Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy St George's Day

If you were setting up a Patron Saint for England today, it is most unlikely that you would select St George.

The strongest contender would probably be St Alban, the first known Christian martyr in these islands, who has going for him that

1) he definately existed
2) he actually lived in England
3) although we know little about him, it is almost certain that he gave his life to protect another individual from unjust persecution and for his new Christian faith
4) the site of his death has been commemorated and has been a continuous place of worship for not far short of two thousand years

By comparison St George may not have existed at all, probably never set foot within a thousand miles of England and certainly never lived here, and the most famous story about him, the story of the dragon, has at best been transformed into legend by a series of distortions and is at worst complete fantasy.

What St George has going for him, however, is that English people have honoured his memory for many centuries, certainly since at least the fourteenth century. And where you have a tradition like that, there is something very sad. almost like vandalism, in ripping it up.

As I know from being married to an Irishwoman, of the four ancient Kingdoms of the British Isles, all the other three take their patron saints, and those saints' days, far more seriously than England currently takes St George or his special day. It's easy to miss St George's day in a way that you would never, for instance, fail to notice St Patrick's day in an Irish household.

Until fairly recently, you never used to see the flag of St George - although these days it is often flown when there is a major sporting event involving and England team.

And this is sad. Although I think of myself as British rather than English - my ancestry is a mix of English and Scot, I have an Irish wife and had a Welsh uncle - it's quite possible to be proud of the English part of my heritage without rejecting the British or Scottish parts.

So let us enjoy St George's day today and remember all the good things about England. Like every nation on earth, the English have their faults, but there are plenty of wonderful things about England.

1 comment:

Jim said...

To me its kind of one of the sad things about being English. We tend to be British or nothing.

The problem comes with "show me a scot or a Welshman who says he is British"

Whilst i have nothing really but the respect of the scotch and the welsh, you must see the point.
they are all welsh before British and all Scottish before British.

So today, just enjoy the fact you are an Englishman.

We are English, we are not British, if we were it would not be costing an arm an a leg to send his son to uni in glasgow.