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White Eagle of Wales flag

Last modified: 2006-12-23 by rob raeside
Keywords: wales | eagle (white) |
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[White Eagle of Wales flag] image by Eugene Ipavec

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About the flag

This rune-like white-on-black flag apparently is described as the "white eagle of Wales".  It is also referred to as Eryr Gwyn. I have never seen this symbol in use, not even alongside the Nationalist slogans that grace walls in Wales. Maybe it had something to do with the Free Wales Army? It appears on the image at this site as well as on the uniform of the 'soldier'.
Dafydd Young
, 29 July 2002

The white runic symbol on the black background, is indeed a representation of the Snowdonian Eagle, and was I believe worn on the uniforms of volunteers in the Free Wales Army.
Philip R. Williams, 19 September 2002

The White Eagle of Snowdonia flag was used by units of the Free Wales Army in the 1960's in Wales, as well as other republican groups into the 1990's.
Throughout the '60's and '70's it was widespread across Wales in the form of slogans painted on walls etc, and can still be seen in places.
Leighton Smart, 6 February 2003

The white eagle flag was indeed used by the Free Wales Army (in Welsh Byddin Rhyddid Cymru) however its background was red not black (when the background was used). The symbol is a heraldic symbol for an eagle and represents the eagles of Snowdonia which legend says will defend Wales.
Muiris Mag Ualghairg, 18 April 2003

The white eagle flag is still paraded around by groups like MRC and others hanging on the coattails of the defunct Free Wales Army who also scrawl the badge on walls occasionally, sometimes in its older and more elaborate form which has "feet" and a "tail" and looks like the x commonly used in maths struck through by an archaic s - the one like a long f . One site that I browsed earlier has pictures of one of these neo-fascist rallies displaying all the flags that they can think of, the colour party are dressed in red shirts with black berries with the white eagle symbol on a circular red badge. to search for such material, try entering "Cilmeri" into a search
engine, they have annual rallies there.
David Barry Lawrence, 7 March 2004

The 'White Eagle Cross' originated in the 1960's.  It is thought to have been based on heraldic shorthand; many think this was the work of Republican & Romantic Poet Patriot the late Harri Web. The White Eagle Cross was given much publicity by the F.W.A. but in fact it was a "Welsh Symbol of Resistance" used by many Patriots then and since.
G. Gruffydd, 2 March 2005

[White Eagle of Wales flag]

The late Anthony Lewis, renowned Celtic jeweller and the most celebrated heraldic artist and vexillologist of his generation, drew this definitive design for the White Eagle of Snowdon ('Eryr Wen Eryri' or 'Eagle Cross') in 1999 having made a great number of cap badges, armbands, flags and banners showing the device over the years since his role as a militant republican in the late 1960s. In 1969 Mr Lewis was arrested and imprisoned for his involvement with the FWA (Free Wales Army) and the NPF (National Patriotic Front) in the run up to the Investiture of Prince Charles in 1969. I met Mr Lewis here in the 1990s where he had a studio and shop through our mutual interest in flying model aircraft, and he kindly sent me the immaculately crafted design for the White Eagle, which I attach for your interest. The Eagle Cross has become synonymous with uncompromising Welsh republicanism and is still seen all over Wales a symbol of resistance and freedom. Mr Lewis was the artist who first drew the now universally accepted and much copied, often incorrectly! banner of the great Welsh Prince Owain Glyndŵr's (quarterly gules or four lions rampant counterchanged). He died last year, but his legacy will be long lasting.
Niall Caveen, 19 June 2006

I found in a book of heraldry reference to the symbol's origins on the free Wales army flag. The white tailed / sea eagle was predominant in Snowdonia / Eruri and believed to endow those who ate its flesh with the gift of prophecy. There is a famous poem about the 'son of prophecy' who will throw the English out of Wales, and presumably he would be bearing the eagle on his shield. Various would-be national saviours like Glyndwr were hailed as the long awaited 'son of prophecy'. Glyndwr was reputed to be interested in using magic and may have deliberately eaten the eagle's flesh to fulfill the myth. The symbol was apparently devised in direct reference to these mythical ideas in the 1960's.

The poem was addressed to Llewelyn ab Iorweth ( died 1240 ) by the bard Prydydd y Moch. Part of it is :

Darogan Mertin dyuod breyenhin
O Gymry werin o gamhwri.
Dywawd derwyton dadeni haelon
O hil eryron o Eryri.

Myrddin's prophecy is that a king shall come
With heroism from among the welsh people.
Prophets have said that generous men shall be reborn
Of the lineage of the eagles of Snowdonia.

David B. Lawrence, 19 July 2005, 25 July 2005

[White Eagle of Wales flag]   [White Eagle of Wales flag] images by Eugene Ipavec, 26 July 2005

There are several variations on the theme for the design of the white eagle flag. I finally found some pictures on the internet to refer to:
David B. Lawrence, 25 July 2005

This picture is from the book 'To Dream of Freedom' by Roy Clews. It shows the "eagle" flag in its early version, with "feet" and a "head". The picture must date from 1960-65. It is a black and white photo, but I suspect that lurking in the background greys is a green, red, white tricolour as presently used by Cymru Rhydd
(Free Wales ) with a black star added. This is a North Wales outfit that I have never met.
David B. Lawrence, 27 July 2005

I read recently that the eagle glyph was devised by Harri Webb, poet and editor of "The Welsh Republican" bi-monthy published circa 1950-1955, and as such presumably predates the Free Wales Army flag.
David B. Lawrence, 15 November 2006