One proposed flag for Montgomeryshire is not exactly a novel creation but more a novel use of a traditional emblem, being a banner of the arms of a locally celebrated seventh century hero named Brochwel Ysgithrog famed for his resistance to the invading Saxons. In the mediaeval period a coat of arms was created for him bearing three white horse heads on a black field.
These are said to represent the Saxon white horses, with their heads severed, symbolising his victory over the Saxons at Chester in 564 A.D. The arms borne by the local county council in the twentieth century
included a black and white border as a reference to Brochwel’s arms. The proposed flag is therefore a natural and obvious flag for the county to fly. Despite its anciently attributed origins however, there is no long attested record of this emblem being used to represent the county – the reference is more oblique.
An alternative suggestion, as a traditional design, for deployment as the county flag is a banner
of the arms
used by the the Mathrafal dynsasty of the kingdom of Powys, later Powys Wenwynwyn or Powys Cyfeiliog, which features a red lion rampant against a gold field.
These arms were noted by Thomas Pennant in his 1781 ‘A Tour In Wales’
Before the formal award of arms to the former Montgomeryshire County Council, the body made use of the arms of the old kingdom of Powys as reported in the 1894 Book of Public Arms by Arthur Fox Davies
When the council subsequently received formal arms, the Mathrafal lion was retained as the one of the charges on the tripartite shield as can be seen above.
The emblem was later incorporated into the badge of the “Denbighshire and Montgomeryshire Joint Fire Service”
the lower half being a red lion on gold, to represent Montgomeryshire.
The “Montgomeryshire lion” also appears on the badge of the former local police division
The Mathrafal arms then made a decorative appearance at the 1969 Investiture of Prince Charles at Caernarfon Castle
The device also featured on the cover
of the publication “The Montgomeryshire Collections” produced by the organisation “The Powysland Club”, based in Welshpool, in the county, the above example appearing on a 1978 edition. However, interestingly, by 1993 the emblem used by the organisation and appearing on the journal was changed, apparently now incorporating the three horses heads of the Brochwel arms
Both ancient arms thus appear to have a legitimate claim for use as the county flag of Montgomeryshire although it is worth considering that this is the fifth proposed lion flag for a Welsh county and distinctiveness being one of the recognised traits of an effective flag, a surfeit of lions will nullify the effectiveness of any one flag, as people will likely be hard pressed to distinguish them! On this particular basis of being that bit more distinctive whilst still retaining an obvious linkage with the county, the three white horse heads present a more viable option as the county flag of Montgomeryshire. However, if local sentiment favours the ancient armorial banner of the Mathrafal dynasty, then this will outweigh such considerations. Or perhaps a flag resembling the magazine cover, which combines the lion and horse heads is an option?
With thanks to Brady Ells for his research for this post,