Pageant of Gwent
Place: Grounds of Maindiff Court (Abergavenny/Y Fenni) (Abergavenny/Y Fenni, Monmouthshire, Wales)
Number of performances: 2
4 August 1913
The pageant was called the ‘Pageant of Gwent’, but Gwent was not an administrative county at the time of the pageant, or since 1996.
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Adams, W. Bridges
- Artist Designer of Dresses: Miss Jennie Moore
- Artist Designer of Dresses Assistant: Madame Cres
- Stage Managers of the Left and Right: Geoffrey Gwyther, Esq.
- Stage Managers of the Left and Right: J.T. Turner, Esq.
- Properties under the Supervision of: Geoffrey Gwyther, Esq.
- Properties under the Supervision of: J.T. Turner, Esq.
- Hon. Organising Secretary: Miss Gertrude Jackson
- Hon. Organising Secretary: Miss Edith Jackson
- Organising Secretary: Mr G.H. Cooper
Names of executive committee or equivalent
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
Episode III and VII were reproduced from the earlier White Castle pageant.
Names of composers
- Sparks, Franklin
- Trowbridge, Miss
- Williams, Charles
Numbers of performers800
Men, women, children. Spaniels, falcons, horses.
Object of any funds raised
- Grandstand: Yes
- Grandstand capacity: 14000
- Total audience: 25000
Grandstand capacity: seats 14000 with space for a thousand more.
One source: 12000 spectators for the first performance, with ‘thousands having to be turned away.’ Second performance also had a high attendance.1
Another source: 14000 or 15000 for first performance.2
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
The Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales.
Introduction and Prologue
The pageant opens on a dancing group of fairies, among them the Nymphs of the woods and streams, the Mountain Sprites, the Little People of the Hills and the Spirits of the Clouds and Mountains. A Knight rides in, and is surrounded by the dancers; he rides on to the centre of the stage, and introduces himself as Sir Tristram, a Knight on behalf of King Arthur’s realm. He explains how he has fought for the Holy Cause in lands of the heathen, and is now present to tell all about the simple story of Arthur and his glorious reign as King. He rides away, followed by the Little People.
Episode I. Brynmaw—The Coming of the Cymry under Hu the Mighty, c. 1112 BC
A distant chanting is heard, and a horde of the Cymry come into view—clan chiefs, men, women, children, and beasts of burden. Hu the Mighty, wearing a bearskin, leads them all, along with Prydain, Tydain, and Peredur the Bard, followed by Wise Men. The settlers construct a rudimentary stone circle, at which they worship with and chant, before Hu is crowned. A young boy is brutally sacrificed on the central stone by the High Priest. The chant goes on, louder than before, before the Cymry march away. The Little People of the Hills creep out and up to the stone circle; upon hearing the horn of the Knight in the distance they take fright and scurry back to the woods, carrying the dead boy.
Part I. Tredegar—Caradoc Seeks Shelter with the Silures, AD 50
A band of the Silures approach, headed by Rhys the King in his war chariot, laughing and cheering after a victory over the Romans. Olwen and her ladies run out and greet the men. A scout appears and is aggressively challenged by the Silurians. He explains he is a scout from the great King Caradoc, and requests that Caradoc—weary from battling the Eagles for seven years—be granted shelter. Rhys assents, and Caradoc enters with his sick wife and children, and a few followers. Rhys promises his men to fight for the free born, and all shout ‘Rhyfel!’ Caradoc strides away with his sword, followed by Rhys in his chariot and the other Silurians.
