As an Englishman I thought I would research and write about England’s patron saint and It’s history from the Venerable Bede ( 673 AD – 735 AD ). St.George is the patron saint of England. His emblem is a red cross on a white background which is also the flag of England and is also part of the Union Jack.
The earliest documented mention of St George in England comes from the venerable Bede (c. 673–735). He is also mentioned in ninth-century liturgy used at Durham Cathedral. The will of Alfred the Great is said to refer to the saint in a reference to the church of Fordington, Dorset. Certainly at Fordington a stone over the south door records the miraculous appearance of St George to lead crusaders into battle. Early (c 10th century) dedications of churches to St George are noted in England, for example at Fordingham, Dorset, at Thetford, Southwark and Doncaster.
St George's emblem was adopted by Richard The Lion Heart and brought to England in the 12th century by Arculpus and Adamnan in the early eighth century. The Acts of St George, which recounted his visits to Caerleon and Glastonbury while on service in England, were translated into Anglo-Saxon. Among churches dedicated to St George was one at Doncaster in 1061. George was adopted as the patron saint of soldiers after he was said to have appeared to the Crusader army at the Battle of Antioch in 1098. Many similar stories were transmitted to the West by Crusaders who had heard them from Byzantine troops, and were circulated further by the troubadours. When Richard 1 was campaigning in Palestine in 1191-92 he put the army under the protection of St George. The king's soldiers also wore it on their tunics to avoid confusion in battle.
In 1222 The Synod of Oxford declared St. George's Day a feast day in the kingdom of England. Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St. George. This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England and St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order. The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon.
Certain English soldiers displayed the pennon of St George. In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare famously invokes the Saint at Harfleur prior to the battle of Agincourt (1415): "Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'" At Agincourt many believed they saw him fighting on the English side.
The Cross of St George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth Massachusetts.
The tradition of celebration St George's day had waned by the end of the 18th century after the union of England and Scotland. Nevertheless this timeless link with St George continues today, for example Salisbury holds an annual St George’s Day pageant, the origins of which are believed to go back to the thirteenth century. The Royal Society of St. George was founded in 1894 and famous members have included Sir Winston Churchill.
In recent years the popularity of St George's Day appears to have been gradually increasing. Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, has been putting the argument forward in the House of Commons to make St George's Day a public holiday.
In early 2009 Mayor of London Boris Johnson spearheaded a campaign to encourage the celebration of St George's Day. Today St George's day may be celebrated with anything English from Traditional English foods and drink (e.g. afternoon tea) may be consumed.
A traditional custom on St George's day is to wear a red rose in one's lapel, though this is no longer widely practised. Another custom is to fly or adorn the St George's Cross flag in some way: pubs in particular can be seen on 23 April festooned with garlands of St George's crosses. It is customary for the hymn "Jerusalem" to be sung in cathedrals, churches and chapels on St George's Day and on the Sunday closest to it.
There is a growing reaction to the recent indifference to St George's Day. Organizations such as English Heritage and the Royal Society of Saint George (a non-political English national society founded in 1894) have been encouraging celebrations.
Additional celebrations involve the commemoration of the 23rd April as Shakespeare's birthday and death. Shakespeare is known to have been baptised on 26th April 1564 and to have died on 23rd April 1616. 23rd April is widely recognised as his traditional date of birth and commemorated on this day every year in his home Stratford upon Avon and throughout the world.
The date of St George's day changes when it is too close to Easter. According to the Church of England's calendar, when St George's Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter. In 2011, for example, 23rd April was Holy Saturday so St George's Day was moved to Monday 2nd May. The Catholic Church in England and Wales has a similar practice.
I believe eventually Saint Georges day will become a national holiday in England just as the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own public holidays in celebration of their patron saints.