February 21st, 2019
The day the nation has been eagerly waiting is nearly here; no, not the Wales/England game in the Six Nations… but the annual celebration of all things Welsh – St David’s Day, or Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant.
The delicate yellow petals of the daffodil flower have long held a close association with Welsh culture and heritage, especially during the month of March when Wales’ national day is held, and there’ll be no shortage of pretty daffodils to be seen across the country and coast.
A leeky legend
But just why is the humble daffodil held in such high esteem among the people of Wales? It wasn’t always this way, according to historians. During medieval times it was the leek that was deemed to be the patriotic symbol of Wales, but just how this simple vegetable rose to fame has been the subject of myth and legend throughout the centuries.
Legend has it that during a battle between the ancient king of Britain Cadwaladyr and his arch enemies the Saxons, St David himself advised Cadwaladyr’s soldiers to pin leeks to their armour so they would recognise their fellow fighters. Another legend tale tells of a bloody battle in the fourteenth century between Edward the Prince of Wales and the French army at Crecy. The French were defeated on a field of leeks, and so as a testament to the Prince’s brave and loyal army Welshmen began to wear leeks in their caps on St David’s Day.
Of course, the true origins of the connection between the pungent vegetable and the nation of Wales is obscure, and perhaps will never truthfully be known. But by now the two are intrinsically linked, so much so that it is still a tradition that soldiers in the Welsh regiments of the army chomp on raw leeks on March 1st!
Apparently we have the refined Victorians to thank for the introduction of the daffodil as Wales’ favourite flower. By the 18th century, the 1st March was declared as St David’s day, the national day for Wales but it wasn’t long before the sight of a Welsh leek began to be seen as something of a comical parody of Welsh culture and life. The Victorians decided that a leek was far too smelly and not dignified enough to be worn as a national emblem, and as daffodils bloomed around St David’s Day the humble daff was chosen as a proud new symbol of all things Welsh. And as the leek is known in Welsh as a Cenhinen, and a daffodil as a Cenhinen Pedr, perhaps the two became confused and entwined so that they both became the symbol of a patriotic Welsh person.
During the early twentieth century, Welsh Prime Minister David Lloyd George proudly wore a daffodil and magnificent blooms of daffodils were proudly displayed during the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1911. And since then, the floral symbol of Wales has gone from strength to strength. Not only are the pretty blooms pinned to the collars (or hats) of proud Welsh folk across the country on the 1st March, but there are stunning displays of these lovely flowers at parks, gardens and woodlands across the Welsh coast.