databas cerddi guto'r glyn


In the fifteenth century gold or silver collars made with many links in a variety of different shapes were often worn as symbols of status or as signs of allegiance to a particular household or political cause. One of the oldest and best-known was the ‘Collar of SS’ or ‘Collar of Esses’. These had a series of links in the form of a letter ‘S’ and first appeared in the fourteenth century, being given by John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, to his retainers.[1] They were later adopted by his son, who became King Henry IV, and continued to be used as a Lancastrian device during the Wars of the Roses. The corresponding Yorkist collars were composed of alternate suns and white roses with a white lion pendant in the time of Edward IV, or, in the time of Richard III, white roses-en-soleil with a white boar pendant (similar emblems were used on badges).[2]

Collars were often depicted on effigies and in illustrations. For example, Yorkist collars symbolizing allegiance to Edward IV are worn by Sir Henry Wogan and his wife Margaret, as depicted on their effigies, and likewise in a representation of Sir John Dwnn and his wife Elizabeth on a painted altarpiece.[3]

For the Welsh poets, a golden collar (often called a coler or aerwy) was one of the symbols of knighthood, along with golden spurs, sword or belt, whilst a silver collar or spurs represented a squire. Referring to exchanging silver items for gold ones was, therefore, a convenient means of saying that someone had been knighted, or deserved to be knighted, as in two poems by Dafydd Epynt: Ysgwïer, gwisg aerwy gwyn, / Arian filwr â'n felyn ‘Esquire, dressed in a silver collar, / Silver warrior who’ll become golden’ and Dau goler arian sidan y sydd, / Duw a ro newid o aur newydd ‘Two silken, silver collars there are, / May God exchange them for fresh gold.’[4] A similar wish is expressed in one of Guto’r Glyn’s poems, addressed to Henry Griffith of Newcourt:

Ysgwïer dan goler gwiw, 
Ucha’ sydd i’ch oes heddiw, 
Dy fonedd di a fynnai 
Dy roi’n aur gyda’th dri nai. 
Nid anos yt, myn Dwynwen, 
Dwyn aur nog ysbardun wen. 
an esquire wearing a fitting collar,
the most exalted who exists in your lifetime today,
your lineage would demand
that you be dressed in golden trappings along with your three nephews.
It would be no greater challenge for you, by St Dwynwen,
to wear gold rather than a silver spur.

(poem 35.7-12)

And likewise in his praise poem for Siôn Hanmer of Halghton and Llai, if the aur (‘gold’) is associated with the coler (‘collar’):

Ys da gweddai i’w nai ’n ôl 
Aur ar wyrdd, ŵyr yr urddol; 
Nid un galon dan goler 
Un dyn â Siôn dan y sêr. 
it would suit his nephew well after him to have gold
on his green clothes, grandson of the one who was honoured;
there is no man with the same courage
under a collar as John beneath the stars.

(poem 75.41-4)

In a poem in praise of Maredudd ap Hywel of Oswestry, by contrast, Guto complains about the unfairness which he perceives in Edward IV’s practice of knighting soldiers of lowly rather than aristocratic background. He refers to the awarding of golden spurs to such men:

Y salwa’ o iselwaed 
A roir draw aur ar ei draed. 
The meanest of the low-born
is given gold on his feet yonder.

(poem 95.5-6)

Then, unsurprisingly, Guto goes on to make it clear that Maredudd himself is one of those who deserve the gold collar of knighthood (here described as ‘red’):

Pam, a gwyched Maredudd, 
Na roir ar hwn aerwy rhudd? 
Why, as Maredudd is so excellent,
is a red collar not put on this man?

(poem 95.15-16)

In other poems Guto mentions the wearing of collars by patrons who had indeed been knighted. He refers to Sir Richard Gethin of Builth as the galawnt aur ei goler ‘gold-collared gallant’ (poem 1.40), and in his elegy for William Herbert of Raglan, first earl of Pembroke, notes his custom of wearing aerwy mawr o aur a main ‘a great collar of gold and gemstones’ (poem 24.34). Guto also refers to William’s collar in a poem addressed to his son, Sir Walter Herbert:

Arweddodd we o ruddaur 
Ac aerwy trwm a gartr aur; 
Arwain y wisg o’r un nod 
I’r neillglun, ŵr enillglod! 
He wore cloth of red gold
and a heavy collar and garter of gold;
wear that garment which brings like distinction
to one leg, man who wins praise!

(poem 27.19-22)

Having already referred in this poem to Sir Walter’s knighting (euraw, literally his ‘gilding’, line 13), Guto expresses in these lines his hope that he will go one better and become a knight of the Garter like his father. The Order of the Garter had been founded by King Edward III c.1348, with its knights being required to wear a light blue garter, with the Order’s motto depicted in gold letters, on the left leg below the knee.[5]

In Gutun Owain’s elegy for Guto’r Glyn, there is a reference to Guto himself wearing a collar and, possibly, a garter, depending on how the word gard is interpreted:

Dwyn coler, gwychder y gard, 
A nod y Brenin Edward. 
he’d wear King Edward’s collar and mark,
the guard’s grandeur.

(poem 126.19-20)

Other poets do seem to have used gard as a variant form of gartr ‘garter’, and this interpretation would give the translation ‘he’d wear King Edward’s collar, the garter’s grandeur, and his mark.’[6] However, though a special collar did become part of the insignia of the Order of the Garter, perhaps during the reign of King Henry VII, it is unlikely to have been adopted before c.1500.[7] Furthermore, it is almost impossible that Guto was made a member of the Order of the Garter as it was a lofty honour usually endowed upon a notable knight. He may have served the Order in some way, possibly as an official, but there is no evidence for such a claim.

It is preferable, therefore, to interpret gard as equivalent to the English ‘guard’, as in the first translation given above.[8] As for King Edward’s coler ‘collar’ and nod ‘mark’, it is unclear whether Guto wore these as a soldier or whether they represented, perhaps only in a figurative sense, the recognition he received for poems he composed for Edward himself or for the Herberts.


[1]: M. Keen, Chivalry (New Haven, 1984), 183, and S. Friar (ed.), A New Dictionary of Heraldry (London, 1987), 100.
[2]: Friar (ed.), A New Dictionary of Heraldry, 100.
[3]: P. Lord, The Visual Culture of Wales: Medieval Vision (Cardiff, 2003), 256-7 and 264-5.
[4]: O. Thomas (gol.), Gwaith Dafydd Epynt (Aberystwyth, 2002), 16.1-2 and 17.27-8.
[5]: Friar (ed.), A New Dictionary of Heraldry, 160.
[6]: Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (Caerdydd, 1950-2002) s.v. gartr.
[7]: P.J. Begent, The Most Noble Order of the Garter 650 Years (London, 1999), 62, 161.
[8]: Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (Caerdydd, 1950-2002) s.v. gard², giard.
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