Part II. Ebbw Vale—The Roman Foundation of Gobannium (Abergavenny), c. AD 78
A squad of Romans enters, marching quickly, showing a training and discipline superior to the Silures. They are fronted by Julius Frontinus, followed by a standard bearer. Frontinus gazes and asks about the stones erected by the Cymry. On receiving the answer ‘religion’, he laments their native barbarism of sacrifices, but notes that they are ‘quite as bad as we are, only it’s business for them and pleasure for us’. Frontinus outlines to his captains their continuing route down the river to the sea, with the aim of being in Venta Silurium by the next nightfall. They declare that they should name the settlement and stay. Frontinus inspects a bedraggled column of Silurian prisoners. He names the town Gobannium. The captain instructs the Siliruians to drag down the stones, but they murmur and shake their heads—saying that the stones are sacred. The prisoners grow in discontent and cry ‘Why do you come into our land and rob us of our homes and of our gods?’ and ‘Why do you seek to destroy us when we have done you no wrong?’ The cries grow and they all shout ‘Rhyfel’ before breaking through the ranks of the Romans, but they are quickly subdued. They now do as they are told. Frontinus addresses his troops and tells them that there are new corn supplies waiting at Venta Silurium, so he ‘shall listen to no further complaints about the quality of the food.’ The soldiers cheer and march off, followed by the Silurians painfully dragging the stones.
Episode III. Raglan—Bishop Teilo and King Iddon, c. 566 [From the White Castle Pageant]
Prince Ynyr enters from the left, with his queens and ladies. From the right comes a procession of Monks of the Culdes, led by Bishop Teilo. A troop of horsemen enter led by Iddon, King of Gwent. Ynyr welcomes his son, and explains that the enemy is upon them. Iddon declares that his men are ready, and they declare ‘Down with the murdering Saxons’. Teilo and his monks chant for victory, as Iddon and his men gallop off. The battle of war is heard far away, before Iddon rides in victorious and declares that for ‘this great mercy’ he shall ‘give to the Bishop of Llandaff three modii of land about this mount… to the inhabitants.’ All cheer, as the Bishop prays. All procede out.
Episode IV. The Camelot Episode from the City of Logres
Part I. The Return of Arthur and Guinevere from the Coronation at Caerleon-on-Usk
Merlin appears on the left with his crystal, as a Coronation Procession enters—Bishops, Dubricius (Bishop of Caerlon), the Four Tributary Kings (Albania, Cornwall, Demetia, Venedotia), the Sword Bearer (Excalibur), King Arthur, Lancelot, Taliesin, the Three Mystic Queens, Dagonet, Knights of Arthur’s Court, Bishops, Guinevere, Morgan le Fay, Queen Bellicent, Ladies of the County. The procession circles the stage, takes position in the centre, and sings of glory for the King’s reign, before passing away.
Part II. The Round Table and the Call of Galahad
Taliesin enters singing, with a group of children, about the land of glowing dreams, where the sacred foot of Liberty had trod. While he sings, the Round Table is assembled and locked in place by King Arthur with the Cross-key. They all drink from a special Cup—Lancelot avoiding the King’s eye and Mordred quickly looking away. Blanchefleur bears the Sword of the Spirit, before Galahad comes from the right. She kisses the hilt of the sword and gives it to Galahad, and then points to Siege Perilous. He sits upon a chair, as a group of the three keepers of the Grail is seen in the background. He rises, and marches away—one by one, the Knights following. Arthur is left alone, his head bowed in his hands, before wearily moving. Merlin appears on the crest of the hill and gazes after him, pointing over the hill; their eyes meet, before Arthur passes away.
Part III. The Passing of Arthur
A chant is raised by two or three voices, and Arthur passes silently across, borne on high in procession, as for his coronation.
Episode V. Penpergwm—The Massacre of Seisyllt by William de Braose, Xmas, 1161
A procession of Welsh priests, followed by citizens, enter, giving doles to singing children as they go. A group of mummers, with a minstrel, also pass. A troop of Welsh horsemen, headed by Seisyllt ap Dyfnwal and Iorwerth ap Caerlon enter, lightly armed. The children, at first nervous, eventually surround the men, laughing and dancing. Meanwhile, William de Braose enters with his wife, Maude de Valeri, and welcomes Seisyllt and his followers. As they pass in, the Minstrel creeps back and sings of Arthurs visit to Camelot with his bride Guinevere, and how all bowed to him, except one. As a confused murmur is heard from the castle, the Minstrel continues, and sings how shadows fell on Camelot when Guinevere left the land for the love of another, and how Arthur fought and died at Lyonesse. The Normans suddenly flee from the castle, taking the Welshmen’s horses, before Iorweth staggers out of the castle bleeding, before falling down. The bodies of Seisyllt and his followers are then brought out; the priests follow with bowed heads, before everyone passes out.
