When Dragons Ruled the Capital!

It was recorded many centuries ago, in 1222 – two years after Henry III’s coronation on the night of November 30 – of dragon-like forms soaring through the pallid skies over London.

These beasts often appeared during times of great thunderstorms. Such documentation may have been hazy and mythical or today more connected to the phenomena of unidentified flying objects, but in the 1700s reports were far more credible of such beasts over the capital.

Dragons are monsters we have become aware of since the dawn of our origination, and despite their folkloric connotations, they are very much part of our history, and possibly our countryside, even if as simply magical forms never really understood.

The Gentleman’s Magazine once gave mention to an incredible encounter commenting: “In the beginning of the month of August 1776, a phenomenon was seen in a parish a few miles west of London, which much excited the curiosity of the few persons that were so fortunate to behold it.

“The strange object was of the serpent kind; its size that of the largest common snake and as well as could be discovered from so transient a view of it, resembled by its grey, mottled skin. The head of this extraordinary animal appeared about the same size as a small woman’s hand. It had a pair of short wings very forward on the body, near its head; and the length of the whole body was about two-feet. Its flight was very gentle; it seemed too heavy to fly either fast or high, and its manner of flying was not in a horizontal attitude, but with its head considerably higher than the tail, so that it seemed continually labouring to ascend without ever being able to raise itself much higher than seven or eight feet from the ground.”

Hardly the archetypical dragon we’ve come to know since legends of St George and fantasy stories. However, such an incident was not a one-off, for the magazine once again in 1797 reported another winged serpent account, from June 15 between Hyde Park Corner and Hammersmith.

The witness, only known by the initials JR wrote a letter to the magazine to speak of the encounter, stating, “…the body was of a dark colour, and about the thickness of the lower part of a man’s arm, about two-feet long…the wings were very short and placed near the head. The head was raised above the body. It was not seven or eight-feet above the ground.”

Just what weird creatures were being seen around the capital during this particular time? Or, had the magazine simply created the monsters themselves, but surely in doing so, wouldn’t they have manifested a far fiercer, fire-breathing scaled anomaly?

Who knows when the next flying beast will make its presence known over the capital, but for now, we must surely stand in awe at the statuesque dragons in areas such as The Embankment, and wonder just what inspired such forms to guard the world’s most historical city.

Image by Lilly courtesy of Flickr

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