Owain; inherited the southern portion. The second son; Madog; inherited the northern portion. The other sons had much smaller portions which were soon annexed by either Owain or Madog.

The ruler of the southern portion was the representative of the Senior Branch of the House of Powys which became known as Powys-Wenwynwyn. However, he was a traitor to Welsh independence and allied himself with England against Gwynedd. However, his senior branch continued to use the yellow banner of Powys. He was instrumental in the defeat and death of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd of Gwynedd in 1282. After this they moved out of Wales and lived in Yorkshire adopting the surname de la Pole to emulate their Norman allies. The names means "Of Poole" which was the old name for the town now called Welshpool which had been the site of their major castle before they left Wales. At the time of Owain Glyn Dwr they still used a version of the yellow lion above but were now the Earl's of Suffolk and had little if anything to do with Wales.

[Madog ap Maredudd's banner] image located by James Frankcom, 21 May 2007

Arms of Owen de la Pole, the eldest son of Griffith de la Pole

The Junior Branch of the House of Powys ruled in the north, which became known as the Principality of Powys-Fadog after Prince Madog it's first ruler. They adopted a new banner, thus;

[Principality of Powys-Fadog's banner] image located by James Frankcom, 21 May 2007

This family remained in Wales based at Dinas Brân. Owain Glyn Dwr was the great-great-great-great Grandson of the Madog ap Maredudd the last Prince of all Powys and the great-grandson of the last ruling Prince of Powys Fadog. He would have seen himself as the true heir to the throne of all Powys, not just Powys Fadog. At the time of Owain Glyn Dwr the arms of the family had changed again - a younger brother had succeeded ahead of an older one - and were now this:

[Gruffudd Maelor banner] image located by James Frankcom, 21 May 2007


Owain Glyn Dwr's mother was the daughter of the head of the House of Deheubarth. The Principality of Deheubarth was the largest and most powerful realm of southern Wales. They were deposed as well as the other princes after 1283 and were styled "Lord of Dinefwr" or "Lord of Ystrad Tywi". The banner of Deheubarth and of the ruling family was this;

[Gruffudd Maelor banner] image located by James Frankcom, 21 May 2007

or sometimes without the border:

[Gruffudd Maelor banner] image located by James Frankcom, 21 May 2007

Now it is my belief, that Owain - lacking any formal arms of his own - adopted the arms of the Kings of Powys AND the Kings of Deheubarth quartered to emphasise his royal roots at a time when the entire ruling family of Gwynedd had been extinguished. That is why the lions on his flag are rampant, and those on Llywelyn's entirely unrelated flag are pasant gardant. They were both, however, Tywysog's in their own rights. That makes me think that the flag of Llywelyn is a very Gwynedd - centric design and not one shared by other princes at any time.

The precise colours on the flag are only ever described as either "red" or "gold" so please do not pay any attention to the different shades of yellow or red I have used.

James Frankcom, 21 May 2007

Here are the personal flags of some princes:

The personal banner of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (c.1255 - 1282)

[personal banner of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd] image located by James Frankcom, 23 May 2007

An illustration at the time of these arms are seen here - a painting of Edward I receiving homage from L-R; Archbishop of York, King Alexander of Scotland, Llywelyn of Wales, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Gruffudd ap Cynan, King of Gwynedd

Those arms should not be confused with the arms of King Gruffudd ap Cynan (c.1055 - 1137) - father of Owain Gwynedd.

[personal banner of Gruffudd ap Cynan] image located by James Frankcom, 23 May 2007

King Gruffudd ap Cynan ruled between 1055 and 1137. So although this flag looks similar to the royal standard of England, at the time of the beginning of his reign "England" did not exist as we know it, this was before the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the flags of William the Conqueror and his successors - the famous three gold lions on red did not exist.

He was succeeded by his son Owain ap Gruffudd (known as Owain Gwynedd so he was not confused with Owain ap Gruffudd of Powys) who had a green shield with three gold spread eagles on it. Owain Gwynedd was succeeded by two of his sons and then after them by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llywelyn Mawr) who I discussed above.

These two flags are interesting because they are the PERSONAL standards of a prince, not that of his family. We have a different system in England, but I suppose it is like Prince Philip having his own arms (Battenburg-Oldenburg) before he became consort to the Queen of Great Britain.
James Frankcom, 23 May 2007

Golden Dragon Flag (Baner Y Ddraig Aur)

[Glyndwr's banner] image located by James Frankcom, 17 May 2007

Raised by Owain Glyndŵr as his battle flag, on Twt hill overlooking Caernarfon Castle on 2 November 1401. Possibly Glyndŵr was making an “Heraldic Challenge” to English rule before the gates of a castle which more than any other represented the conquest of Wales. Caernarfon Castle with its walls based on those of Constantinople was Edward I’s monument to the final conquest of Wales in 1282. At time of building the castle the English faked discovery of King Arthur’s bones to further disillusion the Welsh and of course Edward had in this conquest stolen the Royal treasures of Gwynedd which included ‘Coron Arthur’ (Arthur's crown). Further pertinent to Glyndŵr and the Welsh was fact that the ‘Golden Dragon’ banner was originally the flag of Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father and since this time had become the banner also associated with ‘Meibion Darogan’ (Son’s of Prophecy) which Glyndŵr became recognised as. Last but not least, Owain Gwynedd a founder prince of Gwynedd was also referred to in ‘Heraldic poetry’ with ‘Golden Dragons’, Glyndŵr no doubt was seeking association with this fact too.
G.Gruffydd, 2 March 2004

It was originally carried by Owain IV of Wales aka Owain Glyn Dwr and was raised at Caernarfon Castle in 1500 (I think). It was originally the standard of Uther Pendragon and as the father of Arthur it was adopted as the standard of Mab Doragan or the "prophetical son" who would liberate the Britons!
James Frankcom, 18 May 2007

I've been research material on the arms of Owain Glyndwr for some years now as well as looking into the imaginary. I am convinced that the golden dragon used by Glyndwr would have had only two legs. The Red Dragon, used to day, was adopted from a dragon used by the Tudor family but there was another that seems to have been ignored by whoever decided that the dragon depicted in Glyndwr's time should be four legged.

To add to this more or less all dragon depicted even into the 16th century seem to be two legged. Our re-enactment group, which specializes in the 14th and early 15th centuries from a Welsh point of view, order a flag to be made and sent designs but it came back with a golden dragon with four legs. We weren't very happy but the deed was done.

Both seals of Glyndwr clearly show that his dragons had two legs yet no one seems to take this into account.
Charles Gunther, 22 May 2012