St. George

The traditional story of St. George is that he was a native of Syria, later a Roman officer, serving as far afield as Germany in the chaos of mid-third century barbarian invasions. In 304 he is supposed to have suffered from martyrdom for his refusal to renounce Christianity under the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian, the heroic restorer of the battered empire. The historical grounds for this account are thin. But by the Hundred Years War and the reign of Edward IIII (ruled 1327-77), the founder of the Order of the Garter and victor at Crecy, St. George had been adopted as patron saint of England, his name used as a battle cry, his symbol the Crusader’s red cross. The association has remained since then. Until the 1707 Act of Union the Cross of St. George served as England’s national flag, flown on warships and fortresses, predominant in the shield of Westminster and other cities and corporations.