Monday, 14 June 2010


Here's a note of controversy for the World Cup. Despite having changed my website to reflect the national hysteria surrounding our bunch of overpaid hospital cases I can't get away from the thought that our national flag, colours and Patron Saint were all introduced by the Normans as they sought to change the traditions of this country root and branch.

Now that's not necessarily a bad thing and only a fool would declare that our country is timeless and that our traditions go back into the mists of time. They don't: somewhere along the line of our turbulent and often bloody history someone will have decided to have London as the capital, wear tartan, adopt the Indian rose as our national flower or impose Turkish knight St George as our patron saint.

That's the trouble with St George: his reputation is at best dodgy as he was apparently a bit of a murdering thug, he is the patron saint of half a dozen other countries, he never even visited England and, I have discovered just recently, he is actually the patron saint of England and Wales. That last bit's fine by me but the Welsh already have a patron saint of their own so why can't we?

Before St George was grafted onto the national psyche we had Edmund, a pukka (Indian word...) English (born in Germany) martyr murdered by the Vikings in Suffolk. Between Edmund and George we had Edward the Confessor, King of England, sponsor of the original Westminster Abbey and - unfortunately - promoter of one Guillaume the Bastard as a future ruler of our sceptr'd isle and the man who ushered in 200 years of brutal oppression of the rank and file of England - that's me and possibly you, in modern terms.

None of them is ideal but at least the 'Two Teds' actually spent some time here and one performed that fabulous trick of the truly iconic in getting himself killed in dramatic circumstances. If Athena had existed back in the 10th century there'd have been a poster of Edmund on the wall of every youth, sitting astride a horse looking troubled...

The key problem with either Edmund or Edward is that neither had a proper flag or standard so we haven't quite got the colours. I've seen one which is blue and yellow which would be quite nice. Just think, England football shirts could be sold by Ikea in future. I bet they'd be cheaper than the overpriced ones we have today. We could return to the ancient tradition of painting ourselves blue before going into contests. The tabloids could be full of terrible puns around the word 'woad' ('End of the Woad for Fabio', 'Woadful display from Green', etc, etc ad nauseaum).

I don't suppose it will catch on but it might be worth reflecting on precisely why we do what we do, if only so we don't take any of it too seriously. Anyway, roll on Friday and Algeria and Cry God for England, Wayne and St Edmund!


  1. Wales are the only UK nation to have their own homeborn saint. Patrick (Welsh slave) Andrew (Jewish) and George (Byzantine Greek, not a Turk they came later) There's no reason whatsoever for the English to re-adopt Edmund, instead we have George, a historically and legendary example of bravery in defence of the poor and the defenceless and of the Christian faith, so not a bad guy as an example to follow. Nor is there any mention of George being a murdering thug, unless you count all soldiers in the Roman army to be murdering thugs, he was executed by the Roman Emperor Diocletian for protesting about his persecution of Christians, doesn't sound so psychotic to me.

  2. St George is perfect for England. He represents an ethnically diverse nation that has stood for its principles in the face of tyranny.

    I'd hate to change to a saint that was English, (like St Patrick)and I'd defend Scotland's right to have a 'foreign' saint too.

  3. It seems a bit strange to have a foreign saint with absolutely no connection to England, especially one grafted onto the national consciousness by an occupying group.

    The emblem of St Edmund was carried at Agincourt so his place was assured until relatively recently.

  4. Andy, England has a very rich genetic mix and it always has.

    I always say I’m 50% Irish and 100% English. I don’t say this because I’m crap at maths. I’m trying to say that genetically my mother’s side came from Ireland, but I have only ever lived in England. I therefore consider myself to be English. That’s who I am and no one can deny me that fact.

    There is a concept called “civic nationalism”. This is where anyone, regardless of race, place of birth etc etc, can subscribe to a set of values and call themselves a citizen of that nation. It serves a community very well when there is a large influx of immigrants and has been used by the USA very effectively.

    They swear allegiance to 'the flag' (largely based upon the East Indian Company I believe) and constitution of the United States. They are really subscribing to the “American way” and all are welcome, so long as they believe in its basic precepts.

    No one else has taken a more diverse set of people and integrated them so effectively. Everyone can still hang onto their Italian-American, African-American, Jewish-American identity, but they're American first. This is the nationalist model I subscribe to.

    I therefore think SG is as good an 'English bloke' as any other. So I'll barak (of unknown origin) for them.

  5. Thank you Terry, I agree entirely.