The trouble is that the English really don't do the national pride thing very well. Whereas it's all fine and dandy to feel proud to be Irish, Scottish or Welsh, English national pride has become associated more with far right politics than with having a party - and perhaps it's for this reason that St. George's Day is, by and large, treated with a large dose of apathy. Is it embarrassment, perhaps, at our colonial past that triggers this reaction, or perhaps it's a sense that "Englishness" has in fact been diluted by hundreds of years of immigration into England from other parts of the British Isles? How many English people these days refer to themselves as "half-Welsh" or "quarter-Scottish" for instance?
As an example, I was born and bred in England but have Welsh parents. By and large, I suppose I consider myself English but am more likely to refer to myself as "British" if asked about my nationality - although there's no doubt whatsoever that, in a sporting context, I'm a passionate Englishman. I'm more than happy to sing from the rooftops when England win at rugby and can feel thoroughly depressed when they lose - but I doubt I'd ever fly an English flag outside my home to declare my nationality.
It seems I'm not alone in this - a recent survey by English Heritage revealed that fewer than one in five people celebrate St. George's Day and found that almost half the respondents believed St. George was one of the mythical knights of King Arthur’s Round Table!
So, in an attempt to do my bit, here are a few facts about St. George, as revealed by English Heritage:
- St. George was actually born in Israel and probably never visited here;
- St George is also the patron saint of Canada, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia and Catalonia as well as many charities and cities including Moscow;
- St. George was a worthy solider in the Roman army and earned himself a position of nobility;
- St. George was born in 270 AD, that’s over 1700 years ago. He died aged just 33;
- St. George was given his sainthood because he refused to carry out the persecution of the Christians which was demanded of him by his leader in the Roman army, and was then tortured and killed himself;
- St. George’s Day is celebrated in England on the 23rd April. This is said to be the date he died (or the date of his martyrdom);
- The banner of St. George (white flag with a red cross) used to encourage bravery before soldiers went into battle;
- William Shakespeare was born and died on April 23rd, St. George's Day.
No mention of him slaying a dragon then?