The proposed county flag of Radnorshire is a banner of the arms attributed to celebrated local ruler, Elystan Glodrydd, a gold lion reguardant (looking backwards) on red
Elystan Glodrydd and his son Cadwgan are mentioned in historical annals as being King of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren, which in English is ‘Between Wye and Severn’. This family was a principal opponent to the incoming Mortimers of Norman origin, a role some residents of Radnorshire celebrate by displaying the arms associated with both Elystan and his son, a distinctive white shield bearing three boars heads
The two sets of arms, quartered
became the arms of the local Cadogan family. This quartered shield was later adapted as the arms of Radnoshire County Council
and an armorial banner has been used by the family from an early date. It was memorably seen flying in Radnorshire in 2010
, when the descendants of Elystan Glodrydd organised a historic gathering to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the supposed year of his death in battle, along with an armorial banner of the his father Elystan’s arms.
Elystan Glodrydd’s arms also made an appearance at the 1969 Investiture of Prince Charles at Caernarfon Castle
The Elystan arms significantly, also illustrate the cover of this volume on the county
, of a version of the arms of the Mortimer family
, without the white inescutcheon, the small shield at the centre of the larger one, is a viable alternative proposal for consideration as the Radnorshire county flag. These arms have been used in the locality for many centuries, this is a 14th century version
by the eighteenth, the arms had become pointedly linked with the territory of the county, specifically used for example to designate it on maps
and they are recorded in his 1781 ‘A Tour In Wales’ by Thomas Pennant.
The strong association of the Mortimer arms with the county of Radnorshire was later demonstrated by their use by the local police force
it’s appearance on this regimental banner of the Radnorshire Volunteers
and again by the county council’s informal use of the emblem (minus the white shield at the centre) as its own arms
as attested to by two authoritative references;
The Book of Public Arms by A.C. Fox-Davies, 1894. Plate 9
Has no Armorial bearings, but the following are quoted in Burke’s ‘General Armory’ – “Barry of six or and az on a chief of the last two palets betw as many gyrons of the first” This Coat is probably taken from that of Mortimer, which as blazoned in Woodward and Burnetts ‘Treasure on Heraldry,’ is as follows- “Parry of six or and azure on a chief of the first two pallets between two gyrons of the second, over all au inescutcheon argent”.
Civic Heraldry by C.W. Scott-Giles, 1933. Page 88
Upon the seal of the County Council appears a shield: Barry of six pieces of gold and blue on a blue chief two gold pallets between two gold gyrons. This is clearly based on the arms of the Mortimers, Earls of March (the Welsh march), who bore these arms with the addition of a silver escutcheon in the middle of the shield.
The Mortimers possibly devised their arms as an heraldic representation of the Dead Sea, from which the family ‘de Mortuo Mari’ were supposed to have derived their name; the silver escutcheon may be intended to stand for the waters, and the gold and blue pieces about the sands and sky.
The council also made use of the design as a seal
In 1954 the council was formally awarded a new coat of arms
which again included a reference to the Mortimers and their arms, with a yellow and blue border around the edge of the quartered shield of the Cadogans. Further recognition of the close linkage of the Mortimer emblem with Radnorshire is evident in its appearance on the ceiling of the library in Bangor University
where it appears amidst a number of emblems representing the Welsh counties. The above flag, formed from this interpretation of the original Mortimer arms without the central “inescutcheon”, which has been much used to represent the county, is evidently a legitimate proposal for registration as the county flag of Radnorshire.
There are therefore two traditional designs available
The Elystan banner has a strong claim for registration; its provenance, evident popularity and inclusion on the later council arms, make it comparable to the flag of Ceredigion (Cardiganshire) but it should be noted that there are a further three rampant lion flags in the offing; black on white in Denbighshire; a red lion rampant on gold in Montgomeryshire, the banner of Powys Wenwynwyn (Powys Cyfeiliog) and a potential fifth for Carmarthenshire. A veritable pride of lions! If all five were registered the crucial element of distinctiveness that makes flags effective, would be sorely diminished – few would be able to tell one Welsh county lion flag from another. Additionally, rampant and other positioned lions are a theme that is universally met in heraldry and heraldically derived flags – there are a myriad lions in corporate, civic and personal arms across the globe
On this basis, seeking something that can represent a county which is unique or rare, such as the “pallets and gyrons” (bars and triangles) of the Mortimers might be a preferable course. However, in the modern era the Mortimer family has come to be seen by some local people as representative of an occupying foreign force on account of the family’s origin as a Norman dynasty, which arrived in Wales in the centuries following the Battle of Hastings, notwithstanding the fact that the family ultimately intermarried with native born nobility and after several hundred years had become Welsh itself by any reasonable definition. Given the established association between the Mortimer arms and the county and the family’s contribution to local history, would dismissal of its emblem really be fair? Ultimately though, local sentiment will prevail and such considerations as have been noted will be overridden by the community’s preference, which is evidently strongly in favour of the emblem of its celebrated forbear.
Thanks to Brady Ells and Philip Beddows for their extensive research used in this account.