For England and Saint… Who?

Today – 23rd April – is Saint George’s Day. But even without the lockdown, you’d see few English folk celebrating.

St Patrick by Andreas F Borchert

Of the Four Nations of Britain, it’s only we English that let our Patron Saint’s Day pass without a fuss. One wonders why. Is it because of the famous English reserve? Or is it that we English just don’t connect with him?

The Irish have their Saint Patrick who brought Christianity to their land.

The Welsh have their Saint David, a C6th Welsh bishop of Mynyw (now St Davids).

Saint David by Hchc 2009

Saint Andrew Apostle medieval manuscript


The Scots have Saint Andrew (the Apostle) who they claim is buried in the town of St Andrews. Whether he is or not, he was known in Scotland from the early days of Christianity.

We English have Saint George.

Yea? And who was he?

An icon from Georgia

Aka George of Lydda, Saint George was a Greek serving in the Praetorian Guard for the (Eastern) Roman emperor Diocletian whose famous Persecution (303-312) saw the empire’s bloodiest attempt to eliminate Christianity . George of Lydda was one of its fatalities.

Although his cult of the martyr had arrived in Britain by the tenth century, the saint didn’t gain popularity until the return of the Crusaders, from twelfth century onwards. By then Saint George had acquired the myth of the dragon-slayer, a pre-Christian motif commonly found in Anatolia (today’s Turkey).

How did this Middle Eastern martyr become England’s patron saint?

That was the work of King Edward III (1327-1377) who in promoting the codes of knighthood founded the Order of the Garter… and named Saint George as patron saint OF THE ENGLISH MONARCHY. Not of England, but of the monarchy, God Bless Them. In the process he demoted the previous patron saint of England. Saint Edmund.

But who was Saint Edmund?

Edmund was an Anglo-Saxon king of East Anglia. In 869 he was killed defending this land against the Great Heathen Army. His death was savagely dealt on the orders of the Dane, Ivar the Boneless and his brother Ubba.

Yet it was their compatriots who, on acquiring Christianity as the condition for the grant of Danelaw (the East of England) then founded the cult of Saint Edmund the Martyr. An English saint, he was recognised by both English and Danes with numerous churches built in his name.

Saint Edmund at Acle, Norfolk

In 2006 folk from Suffolk and Norfolk campaigned to reinstate Saint Edmund, without success.

In 2013, their campaign was taken up by representatives from churches, businesses, radio and local politicians. Again, without success.

Now in this year of exceptional need, I say it’s time to reinstate Saint Edmund. He is, after all, the patron saint of pandemics.


St Edmund’s Feast Day is November 20th. Let’s hope we have reason to celebrate with the Patron Saint of Pandemics.

The flag of St Edmund… carried into battle by English troops until late C14th.



About crispina kemp

Spinner of Asaric and Mythic tales
This entry was posted in History, Thoughts and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to For England and Saint… Who?

  1. Dale says:

    I love when you go down this trail and share with us.
    I wonder if Canada has a patron saint (just to show you how much I am in the know…)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have heard no mention of it on the mass media monster nor even the birthday of the Bard, what it is to be forgotten

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, that’s how I feel. So I investigated. And hey, if the imported St George was intended as the patron saint ONLY of the monachy, no wonder we common English folk feel disinfranchised. So, November 20th… let’s hope we have reason to celebrate our true patron saint, St Edmunds, guardian against pandemics. 🙂


  3. Not being a Brit myself, I shouldn’t say, but I was looking up the history of the English language one day and see that King Alfred did a lot to encourage the peasantry to learn English and generally promote the language. Granted, he can’t be canonized without some miracles attributed to him, but he could be nominated “Patron of English.” I imagine most Brits know about him.

    Not to discourage promoting St Edmund, but I’m not sure about a “patron saint of pandemics” as an English saint, especially someone generally forgotten for seven hundred centuries, is really going to catch on and stick in people’s minds once the pandemic’s over.

    Or celebrate both. The more holidays the better. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. 1) I think this sounds like a good idea, but I’m not Catholic and probably have about 0 say in this

    2) Saint Andrew is *definitely* one of the more popular ones in the US, at least where I’m at. I find that interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was what prompted the post. The other three saints (Andrew, Patrick and David) are popular, people know when their days are… and that’s Brits who are as likely to be atheist, agnostic or pagan, as they are to be Catholic. It’s no longer a religious thing, but a patriotic thing. And it seems we English no longer care. And I find that disturbing. St Edmund would turn in his grave, after he died defending our land. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jen Goldie says:

    Very informative. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Joy Pixley says:

    I see so many references to Saint George in stories, but I never realized he supplanted Saint Edmund. And as you say, what propitious timing to reinstate the saint who protects against pandemics. Much more useful than one who protects against dragons, these days!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My feelings entirely. And added to that, the imported St George was intended only for the English monarchy, not for we commoners. I am English down to my toes (apart from the bits that are Flemish and Dutch) and I’ve grown up in the knowledge of St Edmund… so many of the local churches have Edmund as the dedication (while I can’t say I know any with St George), and there is, of course, nearby Bury St Edmunds where he was (reputedly) buried).

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I wondered why the Greek St George ended up being the patron saint of England. It’s interesting how the dragon slaying was later attached to his name. I’ve always sided with dragons rather than dragon slayers (aside from Turin Turambar).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wasn’t St. Patrick originally from Britain and then kidnapped? Thanks for the history lesson. I always love these!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not so much kidnapped as slave-raided. He was already a Christian, if I remember, in Wales or that region. When he escaped from Ireland, he appealed to the church for support and went back in to Christianise the island.
      There is a theory, I don’t know how well supposed by evidence, that Ireland was already being converted by the Roman church.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It would be nice to see tradition reinstated. Though I’d personally be more for reinstating full tradition rather than what’s acceptable to a modern palate (one which often likes to see itself as knowing better in all cases).
    Though I’m also not a fan of other things like modern druids. What’s worse than someone trying to ‘pay homage’ to old ways, is someone making the whole thing up as no druidic accounts and practices survived. But I digress.

    A wander to the realms of tradition and nationalistic/provincial pride is a step in the right direction. Forsaking roots for the sake of accepting everything else is something which benefits profiteers of chaos and not of peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You express my own thoughts, and far better than I could. And to declare ourselves proud of our country invites accusations of racism… I don’t get that one at all. I am a child of the universe, a netizen of the world, but first and foremost I am down to my roots English and PROUD.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: For England and Saint… Who? — crispina kemp – Truth Troubles

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