Baronage heading

.......Curiosity Corner .......


Throughout history the wyvern has been confused with the dragon, and indeed the Wessex Dragon under which the English fought at Hastings (and which appears on the Bayeux tapestry commemorating the 1066 victory) was a wyvern. The principal difference between the wyvern and the dragon is that the former has two legs while the latter has four (below).

The Wessex "dragon standard"
A blue dragon
A second important difference is that whereas the dragon has an ambivalent reputation, held to be a benevolent creature in the East but an evil one in the West, the wyvern is unambiguously malicious. The derivation of its name, from Old Northern French wivre meaning viper, confirms its character. (The old custom of unfurling “the dragon banner” to signal that no prisoners will be taken suggests that this, too, was a wyvern.)

Its earliest appearance in heraldry may be that on the seal of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster (nephew of Edward I, executed 1322) where it is seated on his helm. Another use in the Royal Family was as a supporter on the seal of Henry VIII.

Although the physical difference between the wyvern and the dragon is one of “two legs or four”, the dissimilarity appears to be greater, perhaps because the wyvern’s tail becomes dominant, especially so when the wyvern is erect, in the position in which a dragon would be rampant and a gryphon segreant (see below right).
A purple wyvern A red wyvern A rainbow wyvern
Argent a wyvern sejant wings addorsed Purpure
Or a wyvern sejant wings displayed Gules
Ermine a rainbow wyvern erect Proper
Some of our more learned readers may protest that they have never before seen a rainbow wyvern, even erect on an ermine shield, but if they reflect for a moment they will recognise that in the world of wyverns and dragons, gryphons, cockatrices and basilisks, the rainbow wyvern, like the chameleon opinicus, chooses its colours at will.

martlet icon
The Martlet featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 1
gryphon icon
The Gryphon (or Griffin) featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 2
cockatrice icon
The Cockatrice (and Basilisk) featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 3
dragon icon
The Dragon featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 4
The Raven featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 5
The Chimera featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 6
The Pegasus featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 7
The Harpy featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 8
The Kelpie featured in Curiosity Corner ~ 9
Baronage Press icon
The Current Contents Page
© 2002 The Baronage Press and Pegasus Associates Ltd