Dragons are one of the best known mythical beasts, and are found in legends all over the world. In Wales it was mentioned in chronicles as early as the sixth century. The Red Dragon of The Queen’s Beasts was an emblem of Owen Tudor, a claim to Welsh heritage that was carried on by his son, who would become Henry VII. The troops of Henry VII carried a fiery red dragon standard at the Battle of Bosworth, when Henry secured the crown of England. The dragon is red, but with a yellow underbelly and it holds a quartered red and gold shield with leopards, the arms of Llewelyn ap Griffith, the last native Prince of Wales. In Europe, the dragon was seen as a frightening creature, but strong, wise and powerful.
Inspiration for this series has been taken from The Queen’s Beasts sculptures, each standing at around 2 metres tall, originally created by James Woodford RA for the coronation ceremony of Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II held in Westminster Abbey in 1953.
The heraldic creatures symbolised the various strands of royal ancestry brought together in a young woman about to be crowned queen. Each beast, used as an heraldic badge by generations that went before her, was inspired by the King’s Beasts of Henry VIII that still line the bridge over the moat at his Hampton Court Palace.
Today, The Queen’s Beasts can be found at the Canadian Museum of History in Quebec, while Portland stone replicas, also carved by James Woodford, watch over Kew Gardens in the UK.