Episode VI. Pontypool—Davydd Ap Gwilym and Ivor Hael, c. 1350
A May-Day procession enters and erects a Maypole, before a dance is performed. Davydd enters, and is welcomed by Ivor Hael, with his wife Nest and his daughter Angharad. They banquet, before leaving in a merry dance.
Episode VII. Llantilio Crossenny
Part I. Owain Glyndwr, 1403 [From the White Castle Pageant
Glyndwr and his horsemen gallop in and meet Mistress Glyndwr and Welsh Chieftains. Glyndwr instructs them to ‘Shake out the banner of Wales, the old war-flag of the Cymry!’ They salute Glyndwr, who declares ‘God our leader, liberty our goal!’ They pass away in procession.
Part II. Henry V at the Head of his Monmouthshire Troops
The Song on the victory of Agincourt is sung:
Our King went forth to Normandy,
With might and flower of chivalry,
And God for him wrought marvellously,
Wherefore England may call and cry—Deo gratias.
Episode VIII. Abergavenny
Part I. The Civic Reception of the Earl and Countess of Warwick by Lady Ap Thomas (‘Seren y Fenni’) at Abergavenny, c. 1450
A group of citizens, sword dancers, country dancers, friars, and trade representatives enter. The Mayor and councillors follow. After a trumpeting, Sere y Fenni enters, attended by Lewis Glyn Cothi the Bard, Orior Coch, and Feni’s suite. Richard Nevill, Earl of Warwick, and Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick, also enter. The Mayor welcomes Nevill in Welsh, before Seren y Fenni comes forward and also welcomes them in Welsh. Warwick replies in English, and thanks them. They all process off, as the crowd cheers.
Part II. Sir Richard Hebert and the Harlech Prisoners, c. 1468
The Queen consort Elizabeth Woodville enters under a canopy carried by four pages. Margaret, Lady Hebert, enters with her two sons, with Mistress Maud Herbert, Lady Wogan, and Sir Rhys ap Thomas following with Lord and Lady Herbert. They render scornful obeisance to the Queen and turn to welcome Sir Richard Hebert, who approaches with Harlech prisoners. Among the prisoners are the Welsh captain, Enion, David ap Ieuan ap Enion, Gryffydd Vychan, Gryffydd ap Ieuan ap Enion, Thomas ap Ieuan ap Enion and Captain Renalt. Edward IV enters from the right, attended by Lord Rivers, the constable of England, the Dukes of Clarence, Gloucester and Buckingham, Lord Maltravers, Lord Bonville, Lord Strange, Lord Scales, and guards. The two processions face each other; the King orders the prisoners to the tower, but is presented with a scroll of surrender from Sir Richard. He angrily tears the scroll and again points to the tower. A face-off begins, and Richard turns his prisoners back towards Harlech. The King is advised by his Constable, and shamefacedly picks up the scroll and returns it to Sir Richard, who in turn offers the hilt of his sword for Edward to swear faith upon. The prisoners march off to the right, as Sir Richard gazes after them wistfully.
Part III. The Battle of Edgecote near Banbury, 26 July 1469
Sir Richard and a section of the Welsh Yorkist army pass across the stage, led by Captain Harry Dwn of Picton and Captain Thomas ap Rosser Vaughan of Heralt. An old woman in black hobbles into their way, raises her hand with seven fingers raised, and then hobbles away. The Earl of Pembroke and the main body of Welsh Yorkist forces enters from the right, led by Sir Roger Vaughan of Tretower, Captain Sir John Scudamore, Captain Jenkyn Perrott, and Captian William Hanbarde of Brecknock. The old woman repeats her gesture to Pembroke, who does not observe her. They all march off before the noise of the battle is heard in the distance; the Yorkists are then seen in flight, pursued by the Lancastrians under Sir Henry Fitzhugh, Sir John Sutton, and John Clapham, servant to the Earl of Warwick. The Lancastrian reserves follow, under Sir John Conyers, with Sir Richard Herbert and the Earl of Pembroke as prisoners. The old woman hobbles out from the trees and gazes as they pass by.
