23 April is a day for celebration in England. It’s the national day, in honour of England’s patron saint, St George. It’s both Shakespeare’s birthday and death day. And in 2018, it saw the birth of new prince, son of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge. (Although he couldn’t be named George since the name was already taken by his big brother.)
Each of the British home nations has a national day associated with its patron saint: George for England, David for Wales (1 March), Patrick for Northern Ireland (17 March) and Andrew for Scotland (30 November). They aren’t bank holidays but each have their own forms of celebration.
England, it must be said, has the coolest of the saints. George slew a dragon after all, or so the legend says.
George wasn’t English, and as far as anyone knows never set foot in England. He was born in Turkey and became a Roman soldier. He was martyred and became a saint after refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs. That much is believed to be true.
The legend says that he saved the city of Silene in Libya from a terrible dragon, which lived in a lake near the city and could kill people just by breathing on them. The people of the city were forced to provide the beast with human sacrifices, who were drawn by lots. One day, the King’s only daughter’s name was drawn. Luckily for her, George came riding along, and when he heard the tale, slew the dragon and saved the princess and the city.
This is a simple animated version of the story usable from A1+.
Celebrating St George
St George was adopted by two English kings in the Middle Ages. Both Edward I (1272-1307) and Edward III (1327-1377) used the St George’s cross (a red cross on a white background) as their banner. He was officially named English patron saint in 1415.
Today, St George’s Day festivities take place all over England on 23 April or the closest weekend. Re-enactments of the battle with the dragon are popular. In London, the Feast of St George is celebrated in Trafalgar Square, with a music and Morris dancing, lots of food and as honoured guests London’s Pearly Kings and Queens.