The National Eisteddfod of Wales can be traced back to 1176 when it is said that the first Eisteddfod was held, under the auspices of Lord Rhys, at his castle in Cardigan. There he held a grand gathering to which were invited poets and musicians from all over the country. A chair at the Lord's table was awarded to the best poet and musician, a tradition that prevails in the modern day National Eisteddfod.
Following 1176, many eisteddfodau were held throughout Wales, under the patronage of Welsh gentry and noblemen. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, an Eisteddfod of historical significance was held at the Ivy Bush Inn in Carmarthen, when the Gorsedd of Bards first became officially associated with this national event. By this time, the Eisteddfod had developed in to a fully-fledged folk festival on a large scale.
In 1880, the National Eisteddfod association was formed and charged with the responsibility of staging an annual festival to be held in North and South Wales alternately, and with the exception of 1914 and 1940, this target has been successfully achieved.
The Gorsedd of Bards is an association whose members consist of poets, writers, musicians, artists and individuals who have made a distinguished contribution to the Welsh nation, language and culture. For example world famous opera star Bryn Terfel, England cricketer Robert Croft, former Labour Leader in the Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, ex-Welsh rugby stars Gareth Edwards and Ray Gravel.
This association is the creative invention of Iolo Morganwg, one of Wales' most famous and eccentric scholars, who felt that it should be made known that the Welsh were the direct descendants of Celtic culture and heritage. The Gorsedd of Bards of the Isle of Britain first came together in 1792, not in Wales as you might expect, but on Primrose Hill in London. It made its first appearance at the Eisteddfod in Carmarthen in 1819, and from the time that the National was born in 1860 / 1861 its close association with the Festival has remained.
The head of the Gorsedd of Bards is the Archdruid, who is elected for a term of three years, and is responsible for conducting the Gorsedd ceremonies during Eisteddfod week. These Ceremonies are held to honour literary achievements amongst Welsh poets and prose writers.