Episode IX. Pengam—The Tournament at Carew Castle on the Occasion of the Investiture of Sir Rhys ap Thomas as Knight of the Garter, 23 April 1507
A herald enters and addresses the crowd, announcing the joust and tournament. A colourful procession of bards and ladies, with trumpeters and retinue, enters. Sir Rhys ap Thomas appears in gold armour, and Sir William Herbert and Sir Griffith Rhys also enter, followed by David Ceffil Cwtta, Harold Butler, John ap Rhys, Rhys Griffith, John Morgan and their respective troops. Sir William Herbert addresses the crowd, and names as his followers Robert Salisbury, Jenkin Mansell and Vaughan of Tretower—who all come forward. Griffith Rhys names Sir Thomas Perrot, Sir William Morgan, and Sir Griffith Dwn, who come forward. The joust takes place, neither party being hurt or gaining victory. They decide to settle the contest in the tourney in the field. Again there is no victory. Rhys commends all, and all happily leave with their honour.
Episode X. Llanover—Queen Elizabeth and the Welsh Bible, 1588
The Queen approaches, attended by Mistress Blanche Parry and Sir William Vaughan. In her suite are also Lady Pembroke, William Carey, and Walter Vaughan, with falconers, pages, servitors, spaniels, etc. A small procession from the right enters, consisting of William Blethin, Bishop of Llandaff, Master John Scudamore, Mistress Scudamore (carrying the first Welsh Bible), and Doctor William Morgan, the translator. Master Scudamore greets the Queen and bows, before Miss Scudamore presents the Bible. Elizabeth reads from a small parchment, in Welsh, thanking and accepting the Bible. All bow to the Queen. As she leaves, William Carey and Walter Vaughan argue over picking up a lace handkerchief the Queen has dropped, before Sir William Vaughan steps in and restores the handkerchief to the Queen. They all move away, the Scudamores watching bewildered.
Episode XI. Monmouth—King Charles at Raglan, 3 July 1645
Thomas Swift enters on his pony and meets Mr Blackburne, the Server. They talk, before the Marquess of Worcester enters with Sir Ralph Blackstone, Lord Charles Somerset (Governor of the Castle), Lady Glamorgan, Henry of Somerset, Lady Mary Somerset, Lady Anne Somerset, Viscountess Montagu, Viscount Montagu, Lady Ann Somerset, Lady Elizabeth Somerset, Mistress Hopkins (of Llanvihangel), Dr Lewis Bailey (the chaplain), and others. Simultaneously, neighbouring squires and others arrive to welcome the King: Mistress Cecil of Duffryn, Morgan of the Waen, Mistress Morgan, William Davies (Vicar of Raglan), Sir Philip Jones of Tre Owen, Lady Jones (and their daughters Elizabeth, Winifred, Anne, Frances), Mary and her husband Henry Melbourne of Llanrhyddnol, Prichard of Campston and Mistress Prichard, Philip Morgan of Llanfair Cilgoed and Mistress Morgan, John Jones of Dingestow, Mistress Jones, Richard Vaughan of Courtfield and Mistress Vaughan, Henry ap William Hopkins of Llanfihangel, Mistress Bassett, Thomas Needham of Skenfrith, Sheldon Powell of Whitecastle, Sir Thomas Somerset of Troy. They exchange greetings. A Royal troop then enters, with Sir Henry Slingsgy, Lord Digby, Lord Bellasis, the Earl of Carnworth, the Earl of Lichfield, the Earl of Lindsay, the Duke of Richmond, and King Charles I. A chorus sings a salute to the King, and he is presented with keys to the castle. The Marquis and others present gifts to the King. A dance is performed. The Minstrel sings a song of Arthur on his throne, to which Charles inquires, not knowing who Arthur is. The Minstrel looks quaintly at him and replies ‘He was a King, sire.’ And then swaggers away.
