England’s Proper Patron Saint

On the cusp of St. George’s Day, we await the usual round of pleas for the Government and others to make something special of the day in the way that the Celtic fringe does for Saints Patrick, Andrew and David. And we tend to wait in vain. Is that because the English are so apathetic or embarrassed about our Englishness? Or might it be, er…., that Georgie Boy is actually a rather dull, uninspiring and parvenu sort of a chap?

Well, yes: though he had a bit of a following in pre-Norman days, it was only when ‘Our Boys’ went off to fight in the crusades that St. George became the pin-up boy of the English nobility. That is because St. George was already very big in The Levant: he was patron Saint of Georgia and in Roman times veneration of him, having begun in Palestine in the 4th. Century rapidly spread throughout the Empire. By the 14th. century, the cult of St. George was big right across Western Europe.

There is, of course, The Dragon thingy to explain his popularity. It makes for good copy, killing a large and rather nasty mythical beast. On the other hand, what had the poor dragon done to deserve such a fate? And perhaps he contributed to the extinction of the last dragons…..not exactly great green credentials!

But the real spin on George was that he was a soldier and a Christian who resisted every blandishment of the Emperor Diocletian (including, thus, the direct orders of his Commander-in-Chief) to abjure his faith. As a result Diocletian caused him to have a rather serious neck injury – decapitation – on 23rd. April, 303 AD.

And before you could say ‘dragonfire’ he had become a full-on Martyr and Patron Saint. His flag was adopted by England in 1190 as something of a flag of convenience for our shipping to sail safely in Mediterranean waters and then Edward III put his Order of the Garter under the banner of St. George, probably in 1348. And as we have seen everyone and his wife had adopted him as ‘their’ Patron.

The rest, as they say, is history.

It is, however, difficult to become really enthused about George. He is not exactly exclusive and he is not exactly English. And then there is the feeling that the whole dragon thingy is, if one is still allowed to use the phrase, a bit of a fairy story.

Step forward then, St. Edmund the Martyr.

Edmund the Martyr (circa 840 – November 20 869 or 870) was a King of East Anglia. He succeeded to the East Anglian throne in 855, while still a boy. He is seen as the patron saint of Kings, pandemics, torture victims and wolves, of which beast more later. Many consider him the first and true patron Saint of England.

It is likely he came to East Anglia from abroad, perhaps Sweden or possibly Nuremburg. In any event he succeeded Offa as King of East Anglia in 855 AD and thereafter ruled quietly but well until some marauding Danes decided to invade his realm in 869 AD.

In that year the Danes, who had wintered at York, marched through Mercia into East Anglia and took up their quarters at Thetford. Edmund engaged them fiercely in battle, perhaps at Hoxne, but the Danes under their leaders Ubbe Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless had the victory.

It is said that afterwards he was tortured by the Danes who tried to get him to renounce his Christian faith (and on that score is just as worthy a Saint as George) and to surrender up his Kingdom to them. When it became plain he was not going to do either of these things, so the story goes, Edmund was killed by being tied to a tree, shot to death with arrows and finally decapitated and his head thrown into a nearby forest so that his entire body could not be buried; a form of mockery towards his people.

When his body was found, his head was missing. For several days his people searched for it. After almost a week, they found Edmund’s head in the possession of a great grey wolf, clasped between its paws. The wolf, sent by God to protect the head from the dangers of the forest, was starving but did not eat the head for all the days it was lost. After giving the head and body a speedy burial, the Kingdom rebuilt itself for several years before finally erecting a church worthy of Edmund’s burial. And wolves too found someone to watch over their interests.

The King’s body was ultimately interred at Beadoriceworth, the modern Bury St. Edmund’s. The shrine of Edmund soon became one of the most famous in England and the reputation of the saint became Europe-wide. The date of his canonisation is unknown, although Archdeacon Hermann appears to state that it happened in the reign of Athelstan (924–939). Churches dedicated to his memory are found all over England.

Now there is a Saint far more worthy to be Patron Saint of England. He was one of our Kings. He died defending the independence of his Kingdom. He can match George in every department of worthiness. And we do not have to share him with anyone.

Surely it is time to rid ourselves of the Levantine soldier who would not obey orders and replace him with a real hero?

And with a background like that, is Edmund not the perfect icon and the perfect role model for the age of The European Empire, a patron Saint for an Independent Nation?

(Today many Patronages of Saint George exist around the world, including: Aragon, Catalonia, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, India, Iraq, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Serbia and Russia, as well as the cities of Genoa, Amersfoort, Beirut, Fakiha, Bteghrine, Cáceres, Ferrara, Freiburg, Kumanovo, Ljubljana, Pomorie, Preston, Qormi, Rio de Janeiro, Lod, Barcelona, Moscow, Tamworth and the Maltese island of Gozo, as well as a wide range of professions, organizations and disease sufferers.)

Article provided by Michael Greaves, Party Secretary, UKIP

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