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Let There Not Be Dragons

The red and white of St George will be out to celebrate England’s National Day on 23rd April but it may surprise some to learn that St. George was not English and that he never even visited our shores. In fact, he was born in the 3rd century AD in what is now Turkey. 

We share St George with a number of other countries.

There are a few more myths to dispel about St George. He was never a knight on a white charger slaying a dragon. He was more likely an officer in the Roman army under the Emperor Diocletian. 

George’s reputation spread across continents and he became popular among the Plantagenet kings, including Edward 1, who had banners made bearing a red cross on a white background. This emblem became a symbol for the Crusades and English knights.

In 1352, the College of St George was established at Windsor with six chorister boys. The school continues to play an important role in Windsor ceremonies and celebrations. 

Whilst St George was honoured and admired, a feast day or national holiday did not come about until around 1415, most likely after the Battle of Agincourt.

The myth of the dragon seems to have started about 500 years after George’s death. The story says that a dragon built its nest by a fresh water spring. Villagers who came to the spring for water would distract the dragon by offering a sheep. When there were no more sheep left, the villagers drew lots to sacrifice a maiden and the unlucky victim was the monarch’s daughter. Fortunately, George came riding by on his white horse, slew the dragon, saved the princess.

Whatever the truth behind the real St George, he will certainly be remembered at The Chiswick on 23 April when there will be afternoon tea and cakes and an old fashioned English sing-song.

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