Andy McSmith's Sketch: Who needs a dubious martyr to make them a proud Briton?


People do funny things on or around St George’s Day. There is the Great English Asparagus Run in the Vale of Evesham, which begins with morris dancers on parade outside the Fleece Inn, in Bretforton, at 8am. Plymouth also jingles to the sound of morris dancers, during a celebration in the city centre where local bands perform, and children and adults compete in a fancy-dress competition to be the best-dressed knight.

Last Monday, there was a traditional Feast of St George in Trafalgar Square, with stalls laid out with hog roasts, pies, cakes, lemonade and other delights. On Saturday, Mike the Knight will reappear in Leicester, along with Sir Aurelious Jones and his friendly 5m-long fire-breathing dragon, during a day of family entertainment to mark St George’s Festival.

All this for someone whose saintliness is disputed. The legend brought back from the Middle East by crusaders told that George was passing by as a princess was about to be sacrificed to a dragon, whereupon he fought the dragon, rescued the princess, and converted all the townsfolk to Christianity. Another version of his story is that he was a Roman soldier, born to Christian parents in Turkey, who was beheaded for his faith on 23 April AD303.

Edward Gibbon, the author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, took savage delight in debunking the legend. He claimed that “Saint” George was a shady character who started out by selling dodgy meat to the Roman army, tricked his way into becoming the Archbishop of Alexandria, and was then overthrown and lynched by his furious congregation. “This odious stranger… assumed the mask of a martyr, a saint and Christian hero; and the infamous George of Cappadocia has been transformed into the renowned St George of England,” he wrote.

David Cameron evidently does not buy Gibbon’s version. In his special St George’s Day video, the Prime Minister proclaimed: “Up and down the country the flag of St George is flying high and celebrations from the archaic to the eccentric are taking place. In Plymouth a patriotic festival; in London a great feast in Trafalgar Square; in Leicester a medieval re-enactment; and in Worcestershire an annual asparagus run.

“St George has been England’s patron saint since 1350. But for too long, his feast day – England’s national day – has been overlooked.”

That is probably not enough to win back all the English nationalists who have drifted away from the Tory party into the arms of Ukip, which appears to have been Mr Cameron’s intention. Paul Nuttall, Ukip’s deputy leader, wants nothing less than having 23 April declared a bank holiday, an idea also favoured by a small number of Tory MPs, notably Andrew Rosindell, who used to go out campaigning accompanied by a bulldog named Spike that was wrapped in a Union Jack waistcoat. Today, on the ConservativeHome website, Mr Rosindell promised to continue the struggle because “the people of England deserve a day to  feel proud”.

What I don’t understand is why we need someone who may or may not have died a martyr’s death somewhere in the Middle East to make us proud to be English on 23 April, when we have Shakespeare. A happy 450th to him.

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments