The Red Dragon and the House of Tudor

The red dragon against a green and white background is an unambiguous symbol of Wales. But how Welsh are these colours and how ancient is the design?

I had always assumed that the Welsh Flag was an ancient design. The green and white stripes have a suitably Celtic feel and are completely alien to the vexillological tradition across the rest of the British Isles. England, Scotland, Ireland and even Cornwall and Devon are represented by crosses inspired by their patron saint.

With a great red dragon superimposed on the two stripes, the design is uniquely Welsh. In Welsh it is usually known as Y Ddraig Goch – the Red Dragon or, more obviously, Baner Cymru – the Flag of Wales.

But the design is not as ancient as I had assumed and its colours are not inspired by a Celtic past. Instead, they are the green and white of the Tudor family and were introduced by the future Henry VII as he made his way to destiny and the Crown on Bosworth Field in 1485.

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A “French-style security force” – the origin of the yeomen of the guard

In Thomas Penn’s ‘The Winter King’, Henry VII is depicted as neurotically protecting his precarious grasp on the English throne. On page 20, Penn describes the security measures the new monarch puts in place:

“One of his first acts was to create a new French-style security force, three hundred strong: the yeoman of the guard.”

The Yeoman of the Guard? French? This was enough to pique my interest and find out more about the force I had always assumed was as British as the beef they legendarily consumed (or not – see below).

The Body Guard of the Yeoman of the Guard was formed by Henry VII in the dazed aftermath of the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Richard III was slain during this bloody culmination to the Wars of the Roses and Henry was determined to avoid a similar fate.

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