Happy St Georges Day!
This St George’s Day, let’s celebrate this glorious land of the Free
Patriotism. A word that conjures up all kinds of thoughts. For the older generation perhaps a natural feeling. But as time has gone by with more distance between us and the Worlds Wars people probably think of it as less and less necessary – but not to all of us of course. And with the day of our patron saint looming – St George’s Day – what does it mean nowadays?
St George was made the Patron Saint of England in 1350 by King Edward III. He was not even of English extraction but had died a martyr for his Christian faith. There are many fictitious stories about him and a dragon was often used to represent the devil so this may be why the imagery of St George slaying a dragon came into being. Why did he become our Patron Saint? Mainly because he was famous far and wide for his bravery in battle and during the terrible torture he endured whilst refusing to deny his Christianity, and therefore a very fine example indeed of a brave human being, especially to soldiers who would call his name before going to battle. He was even immortalised by Shakespeare with the saying ‘Cry God for Harry, England and St George!’.
Why don’t we have an English Patron Saint? Well, we did! Our original patron saint was St Edmund, an old English King. And that is where the original flag of England, a white dragon on a white cross, comes from. And some would prefer Edward the Confessor, who was ONE of our national saints before either of the other two.
So should we celebrate the feast day of our Patron Saint, whoever he may be? I say yes!. I believe Patriotism is as important now as it ever was. Not to be ‘exclusive’ or ‘superior’, but to look out at the world and say ‘this is who we are’. To know your history, where you come from, and also to have a direction as a country and a nation is very important. For me, to be English is just as important as to be British, as I’m sure it is for the Welsh, Scottish and Irish to celebrate their Patron Saint days too.
I think that often as English people we are inclined to represent ourselves as British and put our Englishness aside. But the Anglo Saxons have contributed hugely to the world and we should continue to celebrate this as much as possible. Patriotism can be very grounding and elevating at the same time. Celebrating the past and looking to the future.
We have much to celebrate: our music, literature, art and culture, our language, our legal system, our many inventions, our bravery in war and our sports, and of course, last but most certainly not least: our humour! We have a rich and bloody history, some of which I would not like to have lived through, but it is of huge interest to the world! And we did indeed, (and still do), play a huge part in shaping the world as it is now. Plus our Royalty, whether you are a royalist or not, has the most beautiful pageantry in the world. English is the universal language. We gave the world 2 of its greatest writers: Shakespeare and Dickens. From this relatively small land, huge achievements have come about.
Knowing the history of your nation gives you secure roots and a strong identity. It enables you to know who you and your people are. It enables you to look into the future with great knowledge. History is there for us to learn from. If you know who you are you can appreciate what other countries have to offer too. National pride can inspire us to do anything. It was what made armies go out and sacrifice their lives so that others could live in peace. To give their lives so future generations could continue. I believe that without our history and our patriotism we are lost.
So let’s ‘Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’ this 23rd April and raise a glass to our green and pleasant land. Happy St George’s Day one and all!