Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 16:17 UK

Hollywood star Rhys joins druids

Matthew Rhys becomes a bard

Hollywood star Matthew Rhys may be used to wardrobe changes, but his latest costume is particularly striking.

Dressed head to foot in a flowing white gown, he became a member of the Gorsedd of Bards at Wales' leading cultural festival, the National Eisteddfod.

The star of Dylan Thomas biopic Edge of Love joins a select group honoured for their contribution to Wales.

Rhys, 33, has adopted the bardic name Matthew Taf, recognising his home city of Cardiff and the River Taff.

He joins his friend and fellow actor Ioan Gruffudd and singer Bryn Terfel, who have both been previously honoured.

The eisteddfod described Rhys, who plays a lawyer in US soap Brothers and Sisters, as one of the world's most recognisable actors and a "credit to his Cardiff upbringing".

He approached the occasion in his home city with "absolute reverence", but admitted feeling nervous.

"It's a sort of mixed bag of nerves and excitement really," he said.

We are both extremely proud of the honour the eisteddfod has given Matthew - words cannot really describe how we both feel today
Helen Evans, Matthew Rhys's mother

"I was brought up as an 'eisteddfodwr' and the robes are so unique, it has a big effect on you as a child," he said. "It's one of the big things that you remember."

"It's fantastic to come home to Cardiff, to the home town where the eisteddfod is, and to be accepted into the gorsedd, it's a great honour."

He said: "The honour is double or 10 times more when you hear the names of those who have gone before you and the things they have achieved. It's humbling to be in their number."

Matthew Rhys on becoming a druid

The gorsedd, which means "throne" in Welsh, is made up of poets, writers, musicians and artists, who with the exception of the royal family, must speak Welsh.

Green robes

Other notable druids include Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and the chief constable of North Wales Police, Richard Brunstrom.

Others being honoured and admitted to the gorsedd this year also included Welsh assembly Presiding Officer Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, Caernarfon MP Hywel Williams, and historian Lord Kenneth O Morgan.

The organisation was the invention of 17th Century eccentric scholar Iolo Morganwg, who believed the Welsh were the direct descendants of Celtic heritage and culture.

The group has three different orders:

  • Ovates, who must pass examinations to be admitted, and dress in green robes.
  • Bards, who have either passed a final gorsedd examination or have a degree in music.
  • Druids, winners of the eisteddfod's main literary and poetry competitions, or - as in the case of Rhys - individuals seen to have served Wales, the language or culture.

Rhys's induction happened after school girls performed the traditional flower dance. New members were introduced one by one in a ring of standing stones.

It finished with a huge sword symbolically put back in its scabbard by its keeper, former international rugby player Robin McBryde, as the archdruid made three requests for peace.

Rhys hugged his parents, Glyn and Helen Evans, when he returned to the robing room at the back of the main pavilion.

His mother said: "We are both extremely proud of the honour the eisteddfod has given Matthew. Words cannot really describe how we both feel today.

"And we are delighted he was able to be here today to receive this honour in his home city."


SEE ALSO
Ioan joins the Welsh elite
04 Aug 03 |  Wales

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