Thursday, 23 April 2009

Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

Happy St George’s Day everyone! Today is the national day of England, celebrating our patron saint – St George. It is usually a low-key celebration and, sadly, isn’t a public holiday, although there is a movement to try to make it one.

Flag of St GeorgeI was travelling around Wiltshire in connection with my work today and saw a number of cars and buildings flying the flag of St George, which is the national flag of England – the Union Jack being the flag of the United Kingdom. It wasn’t until the sixth or seventh flag that it dawned on me that today was indeed St George’s Day – you see, I told you that it was all low-key! There are a number of ways in which the day is marked around the country, each place celebrating in their own way. Here in Wiltshire, the city of Salisbury is one of the few places in the country to hold a major event for St George’s Day – it’s annual St George’s Pageant. This year’s pageant will be held on Sunday, to give as many people as possible the opportunity to attend (there’s another reason to make it a public holiday!).

Ask most people about St George and they will talk about the legend of St George and the Dragon. The legend talks about a lake-side community who lived in fear of a dragon who dwelt within the lake. The people of the town fed sheep to the dragon to keep him from attacking them. When they ran out of sheep they started to give up their children to the beast, drawn by lottery. One day the King’s daughter was the unlucky “winner” of this lottery and was led to the side of the lake. As she stood there waiting for her fate, St George happened to ride by. He attacked the dragon with his lance, and badly wounded the creature. Subdued, the dragon allowed itself to be led to the town by St George who vowed to slaughter the monster if the town converted to Christianity – which they dutifully did. George then slew the dragon with his sword.

St George is also the patron saint of a number of different countries and cities, including Portugal, Georgia and Moscow.

Today is also William Shakespeare’s birthday, as well as the day on which he died aged exactly 52 years old. Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, he was one of eight children and went on to be the world’s most famous playwright. A few years ago, Dori and I visited his birthplace, along with a coachload of French students as I recall!

Shakespeare's Birthplace Shakespeare's Birthplace

This was a real thrill for both of us, and especially so for Dori who, as you all know, is a very talented writer :-)

By the way, the title of this post is taken from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” and is the closing line of the famous “once more unto the breach” speech.

Finally, today is also UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day which promotes reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright throughout the world. A very literary day indeed!


Maureen said...

It's a shame that St George's day is such a low-key celebration and not a holiday. As you say though, there is a campaign to make it a public holiday so perhaps the day will become more of an important event to be celebrated across England. I hope so.

I've visited Stratford-upon-Avon a few times. It's one of my favourite places to visit in England. Like you and Dori, I am thrilled to see Shakespeare's birthplace.

A Valdese Blogger said...

Howdy - nice post, I enjoyed it & good to meet you!

Brit Boy said...

Englishness often gets lost amongst the more vocal Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalities. I hope that the observance of St George's Day does grow to become a proper national celebration. And you're right Stratford is a trip - as is the nearby Warwick and its castle :-)

A Valdese Blogger
Thanks for stopping by and good to meet you too. I will be dropping in on your blog regularly too.

Ivanhoe said...

I loved the story about St George & the dragon. We have so many old stories and fairy tailes in Europe, don't we? I kind of miss it in U.S... I guess wild wild west stories about Indians & Cowboys may qualify ;o)
Have a great weekend!

Brit Boy said...

It is an interesting story, and yes there are many like that over here in the Old World :-)
I hope you have a great weekend too!

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