The St George’s flag is the flag of England and is derived from the St George’s cross which dates back to the Middle Ages. The flag is a red-centred cross on a white background and was used as a component in the design of the union flag in 1606. More recently, many sporting events use the flag as a national symbol.
In the King’s Crusade of Henry II of England and Phillip II of France in 1188, red and white crosses identified English and French troops. The red on white became a recognised symbol of the crusader, as did the Jerusalem cross. In the 13th century, numerous leaders of polities who wanted to associate themselves with the crusades started to use it as a standard emblem.
A historiographical tradition claims that Richard the Lionheart adopted the flag and the patron saint from Genoa during his crusade. Interestingly, we can trace this idea back to the Victorian era as a “common belief” that we still repeat today. However, one cannot validate it as historical.
We widely use the St George’s flag today. Church of England churches often fly the St George’s flag with the arms of the diocese in the top-left corner. The Earl Marshall officially requested this in 1938.
Comparatively recently, sporting events across the world use the flag. It’s the English national emblem at sporting events including the football and cricket World Cups, the Ashes, Six Nations, etc.
At the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations at Windsor, the St George’s cross flew from horseback alongside the flags of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The flag flies with the Union Flag every St George’s Day.
You can view more of the UK’s flag flying dates here.
St George was born around the year 280 in what is now Turkey. He was a soldier and rose through the ranks of the Roman army. He ultimately became a personal guard to the Emperor Diocletian. St George was executed on April 23, 303, and is buried in Lod in Israel.
St George slayed a dragon, for which he is most know. According to legend, a dragon guarded the only well in the town of Silene. To get water, the people of the town had to offer a human sacrifice every day to the dragon. One day, they selected a princess to be killed. St George, a knight from the crusades, came into the town riding on his white horse. He dismounted, drew his sword and killed the dragon, saving the princess’ life.
In Britain, St George, a Christian martyr, now represents traditional English chivalry and has inspired medals for bravery. For example, King George VI created the St George’s Cross during the Second World War. It has become the highest award a civilian can earn.
On 23rd April, Christian churches, nations, countries and cities that St George is the patron saint of, celebrate St George’s Day, the feast of St George. The Council of Oxford declared the day St George’s Day in 1222. Later, in 1348, St George became the Patron Saint of England. In 1415, England declared the day a national feast and holiday. After the union of Scotland at the end of the 18th century, the tradition diminished. There is no national holiday on this day anymore. For several years many people have been protesting for St George’s Day to become a national holiday again; just like how Ireland celebrate St Patrick’s Day and Scotland celebrate St Andrew’s Day.
The national holiday grew to be a big celebration across England. There were parties, parades, flying of the flag and people wearing a red rose on their lapel. These celebrations still happen across the country. Now, schools, shops, post offices and organisations are still open for business as usual.
This year it is on a Sunday. There are celebrations taking part all over the country with a gigantic feast in Trafalgar Square, medieval festivals at many English Heritage sites and street parties and parades across the country.
We hope we’ve given you a brief overview into the history of St George and the flag used to represent the saint. So, to make sure you are celebrating this St George’s Day check out our hand-sewn and printed St George’s Flag, with prices starting at £18.00.