"We wave the flag of old England on high; over past glorious battles the white dragon did fly"
— Martin Cross, neo-Nazi musician, in "Ballads of the White Dragon" (2000).
Most of the "Englisc" nationalist organisations that I have written about on this blog share a symbol: a white dragon, usually in the form of a flag. Many Englisc nationalists think that this image should be adopted by England as its "true" flag, as opposed to the post-Norman flag bearing St. George's Cross. According to these groups, the white dragon was used by the Anglo-Saxons of pre-Norman England to represent their nation.
Here is what WhiteDragonFlag.co.uk, the official website of the English Flag Society, has to say:
Investigation by John Green, Secretary of The English Flag Society, of the Early English period between the third and eleventh centuries A.D disclosed many references not only to the White Dragon Emblem, but also others, such as the Boar, Raven, Wolf etc.Careful and scrupulous investigation, coupled with analysis of numerous references, showed clearly that the White Dragon, in terms of its representation of Englishness, was clearly the most popular.
The site fails to provide any evidence for these claims, of course. It goes on to state that “It is hoped that the White Dragon Flag will... replace the quasi religious Papal/Norman invention known as the St. Georges Cross”.
Given the lack of citations, and the obvious political agenda, I am rather suspicious about this account. So, I decided to do some research into the symbol's origins for myself...
Red and White Dragons
In using a dragon for its flag, the Englisc nationalist movement is obviously taking a leaf from the book of Wales, which has a red dragon as its flag. So, I will start by looking at the history of the Welsh dragon.
The usage of a red dragon as the national standard of the Welsh goes back at least as far as the reign of Henry VII, who carried such a symbol at Bosworth. The symbol was associated with the seventh-century Welsh king Cadwaladr, although - from what I understand - there is little or no historical evidence that Cadwaladr himself used the red dragon as his emblem.
Even more relevant is an earlier symbolic usage of the red dragon to represent, not the Welsh specifically, but the Britons in general.
The Historia Brittonum, a work widely (if controversially) attributed to the ninth-century Welsh monk Nennius, contains an account in which King Vortigern witnesses two fighting serpents, one red and one white; the white serpent initially appears to be winning, but it is ultimately driven out by the red. A boy, Ambrose, interprets the red and white serpents as representing the Britons and Saxons respectively:
The serpents began to struggle with each other; and the white one, raising himself up, threw down the other into the middle of the tent, and sometimes drove him to the edge of it; and this was repeated thrice. At length the red one, apparently the weaker of the two, recovering his strength, expelled the white one from the tent; and the latter being pursued through the pool by the red one, disappeared. Then the boy, asking the wise men what was signified by this wonderful omen, and they expressing their ignorance, he said to the king, "I will now unfold to you the meaning of this mystery. The pool is the emblem of this world, and the tent that of your kingdom: the two serpents are two dragons; the red serpent is your dragon, but the white serpent is the dragon of the people who occupy several provinces and districts of Britain, even almost from sea to sea...The same story is used by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of Britain, which conflates Ambrose with Merlin:
As Vortegirn, king of the Britons, was sitting upon the bank of the drained pond, the two dragons, one of which was white, the other red, came forth, and approaching one another, began a terrible fight, and cast forth fire with their breath. But the white dragon had the advantage, and made the other fly to the end of the lake. And he, for grief at his flight, renewed the assault upon his pursuer, and forced him to retire. After this battle of the dragons, the king commanded Ambrose Merlin to tell him what it portended. Upon which he, bursting into tears, delivered what his prophetical spirit suggested to him, as follows:-
"Woe to the red dragon, for his banishment hasteneth on. His lurking holes shall be seized by the white dragon, which signifies the Saxons whom you invited over; but the red denotes the British nation, which shall be oppressed by the white..."The Welsh legend of Lludd and Llefelys also contains a fight between red and white dragons. The beasts in this story do not serve an obvious symbolic purpose, although it is interesting to note that the white dragon is identified as a foreign invader - hinting at a connection with the story of Ambrose/Merlin and Vortigern.
Did Saxons Use a White Dragon Emblem?
So, it is the legend recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth and the author of the Historia Brittonum that contains the earliest known usage of the white dragon as a symbol of the Saxons. But how widespread was this symbol, and was it ever used by the English themselves to represent their nation?
Well, I have to say, my research has turned up little to substantiate the Englisc nationalists' claim that the Anglo-Saxons ever used the white dragon as a symbol of their country.