Episode XII. Finale and Grand March Past
The Court of Arthur comes slowly in procession from the left, and passes across in front of the actors in the previous Episode, hiding them from view. They are marshalled in the centre of the stage, and all the Episodes march slowly in review before them. ‘Land of my Fathers’ is sung:
The Land of my fathers, the land of the free
The home of the telyn, so soothing to me,
Thy noble defenders were gallant and brave,
For freedom their hearts’ blood they gave.
Wales, Wales, home sweet home is Wales,
Till death is past, my love shall last,
My longing, my hiraeth for Wales.
Key historical figures mentioned
- Pabo [called Pabo Post Prydain] (supp. fl. c.500) chieftain
- Julius Frontinus, Sextus (d. 103/4) Roman governor of Britain
- Teilo [St Teilo, Eliau, Eliud] (supp. fl. c.550) holy man and supposed bishop
- Merlin [Myrddin] (supp. fl. 6th cent.) poet and seer
- Arthur (supp. fl. in or before 6th cent.) legendary warrior and supposed king of Britain
- Taliesin (fl. 6th cent.) poet
- Briouze [Braose], William (III) de (d. 1211) magnate
- Dafydd ap Gwilym (fl. 1330–1350) poet
- Ifor ap Llywelyn [called Ifor Hael] (fl. c.1320–1380) landowner and patron of poetry
- Glyn Dŵr [Glyndŵr], Owain [Owain ap Gruffudd Fychan, Owen Glendower] (c.1359–c.1416) rebel leader in Wales
- Henry V (1386–1422) king of England and lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine
- Lewys [Llywelyn] Glyn Cothi (fl. 1447–1489) poet
- Neville, Richard, sixteenth earl of Warwick and sixth earl of Salisbury [called the Kingmaker] (1428–1471) magnate
- Elizabeth [née Elizabeth Woodville] (c.1437–1492) queen of England, consort of Edward IV (1442–1483) king of England and lord of Ireland
- Rhys, Sir, ap Thomas (1448/9–1525) soldier and landowner, Lord Herbert
- George, duke of Clarence (1449–1478) prince
- Richard III (1452–1485) king of England and lord of Ireland
- Stafford, Henry, second duke of Buckingham (1455–1483) magnate and rebel
- William Herbert, second earl of Pembroke (1455–1490) magnate
- Sir Roger Vaughan [of Tretower] (d. 1471) magnateHarold Butler
- Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
- Herbert [née Sidney], Mary, countess of Pembroke (1561–1621) writer and literary patron
- Bleddyn [Blethin], William (d. 1590) bishop of Llandaff
- Scudamore, Sir John (1542–1623)
- Morgan, William (1544/5–1604) bishop of St Asaph and biblical translator
- Somerset, Edward, second marquess of Worcester (d. 1667) courtier and scientist
- Somerset, Henry, first duke of Beaufort (1629–1700) nobleman
- Somerset [née Capel], Mary, duchess of Beaufort (bap. 1630, d. 1715) gardener and botanist
- Montagu [Mountagu], Edward, first earl of Sandwich (1625–1672) army and naval officer and diplomat
- Slingsby, Sir Henry, first baronet (1602–1658) royalist army officer and conspirator
- Digby, John, first earl of Bristol (1580–1653) diplomat and politician
- Lindsay, John, seventeenth earl of Crawford and first earl of Lindsay [known as earl of Crawford-Lindsay] (1596–1678) politician
- Stuart, James, fourth duke of Lennox and first duke of Richmond (1612–1655) %%nobleman
- Charles I (1600–1649) king of England, Scotland, and Ireland
Musical productionMusic performed by the Band of the South Wales Borderers
Bandmaster: Mr G.H. Herriot
Professor Roberts’ String Quartette
The Ebbw Vale Choir
Conductor: Mr Tom Owen
The Incidental Music was partly selected, partly composed and arranged by Mr Franklin Sparks.
The Music of ‘Blow, Trumpets’ (Episode IV), composed by Miss Trowbridge.
