According to https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/whats-on/st-georges-day/9-things-you-didnt-know-about-st-george/ for some reason England adopted a guy who was born in what is now Turkey and died in what is now Israel. He wasn’t a knight in shining armour either. He was a warrior on horseback or an officer in the Roman army. He is described as a martyr for his Christian faith but was probably executed for refusing to make an offering to a pagan deity. And he never came to England. It seems that he had a reputation for virtue and holiness across Europe and England adopted his saints day in the 9th century. He was popular with King Edward I, Edward III, but the George Cross wasn’t adopted to represent England until Henry VIII’s reign.
The addition of a dragon wasn’t until several centuries after George’s death. The dragon may have just been a symbolic portrayal of good versus evil. Pope Gelasius canonised George in AD494 and his feast day of 23rd April was thought to be the date of his martyrdom. St George’s day then became popularly adopted in England in 1415.
Shakespeare, whose birthday is also 23rd April, called on the popularised supposed protection of St George in Henry V, where the king cries out “Once more unto the breach, dear friends. God for Harry! England, and St. George”
So just for fun, during the evening’s Ringing Room virtual #bellringing practice, we rang St George Bob Minor and The Dragon Bob Minor, spliced. St George and The Dragon. Geddit?
A few years ago there was a campaign to get St George’s Day more celebrated and to have #bellrinigng as a way of celebrating England’s national day, and making as much of it as we seem to make of St Patrick’s Day. It did get some traction, however in 2020 of course, we were in lockdown, couldn’t ring and couldn’t celebrate. The Ring for England website http://ringingforengland.co.uk/ hasn’t been updated since 2019, so I don’t know whether the person leading the project has given up, or just didn’t bother with it in 2020, or indeed is no longer with us.
At a recent Central Council Public Relations Workgroup meeting we discussed using saints days as opportunities to promote ringing. St Andrew’s day in Scotland is well celebrated and there was enthusiasm for including St David’s Day and St Patrick’s Day as well.
But for now “Once more unto the breach, dear friends”.
One thought on “God for Harry! England, and St. George”
Ha, does make me chuckle how everyone gets excited about a bloke who never came here and who supposedly did something mythical, is so important to us as a nation! Hope the ringing was fun anyway 😉
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