The Cult of St George in Medieval England
By Jonathan Good
Recently, St George has enjoyed a modest revival as a specifically English national symbol. But how became the patron saint of England in the first place has always been a mystery. He was not English, nor was his principal shrine there – the usual criteria for national patronage; yet his status and fame have eclipsed all others. Instead, it was Edward III’s use of the saint in his wars against the French that really established him as a patron and protector of the king. Unlike other such saints, however, George was enthusiastically adopted by other English people to signify their membership in the `community of the realm’. This book traces the origins and growth of his cult, arguing that, especially after Edward’s death, George came to represent a `good’ politics [in this case, the shared prosecution of a war with spoils for everyone] and could be used to rebuke subsequent kings for their poor governance. Most kings came to realize this fact, and venerated St. George in order to prove their worthiness to hold their office. This political dimension of the cult never completely displaced the devotional one, but it was so strong that St. George survived the Reformation as a national symbol – one that grows ever more important in the wake of devolution and the recovery of a specifically English identity.
1 George the Saint, England the Nation
2 The Cult of St. George: Origins, Development, and Arrival in England
3 Royal St. George, 1272-1509
4 Popular St. George in Late Medieval England
5 St. George’s Post-Medieval Career