Song (Episode V), composed by Mr Charles Williams.
Newspaper coverage of pageantThe Western Mail
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser
Dundee Evening Telegraph
Book of words
- The Book of the Pageant of Gwent. Abergavenny, 1913.
Copy in the National Library of Wales.
Other primary published materials
- National Library of Wales, Cannon, Caroline A. The Arthurian Episode in the Pageant of Gwent.1913.
References in secondary literature
- Thomas, Mair Elvet. The Welsh Spirit of Gwent. Cardiff, 1988. At 23.
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- National Library of Wales:
- Pageant of Gwent: List of Organisers and Performers in Each Episode. J 3/1-8.
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Southall. Book of Wales and her Language. Newport, 1892.
- Colonel Bradney. History of Monmouthshire. London, 1904.
- Shakespeare. Richard III. Act 4.
- Tennyson. The Coming of Arthur. (Episode IV).
- The Book of Barddas.
- Edmund Spenser, The Faery Queen.
- The Liber Landavensis / Book of Llandaff.
The Pageant of Gwent took place in 1913 at Abergavenny as part of the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales—the second time the arts festival had been held in the county following Newport in 1897. It was created as a way to encourage a higher attendance for the festival on its opening day, which had traditionally been low.3 The Pageant of Gwent was also a clear attempt by the festival organisers to use the dramatic portrayal of the past to enthuse Welsh patriotism in the present, and it took place during a wider moment of interest in safeguarding Welsh traditions and language. The pageant was directed by William Bridges-Adams, a young (aged 24) English theatre director and designer who had produced the Oxford Millenary Pageant the previous year. It was ambitious in terms of its structure and length, and ultimately successful in attendance, popularity, and financial results.
Though the pageant was performed entirely in English, it was also, according to one historian, ‘thoroughly Welsh in spirit’.4 In general the Eisteddfod of 1913 was ‘far livelier and Welsh-conscious’ than the 1897 Newport Eisteddfod.5 On one evening of the festival, at a Cymmrodorion6 meeting, two lectures attempted to encourage Welsh culture. Llewelyn Williams, KC, MP, argued that Welsh drama should draw its inspiration not just from contemporary social life but also from the traditions and legends of the past. R.A. Griffith (a bard also known as Elphin) was more polemical, declaring that Welsh drama should avoid being ‘contaminated by the lubricity of the French Casino’ or ‘the indecent puerilities of the London music halls.’7 At the Conference of the League of Welsh Societies the Reverend Tywi Jones, editor of a popular radical newspaper, Y Darian, declared that a league was a necessity to protect the traditions of Wales. At the same conference, during his Presidential Address, Major-General Sir Francis Lloyd went so far as to say that it was a sacrilege to even speak English at the Eistedfodd, before comparing himself to great Welsh hero-soldiers like Llywelyn, Dafydd Gam, and Owain Glyndwr. He implored the audience to promote the culture and freedom of Wales.8 At points, this enthusiasm for Welsh pride was even aggressive. During one ceremony at the conference a singer, accompanied by harp, sang these defiant words: ‘Nis gall Lloegr gyda’I rhodres / Wneuthur Mynwy byth yn Saesnes / Rhaid yw chwalu’r bryniau’n yfflon / Cyn y gellir mynd a’ chalon’ (‘England with her pomp can never make Monmouthshire English; the hills must be shattered into smithereens before her heart can be taken away’).9
The themes and the narrative of the pageant were, in some ways, a continuation of this enthusiasm, and were thus unsurprisingly dominated by great Welsh characters and the Welsh spirit throughout history. Several scenes of Welsh resistance to invasion were portrayed, such as the ‘indomitable Silures of South Wales’ resisting the Romans in the second episode,10 and the hero Owain Glyndwr and his 13th-century revolt against the English in the seventh episode. Other scenes, such as King Iddon in the third episode, showed Welsh glory in battle. In episodes where the Welsh were overcome, such as the massacre of Seisyllt by the Norman William de Braose in the fifth episode, it