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Wessex, England

Last modified: 2005-03-19 by rob raeside
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[Wessex] by Chrys Fear

[For an alternate version by Blas Delgado Ortiz, click here.]

There is now an official flag of Wessex which is a gold (two legged) wyvern on a red background. The wyvern is appearing more and more as a symbol of Wessex (my son's school for example has a wyvern on its badge) and the flag is used by the Wessex Regionalist Party, the Wessex Society and is the symbol of the Wessex Constitutional Convention, the group pushing for a parliament for Wessex. The flag was designed by the Flag Institute, and it is proposed to fly the flag throughout Wessex on St Aldhelm's Day, 25th May. All the Wessex groups can be reached via the website at hometown.aol.co.uk/crackytown/myhomepage/newsletter.html

From Reading in the east to Plymouth in the west, from Bournemouth in the south to Gloucester in the north, Wessex is a dynamic and very distinct region, where there is a growing demand for a parliament with the same level of powers as that in Scotland. The Wessex Constitutional Convention was launched on 19 May 2001, in Exeter.

Stephen Sainsbury, 9 July 2001

 I wouldn't disagree that there are wyverns about (in coats of arms and so on), but it would be misleading to suggest that the flag is widely used.

André Coutanche, Bristol (allegedly Wessex), 12 September 2002

The wyvern existed only in heraldry. It is an ancient symbol associated with the old kings of Wessex. It is a two-legged, winged dragon with a barbed tail. "Wyvern" is derived from the Old French guivre, meaning 'viper'. In recent military history, the gold wyvern on black square background was the formation sign of the 43rd Wessex Division in World War II. A wyvern on a pedestal inscribed "Wessex" was the badge of the Wessex Brigade, 1958-69, and the Wessex Regiment, 1967-95. In all of these representations, the wyvern has one leg raised.

T.F. Mills, 17 February 1997

William Crampton wrote a pamphlet for the Flag Institute back in 1973 or 1974 which advocated flags for the English regions (there was talk of regional councils being set up as part of the local government reorganisation then occurring), but his suggestion for Wessex was a gold wyvern on red. It was, of course, not official and as far as I know, never raised much interest locally. There was also a small Wessex Regionalist Party that was active about 15-20 years ago, but they never made much headway. This may possibly have been their flag - I didn't live in the area at the time, so I can't say.

Except for the special case of Cornwall, which is more an assimilated Celtic nation rather than an English region, the only English regional flag that has had much popular acceptance is that of East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk - sometimes extended to include some or all of Cambridgeshire and Essex), designed in (I think) 1903 or 1905 for the London Society of East Anglians. It is the Cross of St George of England with over the centre of the cross the shield of the traditional arms of East Anglia, blue with three gold crowns. The arms are effectively identical to the small arms of Sweden, from where the East Anglian royal dynasty, the Wuffingas, were supposed to have originated.

Roy Stilling, 17 February 1997

The banner of Wessex features a gold wyvern and is in use for a wide variety of touristic purposes. The best-attested background colour is red. The 43rd (Wessex) Division badge is sometimes quoted as being on black but the illustration I have seen uses a blue background. Black is used by Lord Bath of Longleat House for his personal wyvern standard, black and gold being the family colours. The Wessex Regionalists have used black, green, and red flags, their current flag having a red background.

David Robins, Secretary-General, Wessex Regionalist Party, 31 May 1999.

We should keep in mind that England had a history long before the Normans, and the flag of Wessex betokens this. What we might nowadays call the "wyvern" is the "drake" (OE draca) or "wurm" (OE wyrm) of the West Saxons -- that is, a "dragon". The Wessex men flew a mythofaunomorphic flag of a golden dragon (as similarly the Cymru or Welsh flew a red dragon) overhead into battle. Indeed, such a golden dragon was carried by the English of King Harold Godwinsson at both of his last battles, those of Stamford and Hastings, and is illustrated, no less, within the Bayeux Tapestry. I think this speaks to the great age of the Golden Dragon of Wessex.
 
Jeffrey Hull, 28 February 2002


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