databas cerddi guto'r glyn


Badges were a less formal system of emblems than the coats of arms, and were used to represent membership of a group such as a household, retinue or town militia or to show allegiance to a political faction or royal house.[1] Sometimes badges were derived from coats of arms but this was not always the case, and a particular lord or group might use a number of different ones. They were often worn in hats or sewn onto jackets, but might also be used to adorn houses and a variety of other items.

Guto’r Glyn may have had a badge in mind when he mentioned wearing ‘arms’ in a poem in praise of Sir William ap Thomas of Raglan:

Od arweddaf d’arwyddion, 
Ai gwaeth, ’y mhennaeth, ym hon 
No dwyn obry gwedy gwin 
Ar fy mron arfau ’mrenin? 
If I bear your markings,
is this one worse for me, my chieftain,
than bearing after wine
the arms of my king down there on my breast?

(poem 19.39-42)

This does not necessarily mean that Guto ever did wear such ‘arms’ or ‘markings’ on his clothing, however, since he may have used these terms figuratively to refer to the favour he received from his patron.

Guto refers to the badges of four enemies of King Edward IV in his poem ‘To urge Edward IV to restore order in Wales’:

Y Wiber Goch biau’r gis: 
Arth, Ci, Alarch, Porthcwlis. 
The Red Wyvern lands the blow:
Bear, Hound, Swan, Portcullis.

(poem 29.33-34)

The bear was one of the badges of the earls of Warwick, the hound was a badge of the Talbots, earls of Shrewsbury (a talbot was a kind of hunting dog), the swan was a badge of the Lancastrians, used by Edward, prince of Wales, son of Henry VI, and the portcullis was a badge of the Beaufort family (see further The Wars of the Roses.[2] As for the Red Wyvern, which seems to symbolize Edward IV himself, this may be the same creature as the red dragon, the traditional symbol of the Welsh/Britons and of Cadwaladr, who was regarded as the last king of the Britons. By associating Edward with the red dragon Guto may have intended to emphasize his descent from Cadwaladr and, therefore, his right to the throne.[3]

It was natural enough that the poets should have adopted the animal emblems on badges to use in their verses. Creatures such as lions and hawks had long been used in praise poetry as metaphors to convey human attributes such as courage or ferocity, whilst in prophetic poetry, and more widely in Welsh and Latin prophetic literature, various creatures were used to symbolize important individuals. Often there seems to be a double meaning to these animal references. For example, the hound (ci) in the passage quoted above (poem 29.34) could be identified not only with the emblem of the Talbot family but also as the symbol of a wrongful king, according to the Yorkist interpretation of prophetic texts.[4] In the same poem Guto refers to Edward IV as a bull (tarw), a beast often mentioned in prophecies and also used by Edward as one of his badges (poem 29.1).[5] The bull is mentioned again in another poem where he refers to Sir Walter Herbert as Trysor y Tarw a’r Rhosyn ‘a treasure of the Bull and Rose’ (poem 27.34), with the rose representing another of Edward’s badges, the white rose of the house of York.

Another favourite badge of Edward IV combined the ‘blazing sun of York’ with the white rose of York to form a rose-en-soleil (literally ‘rose in the sun’), with the rose surrounded by the sun’s rays.[6] This is mentioned in Guto’s poem in praise of Sir Roger Kynaston of Knockin, along with a further mention of the bear of the earls of Warwick and the ragged staff which was another of their badges (these two emblems, likewise, were sometimes combined to form a single badge):

Ni ddug ef, pan ddôi gyfarth, 
Na ffon rag na phen yr arth; 
Dwyn rhos, blodeuyn yr haf, 
Dwyn haul a wnâi’r dyn haelaf. 
He did not bear, when battle was in progress,
either a ragged staff or a bear’s head;
he wore a rose, a summer flower,
the most noble man wore a sunburst.

(poem 79.17-20)

Richard III, Edward’s younger brother, also used the badge of the white rose, as well as the personal badge of a white boar. Guto calls him a ‘boar’ in two poems, in each case with reference to the battle of Bosworth. He mentions rhaid y baedd ‘the boar’s hour of need’ in a praise poem to Siôn Edward of Plasnewydd and his wife Gwenhwyfar (poem 107.51), and refers to Richard as ‘the boar’ when describing his death, in a poem in praise of Sir Rhys ap Tomas of Abermarlais:

Cwncwerodd y Cing Harri 
Y maes drwy nerth ein meistr ni: 
Lladd Eingl, llaw ddiangen, 
Lladd y baedd, eilliodd ei ben, 
A Syr Rys mal sŷr aesawr 
Â’r gwayw ’n eu mysg ar gnyw mawr. 
King Henry won the day
through the strength of our master:
killing Englishmen, capable hand,
killing the boar, he shaved his head,
and Sir Rhys like the stars of a shield
with the spear in their midst on a great steed.

(poem 14.35-40)

Following the discovery of Richard’s remains in 2012 it now seems that the ‘shaving’ of his head, as described in this poem, may reflect the nature of some of the injuries to his skull, see The search for Richard III. There may also be a connection with the custom of shaving the bristles on a boar’s head before it was cooked.

(For the badges see further The British Museum Collection Database, searching under ‘livery badge’.)


[1]: R. Jones, Knight: The Warrior and World of Chivalry (Oxford, 2011), 168-9, and S. Friar (ed.), A New Dictionary of Heraldry (London, 1987), 40-1.
[2]: A. Ailes, ‘Heraldry in Medieval England: Symbols of Politics and Propaganda’, P. Coss and M. Keen (eds.), Heraldry, Pageantry and Social Display in Medieval England (Woodbridge, 2002), 83-104 (96); T. Wise, Medieval Heraldry (London, 1980), 21-2, and C. Gravett, Knight: Noble Warrior of England 1200-1600 (Oxford, 2008), 146.
[3]: J. Hughes, Arthurian Myths and Alchemy: The Kingship of Edward IV (Stroud, 2002), 1313, and A.R. Allan, ‘Political Propaganda Employed by the House of York in England in the Mid-fifteenth Century, 1450-71’ (Ph.D. Wales (Swansea), 1981), 409.
[4]: Allan, ‘Political Propaganda’, 222, 410.
[5]: Hughes, Arthurian Myths and Alchemy, 140, 144, and A.C. Fox-Davies, Heraldic Badges (London, 1907), 97.
[6]: Fox-Davies, Heraldic Badges, 52 and fig. 16.
<<<Coats of arms      >>>Seals
Website design by Martin Crampin    Website development by Technoleg Taliesin Cyf. and Alexander Roberts, Swansea University.