Certain sources indicate that a white dragon was used as the standard of Wessex; the seventeenth-century writer Winston Churchill (an ancestor of the twentieth-century Prime Minister) made this claim. However, other sources state that the Wessex standard was a gold dragon: Henry of Huntington writes of "Æthelhun, who led the West Saxons, bearing the royal standard, a golden dragon", and in present-day heraldry the symbol of the Wessex region remains a gold dragon.
The Bayeux Tapestry depicts Harold II alongside a pair of dragon banners - a red one in the air, a white or gold one on the ground:
The tapestry does depict a warrior with a white dragon on his shield... but his lack of facial hair indicates that he is a Norman, not an Englishman:
So, in summary, historical evidence for the Anglo-Saxons using a white dragon as a symbol rests on two facts:
1: A small body of legend, possibly of Welsh origin, uses a white dragon to symbolise the Anglo-Saxons;
2: The Anglo-Saxons sometimes used dragons as standards (as did other peoples) and some of those dragons may possibly have been white.
That's about it. Pretty thin rationale for redesigning England's flag, don't you think...?
The White Dragon in Modern Times
There's an English nationalist blog called Berrocscii's Banner that is unusually forthright about the white dragon flag's questionable vintage:
This flag, it has to be said, has its critics from within English nationalist circles. For the bigger picture I suggest you use Google, but to cut a long story short, there are questions over the flag's authenticity. Keen advocates claim it to be the prime Anglo-Saxon standard of pre-conquest England, but primary sources are few and arguably flakey. However, if Celtic identity can be reinvented and romanticised, then why not an English one? [...] The White Dragon, in it's present form, has been around since the 90s and it doesn't look like a flash in the pan.
So, he openly admits that the flag was designed in the 1990s, and that its usage is an attempt to mimic the romanticised silliness of Celtic nationalism. But if the flag is a modern invention, then who invented it?
Well, when I was researching this subject, I found a revealing thread over at the Anglo-Saxon Foundation. One member, Valkyrie, asks about the origin of the white dragon flag used by the movement:
Paul Young, who posts at the forum as "Yngvi", comes out and admits that the white dragon flag is a modern invention:
Valkyrie asks who designed the flag; Paul states that he knows the answer, but declines to name the flag's creator:
Then another member, Ingelsman, claims that the flag was invented by Woden's Folk in the late nineties:
The thread lasts for twenty pages in all, but nobody disagrees with Ingelsman's claim - not even Paul Young, who is himself a member of Woden's Folk. From this, it seems safe to say that - yes - the "white dragon flag of England" is the creation of Woden's Folk.
Young stands by the flag despite its modern vintage, and apparently considers Valkyrie to be an "orcish fucking butt sucking shit cunt 3rd stage syphillis suffering bottom feeding rat shit smothering Anglophobic turd burgling wanker" for questioning its authenticity:
Valkyrie, meanwhile, seems suspicious of the group that created the flag
And she is right to feel this way. I have written about Woden's Folk multiple times before; founded by a mentally ill Nazi named Wulf Ingessunu, it is a white supremacist cult that believes Hitler to have been an avatar of Woden and that the 1980s ITV series Robin of Sherwood was a divinely inspired work of prophecy. These are not people who should be put in charge of designing England's new flag.
The Red Field
I have seen multiple variations of the white dragon flag used by nationalist groups. Here is the version used at the Anglo-Saxon Foundation; I believe it was designed by the forum's owner, Seaxan:
Here is the logo of the Steadfast Trust:
Here is a version on sale from WeAreTheEnglish, a site run by former Steadfast trustee Julien Crighton:
This appears to be the most common variation, incidentally - it was used by English Shieldwall, amongst other groups:
Here is a version uploaded to Wikipedia by the user Mafiga:
Here is a version flown at a Woden's Folk event at Avebury:
Here's the version favoured by the nationalist blogger Berrocscii:
And an image search for "white dragon England" turns up even more variations:
Notice something that they all have in common? Each of these white dragons is against a red field. A few Englisc nationalists deviate from this model - the current Steadfast Trust website has a white dragon on gold, for example - but the overwhelming majority have a white dragon against a red field.
As we have seen, there is little hard evidence that the Anglo-Saxons used white dragon symbols at all. So, we can reasonably infer that the convention of a red field was introduced by Woden's Folk when they designed the white dragon flag of England.
Why a red background? Well, perhaps it is a holdover from the current flag of Wessex, which also has a red field. Perhaps it is a reference to the colour scheme of St. George's cross.
But that said, given the role of a neo-Nazi cult in the design of the flag, I have to wonder if the colour scheme was inspired by an altogether more infamous flag that also had a black and white design against a red field...
Here's a version of the white dragon image that makes the similarity even more explicit:
Is the white dragon flag of England a neo-Nazi symbol...?