Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Claiming St George

St George, as patron of England and all its flag waving morons (most of them are, let's face it), has, for the past few years, been highjacked by football fans (mostly) and the nationalist far right.

This morning was presumably a news starved day. Not wanting to annoy people any further with the Brown/Blair saga, the Today Programme had a short slot (listen here (4.88Mb Mp3)) with Clive Paine, some pernickety local historian, defending BBC Radio Suffolk's decision that St George is ("foreign",) not English enough and should be replaced as patron saint of the country with St Edmund, forgetting in the process that there is very scant evidence of dear George's existence anyway.

This choice of St Edmund, whose sole claims to fame seem to be "a home-grown, defender of the homeland, saint" and to have (unsuccessfully) fought the invading Danes (like the BNP is now fighting the invading immigrants, one can't help but think), does not strikes me as the most judicious and the most conducive of social cohesion.

Dr Sam Riches, a cultural historian at Lancaster University, was talking too. She mentioned a very interesting, little known and rather amusing small detail about St George. In the Coptic tradition, St George is called the "bridegroom of Jesus" (The quotes in this page are from The Martyrdom and Miracles of St. George of Cappodocia: The Coptic Texts, E. A. Wallis Budge, (London: D. Nutt, 1888), p282 and 320-321)). This, in turn, has moved some people to call for the Saint to become the patron saint of Civil Partnerships (and other same-sex forms of matrimony, I would imagine).

Something, I am sure, St George's jingoistic fans would not quite agree with, just like the fact that he is also recognised by the Islamic and Judiac traditions.

Further comments from me here:
St George and Flag - 29 September 2006

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  1. If only there was a patron saint of apologising for living we could adopt to make you happy.

    Perhaps you could find us one.

  2. You say that " St.George has been.....hijacked by the nationalist far right"

    Could you give us an example please to back up that statement! Not the BNP (British National Party), their symbol is the Union Flag!

  3. Sarah: I am not sure what you mean there... sorry

    Derek: Will that do?
    "The National Front used the St George's flag in pathetic imitation of Nazi rallies," says Michael Faul, a vexillologist, or flag expert. "They tried to put themselves forward as the real patriots and some people unfortunately accepted that identification. In doing so, they let the far Right get away with this lie."

    From the second page of this article in the Telegraph - 13/06/2004

  4. No it won't. A few National Front nutters waving St George's Flags is hardly a hijacking. I'd be more concerned about the BNP flying the Union Jack! Incidentally, Mosely's black shirts flew the Union flag in the 30's.
    Many ordinairy English people have turned away from the idea of the Union since devolution and want an independent England. They have found the English flag as a symbol of England.
    Unfortunately government and sections of the media have chosen to perpetuate the far right nonsense. Tell a lie often enough and people will believe it!


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