Plenty of activity on my Facebook timeline today about St George’s Day, in celebration of England’s very own St George. I’m all in favour of celebrating England’s national day and I certainly agree with those who say it should be a bank holiday. The more bank holidays the better. There are a few minor issues surrounding our patron saint, though, the main one being that he wasn’t English.
There are many views on where the great man came from. The English heritage website says he was born in Cappadocia in 3rd century CE and died in Lydda (modern day Israel) in the Roman province of Palestine later in the century.
We also thought of him as a knight, too, slaying dragons. These bits are wrong, too. It is generally believed that he was an officer in the Roman army. The stuff about dragons was added many years after he died.
Worse still for devotees of St George is the disappointing news that he never actually got round to visiting England. And he’s also patron saint of Venice, Genoa, Portugal, Ethiopia and Catalonia, among many other places.
In summary, St George was not English and he never set foot in England. He’s not exclusively ours, either.
If St George was still around today, he wouldn’t be allowed to live in England. During the referendum campaign of 2016, Boris Johnson’s ‘Vote Leave’ organisation lied to us that Turkey was about to join the EU and its entire population was about to hop on the next bus to London Victoria bus station. Johnson, who is part Turkish, has ensured that now we have left the EU, free movement has ended. A modern day St George wouldn’t have been allowed here anyway, prior to Brexit, so now unless he could find a job in England where he earned at least £25,000 per annum, he’d be denied entry. So, taking back control also means keeping out of the country our very own saint. Although I suppose he could argue that there is a real shortage of saints in England at the moment.
Anyway, I’ll still be celebrating today because St George is the kinda guy I’d like to meet. The fact that he’s not ‘pure’ English – actually, he’s not English in any conceivable way – is something I’m quite proud of. And a part of me just loves the idea that many hard of thinking English nationalist blowhards are celebrating the life of a foreigner.