A NOTE ON VORTIGERN'S RED DRAGON
In the early Welsh poem "Gwarchan Maeldderw" (see G.R. Isaac's translation and commentary in CAMBRIAN MEDIEVAL CELTIC STUDIES 44, Winter 2002), we are told of the 'Pharaoh's red dragon.' The context of the poem makes it difficult if not impossible to tell exactly what the red dragon in this instance represents. Is it a draco standard? Or is it merely a poetic reference to Britons in their capacity as members of a field army?
The important thing about the passage is that the dragon is said to be the Pharaoh's. The Pharaoh is what Vortigern was called in Gildas. The name appears in later Welsh tradition as Ffaraon Dandde, the 'Fiery Pharaoh', owner of the Dinas Emrys fort prior to the advent there of Emrys/Ambrosius. The epithet for Ffaraon/Pharaoh was concocted through a misunderstanding of Gildas's Latin "Taneos dantes Pharaoni consilium insipens", 'giving foolish advice to Pharaoh.'
Thus in this poem we have the dragon standard or British warriors being referred to as belonging to Vortigern - not to Ambrosius.