This annual festival celebrates the patron saint of England, Saint George. The Feast of St George will once again take place in Trafalgar Square on the 23rd of April 2022 which is known as St George’s Day. The square will be a riot of colour on the big day, with the venue decked out in the iconic red and white cross of St George and with colourful dancers, stilt walkers and Pearly Kings and Queens adding to the spectacle.
Traditionally a national day of celebration, St George’s Day has been marked in England since the 15th century, with fairs, feasts and lavish banquets. It is Shakespeare who is said to have popularized the festival during the Tudor period. The Bard referred to the date time and again in his writing with the term ‘Saint George’ appears in the writer’s works on no fewer than 18 times. Most memorably, Shakespeare references Saint George during Henry the V’s famous rallying cry to his men: “Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’
In the mythical tale, George attempts to free a princess and save the land from an evil dragon. However, in real life, St George was an interesting and often surprising figure. A Christian soldier in the Roman Empire, he was born in a place called Cappadocia in modern Turkey around the year 270AD.
In reality, the fearsome dragon which Saint George fought was the Roman Empire and in particular its treatment of imprisoned Christians. George’s protests led to his downfall, however, as the then Roman emperor, Diocletian, ordered his death for failing to renounce his faith.
Later, in the early fourteenth century, England’s King Edward I began to take an interest in St. George. On his orders, troops began to wear the cross of Saint George as they rode into battle. Edward also flew the saint’s flag over one of his castles. Edward’s grandson carried on the tradition when he became King. When Edward III created the Knights of the Garter, he chose Saint George to be their patron saint. A short time after, George was made patron saint of all England.
George is not just England’s saint, however. He is also the patron saint of Portugal and Ethiopia as well as several cities around the globe. Nonetheless, Saint George holds a special place in the hearts of all true Englishmen.
The Feast of St George takes place on the 23rd of April 2022. For more information on the event, please click here.
For information on other festivals in London, please click here.