was portrayed as only being possible through underhand means. Other scenes, however, portrayed Welsh nobility as being on good terms with the English, such as the civic reception of the Earl and Countess of Warwick by Lady Ap Thomas in 1450; the presentation of a Welsh bible to Queen Elizabeth in the tenth episode; and the arrival of King Charles at Raglan in the eleventh episode. Such scenes positively connected Wales and Welsh history to a broader story of the union, while the pageant, overall, could still make claims about Welsh cultural independence and vitality. King Arthur featured particularly heavily in the pageant, appearing in several scenes as a noble, honest, brave and successful Welsh leader. As John J. Parry, a scholar of Arthur, wrote in 1922, the predominance of Arthurian stories in Welsh culture was ‘one of the manifestations of that racial consciousness that is so strong in the Celt.’ 11 Such stories emphasised that Celts were distinct from ‘Saxon or Gaul’, and made ‘the return of Arthur… symbolic of the future in store for the Cymric race.’12 The pageant Book of Words was clear about this, stating ‘An attempt has been made to weave the spirit of Welsh poetry and chivalry into the Pageant, using Arthur as the type of all that is best in the history of Wales.’13 At the end of the pageant, ‘Land of my Fathers’ was sung, epitomising the lessons and ethos of the whole story:
The Land of my fathers, the land of the free
The home of the telyn so soothing to me,
Thy noble defenders were gallant and brave,
For freedom their hearts’ blood they gave.
Wales, Wales, home sweet home is Wales,
Till death is past, my love shall last,
My longing, my hiraeth for Wales.
The Western Mail was predictably enthusiastic,14 but the press from outside the region was also mostly positive. A special representative of the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser described the pageant as ‘most admirable’ and ‘an artistic success’, ‘fired by its rich legend’.15 The Dundee Courier called it as ‘a gratifying success from the artistic and financial standpoints.’16 The Manchester Guardian was less convinced, stating that it ‘began well, but its twelve sections proved too many, and it staled off somewhat.’17 Interestingly, there was lots of criticism given to an evening concert that also took place as part of the Eisteddfod. The Manchester Courier reported that the ‘entire concert indeed fell rather flat after the gorgeous pageant and it may be questioned whether it is wise to provide the public with such an “embarras du richesse” on one and the same day.’18 When the evening concert clashed with the second performance of the pageant, the concert was more sparsely attended.19
Clearly, the Gwent Pageant was part of a general current of cultural nationalism at the 1913 Eisteddfod. By visualising heroic incidents in the life of Wales, history was used as a way to promote attachment and pride in the present. Gwent, according to Mair Elvet Thomas, was ‘one of the most Anglicized of the counties of Wales’, but the Welsh spirit could still thrive through the expression of historical pageantry.20
- Mair Elvet Thomas, The Welsh Spirit of Gwent (Cardiff, 1988), 23–24.
- ‘Pageant of Gwent’, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 5 August 1913, 6
- Mair Elvet Thomas, The Welsh Spirit of Gwent (Cardiff, 1988), 23.
- Ibid., 23.
- Ibid., 22.
- A society for the promotion of the Welsh language and Welsh arts and literature.
- Thomas, Welsh Spirit of Gwent, 24.
- Ibid., 30.
- Ibid., 27.
- The Book of the Pageant of Gwent (Abergavenny, 1913), 38.
- John J. Parry, ‘Modern Welsh Versions of the Arthurian Stories’, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 21, no. 4 (October 1922): 572.
- Ibid., 597.
- The Book of the Pageant of Gwent, 39.
- Thomas, Welsh Spirit of Gwent, 23.
- ‘Pageant of Gwent’, Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 5 August 1913, 6.
- ‘Eisteddfod Pavilion Guarded against Suffragettes’, Dundee Courier, 6 August 1913, 7.
- ‘National Eisteddfod: The First Concert’, Manchester Guardian, 5 August 1913, 8.
- ‘Pageant of Gwent’, 6.
- ‘National Eisteddfod: the First Concert’, 8.
- Thomas, Welsh Spirit of Gwent, foreword.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Pageant of Gwent’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1344/