Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: Of Wales, Dragons and Whales

If you’re Welsh, even residually so, then you undoubtedly know that the dragon on the Welsh flag is the red dragon of Cadwaladr, King of Gwenedd.  Sadly, Cadwaladr died of the plague in 682. But his fame did not die with him, as he and his dragon were often aspects of stories that would point to the rightful claim of the throne of England and Wales based on a prophecy by the Welsh Myrddin (i.e. the wizard Merlin), whose association with King Arthur and the Lady Guinevere is his greater claim to fame. But he is also (perhaps a bit less) famous for his prophecy of the Red Dragon’s victory over the White Dragon. The rulers who could demonstrate that their descent came from Cadwaladr (as the Red dragon was his dragon, and therefore Welsh, like Myrddin, i.e. Merlin) could use the red dragon as their emblem, which would give them the rightful claim to the throne of England and Wales.

Lady Guinevere and Merlin from the 1917 illustrated edition of Sir Thomas Mallory’s The Romance of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table (

When in 1485 Henry Tudor, e.g., arrived in Wales, he took up the red dragon emblem as clear proof that he had fulfilled Myrddin’s prophecy recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth; Henry’s victory at Bosworth Field allowed him to demonstrate his rightful claim to the throne, and he took the dragon as his personal emblem. His rather sexually robust and better-known son, Henry VIII, also thus claimed his descend from Cadwaladr, and therefore could establish his as the officially sanctioned birth right to the throne. And the Welsh dragon even wound up on Henry VIII’s coat of arms and remains there to this day, though Henry has long since expired, centuries before he might have been, in his older age, an apt poster child for a royal Viagra commercial.

Coat of Arms of Henry VIII (Image courtesy of Sodacani.

But every Welshman worth his salt already knows all that.  And now you know that if Merlin seems a bit gorffwyll (i.e. batty) to you, it might just be because he is actually Myrddin, and therefore actually Welsh.  But I leave that aside.  Rather, let me turn to a few salient details about the Welsh flag proper.

That flag also includes the Tudor colors white and green, and it was used by Henry VII at the aforementioned Battle of Bosworth (1485), and later carried in procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. According to Wikipedia, several cities also feature the red dragon on their own banners and flags, not the least of which is, of course, Cardiff (the capital city of Wales), and the Argentine city of Puerto Madryn, a city founded by roving Welsh émigrés who were voyaging (for unknown reasons) on the clipper ship “Mimosa.” When they put to shore they decided to stay, naming the natural port that they had happened upon “Porth Madryn,” to honor the home of Sir Love Jones-Parry (who was not the first Welshman with an annoying hyphenated name, but was probably among the first). Love Jones-Parry’s homestead (back in Wales, of course) was called “Madryn,” which probably meant something like “Doggy Estate” as madr is the Welsh word for dog. 

Suffice it to say that the Red Dragon of Wales is not simply a local, “gorffwyll” Welsh symbol, but that red beast definitely gets around and is one of the few such symbols to have traversed the sea on a clipper named Mimosa—named, so far as my research bears out, only coincidentally with the same title as the delightful drink “mimosa,” which is also known to be served in Argentina and other parts of the Spanish speaking world. Though perhaps, if the Welsh helmsman of the Mimosa clipper was drinking too many mimosas as he steered that ship, it is understandable how he wound up not in Swansea but in what would later be called Porth Madryn, named for the aforementioned nominally hyphenated person’s estate.

But what has this to do with whales? Well, obviously, whales, like clipper ships, are capable of traversing the seas. And lately, allegedly at least, they have been enlisted not in her majesty’s secret service but by the KGB (or whatever Russian spy agency has succeeded the KGB). No, I couldn’t make this up. Such a turn of international affairs is so outrageous that one of the most faithful readers of my blog actually requested that I write about it. Now, not being a spy (or at least not being sufficiently declassified so that I can speak about my association with the CIA), I can’t put the focus of the blog on this, but I can brushstroke the whale in question, for clearly, once a story like this has made its way into international news, it’s very likely to have some credible facts underlying it. It appears that the Russians have trained (sic) and even harnessed (literally) at least one whale in the service of the Russian government and for the purpose of spying.[ How can this work?

It’s simple, really. You would never suspect a whale, any more than you would a dragon. You would never have supposed that Merlin was behind, if far behind, the story of the Welsh national flag, would you? And, similarly, you would never think that a whale wearing a brassier-like harness would be a spy for the Russian government. So that’s how it works.  It’s always the least suspected thing, the improbable thing that is likely to prove true. 

I leave that for you to ponder. Does it apply to life situations as well? Of course, from minor miracles to major ones. Anyone who prays for anything important, large or small, will come to realize that. In the meantime, you may safely put aside your concerns about dragons—but do be wary of speaking with whales with recording devices in their bras. They may be working for the Russians.

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