Happy St. George’s Day England!

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Today marks the celebration of our dragon-slaying Christian martyr who is revered as the Patron Saint of England.

DID YOU KNOW? This special day has been observed in England since the early 15th century.

But who exactly was St. George, and what led to his esteemed status as England’s hero?

The identity of St. George remains shrouded in mystery, with scant details known about his life. Originating from what is now modern-day Turkey around AD 280, he was raised in the Christian faith and later enlisted in the Roman Army.

Tragically, St. George met his demise at the hands of Emperor Diocletian, who subjected him to torture and ultimately executed him for his steadfast refusal to renounce his Christian beliefs, thereby elevating him to the status of martyrdom.

What is St. George’s connection to England?

St. George’s connection to England is intertwined with the emblem he bore — a red cross emblazoned on a white background. Legend holds that during the First Crusade to Jerusalem in 1098, St. George purportedly appeared as a vision, leading Christian knights in battle during a crucial siege. Over a century later, King Richard III adopted the cross of St. George as the emblem for his army’s uniform, with many soldiers seeking solace and protection under St. George’s patronage.

How did St. George become the patron saint of England?

The designation of St. George as the patron saint of England occurred in AD 494 when he was canonised (declared a saint) by Pope Gelasius. However, it wasn’t until 1350 that St. George officially assumed this role in England. King Edward III, the reigning monarch at the time, selected St. George due to his renowned bravery in the face of adversity, particularly during times of great suffering.

In a symbolic gesture of homage, King Edward III also established the Order of the Garter, the highest order of chivalry, featuring St. George prominently on its emblem, depicted on horseback slaying a dragon.

What is the legend of St. George and the dragon?

The legend of St. George and the dragon, perhaps the most famous tale associated with him, portrays a valiant knight named Sir George who bravely rescues a princess and vanquishes a menacing dragon terrorising a town.

There are many different versions of this tale – a popular version is:

A knight named Sir George was travelling the land and came across a town that was being terrorised by a dragon. The inhabitants told him that a young maiden had to be sacrificed to the dragon every day, or the beast would destroy the entire town.

Each day, the next poor girl was chosen by a lottery. That very morning, the King’s own daughter’s name had been called. On hearing this, Sir George vowed to save the princess and slay the dragon. He found the beast in his lair, and threw his spear at him. However, the dragon’s scales were so hard that they shattered the spear. Undeterred, Sir George unsheathed his sword and charged at the dragon, driving his weapon into the soft underbelly of the beast, killing him dead. Sir George took the princess back to the King, and the town celebrated.

This story did not appear in popular culture until around 500 years after St. George’s death. Many historians believe it was developed and embellished in the Middle Ages when a collection of stories about various saints’ lives was written.

Regardless of whether the tale is true or not, due to this legend, as well as the manner of his death, St. George is a symbol of courage in the face of adversity, as well as the English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry.

How did the English flag come to be?

The English flag, bearing St. George’s Cross — a red cross on a white background — has been emblematic of England since the Late Middle Ages, prominently used alongside the Royal Banner, particularly in maritime settings.

Today, the English flag is widely used at sporting events as a way of supporting English teams and participants.

Photo credit: English Heritage

Did you know?

St. George’s Day, observed in England since the early 15th century, remains a testament to English culture and identity, marked by festivities such as Morris dancing, enjoying a pint with friends, displaying the English flag, and singing the hymn ‘Jerusalem.’

St. George is also the patron saint of scouting. He was chosen as the qualities of St. George reflect those desirable in a scout: responsible, truthful, devoted to duty, brave, noble and dedicated to helping others. Every St. George’s day, Scouts remind themselves of their Promise and Scout Law.

Popular food items to eat on St. George’s Day include; Sunday trifle, cottage pie, mushroom and stilton tarts, kedgeree, shepherd’s pie, and fish cakes.

St. George had some competition –  Edmund the Martyr, Edward the Confessor, and Gregory the Great were all contenders for becoming the country’s patron saint.

As we commemorate St. George’s Day, we honor the enduring legacy of this revered figure, whose valor and sacrifice continue to inspire generations.

Happy St. George’s Day!

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