The Queen's Beasts: The Red Dragon of Wales

CMC S96-20863; PCD 97-332-080

CMC 980.9.7

From the time of earliest human civilization, depictions of certain animals — real or imaginary — were used as symbols of royalty and power. Such "beasts" were among the earliest icons used in medieval heraldry. The Tudor monarch, Henry VIII (1509-1547), commissioned carvings of those beasts most closely associated with British royalty, to decorate his palace at Hampton Court. These were the inspiration for the human-size Queen's Beasts sculpted in plaster to guard Elizabeth II's entrance into Westminster Abbey at her Coronation in 1953.

In one form or another, dragons are legendary the world over. In the Early Middle Ages, the rulers of Britain featured the dragon — a symbol of power, strength and wisdom 3 on their war-standards. In particular, the princes of Wales used dragons on their heraldic arms. The Tudors, who claimed descent from those princes, included the dragon as their family crest; Henry Tudor fought under the red dragon standard when he won the English crown at Bosworth (1485), and added the beast to the existing heraldic menagerie of the monarchy. It remains today the symbol of Wales.