"Cry God for Harry, England and St. George"
St. George is a popular chap! Not only is he the Patron Saint of England - but also Genoa, Ethiopia, Venice, Portugal and Catalonia, amongst others. He is also Patron of Soldiers, Skin diseases and Scouting!
We celebrate St. George's day on April 23rd - the date of his death in 303AD.
Very little is known for sure about the man himself - but here's some of the details that are believed to be accurate:
George was born in Capodoccia (modern day Turkey) whilst he died in Lydda (Modern Israel). Rather than a Knight in shining armour, George was most likely an officer in the Roman army. It was his refusal to denounce his Christian beliefs in favour of the Roman Emperor - Diocletian, that eventually lead to his execution.
King Edward III is said to have had a relic of
George's blood - but it was Henry VIII that first used the familiar George Cross to represent England. It is this cross which forms the central cross of the Union Flag - or Union 'Jack'. The now famous story of George and the dragon, is centred on the City of Silene (in Libya). George was requested to rid the City of a Dragon which had developed a taste for eating people - or more particularly young women. To try and appease the Dragon, the King's daughter was next in line on the menu. But George saved the day by successfully dispatching the beast and winning the heart of the Princess! Splendid stuff I'm sure you'll agree - but sadly the earliest accounts of this story are about 500 years after George's death - so are unlikely to be true. That and the question of whether Dragons ever actually existed, of course!
George was actually Canonised (Became a Saint) in 494AD by Pope Gelasius and following the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, St. George's day became one of the most important feast days of the English Calendar!
The quote on the flag above, comes from William Shakespeare’s play Henry V. In this play, the monarch calls on the saint during his battle cry at the Battle of Harfleur with the famous; “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” speech, crying “God for Harry! England, and St. George!”
Five hundred years later – during the First World War – a ghostly apparition of St George is said to have aided British troops during their retreat from Mons - the story is often referred to as 'The Angel of Mons'.
(The editor's Grandfather fought at Mons and recounted the incident himself!).