It is widely accepted that the Patron Saint of England is St. George. On the 23rd of April people get together and fly St.Georges cross, and celebrate it as the national day of England. It is my belief that we should get together on the 20th of November for St. Edmund’s Day.
Some people might be really surprised to find out St. George does not hold the honour of being the first Patron Saint of England. It was first granted to Edmund the Martyr or St. Edmund, the courageous King of East Anglia, 9th century AD.
The King of East Anglia, St. Edmund was born on Christmas Day 841 AD. The Christian King became the King of Anglia in 856 AD. He apparently fought bravely alongside the likes of King Alfred of Wessex to hold off the attacks of Pagan Viking raiders who they called ”Northmen” and ”Heathen Barbarians” or better referred to as ”The Great Heathen Army” until about 869/70 AD when his army lost and he was subsequently captured by the Pagan Vikings. They instructed Edmund the Martyr to renounce Christianity and become a puppet King for the Vikings, St. Edmund refused to renounce his faith or share power with the Pagan Vikings.
There is an claim by Abbo of Fleury in the 10th century, that uses St. Dunstan as it’s source, Edmund the Martyr was attached to a tree, feathered with arrows before being beheaded. It was reportedly the 20th of November Edmund was made a Martyr a King who died for his people, country and faith. After he was beheaded re-attached to his body with the aide of a talking wolf then blasted out: “Hic, Hic, Hic” (“Here, Here, Here”) to call out his supporters.
It’s not set in stone where Edmund was made a Martyr some say Bradfield St Clare close too Bury St Edmunds, other people say Maldon in Essex or even Hoxne in Suffolk.
But what we do know is his remains were moved to Bedricsworth now called Bury St. Edmunds in the year of 902 AD where a King called Athelstan created a religious community to safeguard the shrine and then shortly after it became a place for pilgrimage nationwide.
Another King call Canute built up a stone abbey to further protect the shrine in the year of 1020 AD. For many centuries the shrine and resting place of St. Edmund was Patronised by all sorts of English Kings and it resulted in the abbey making a lot of money because St. Edmund became very renowned and a cult-like figure.
St. Edmund and St. Edmund’s Day also held indirect authority back on St Edmund’s Day in 1214 AD rebellious English barons held secretive meetings with the intention of putting the “Charter of Liberties” in the face of evil King John, the forerunner to the “Magna Carta” which the evil King signed a year later. This was mirrored in the motto of Bury St Edmunds: ‘Shrine of a King, Cradle of the Law’.
Unfortunately, the influence St, Edmund & St. Edmund’s Day to wither away at the time of the Third Crusade in 1199 AD. The King at the time Richard I made homage to the tomb of St. George the day before a battle in Lydda. The very next day he secured a decisive victory. After this great victory, Richard made St. George the protector of the army and his very own Patron Saint.
Even though the flag of St.Edmund was flown high by the English army in times of battle, going to the times of Edward I the flag of St. George started to be commonly flown alongside the white dragon flag.
Going back to 1348 AD, the King at the time Edward III created a new chivalry order, called the Knights of the Garter. He then made him the Patron Saint of the order and subsequently made St. George Patron Saint of England.
What happened to the remain of St. Edmund? At the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the reign of King Henry VIII, his earthly remains were transported to France where they stayed until 1911 AD. Today the former Patron Saint of England’s remains are kept in the beautiful chapel inside Arundel Castle.
Many people have not forgotten St. Edmund!
Back in 2006 there was an attempt to reinstate St. Edmund as the Patron Saint of England. In the form of a petition being handed into Parliament but it was rejected by the government.
Then in 2013 there was another petition created to make St. Edmund the Patron Saint of England. It was an online petition ‘St Edmund for England’ Bury St Edmunds based brewery, Greene King backed the campaign and petition.
Whilst I respect the concept of St. George’s Day and being taking pride in being English, it begs the question why our Patron Saint is also the Patron Saint of sixteen other countries, and he never even visited England and some suggest never even existed. Much better to have a Anglo-Saxon martyr-king St. Edmund who died for his faith, people, country and commitment to saving England from a barbarian culture and governance. He was a true hero and should be given the respect he deserves.