Wednesday, 26 September 2018

History of our patron saints

MEMBERS of Henley Rotary Club met at the Plowden Arms in Shiplake on Tuesday, which was St George’s Day.

MEMBERS of Henley Rotary Club met at the Plowden Arms in Shiplake on Tuesday, which was St George’s Day.

The speaker was the Rev Canon Martyn Griffiths, rector of St Mary’s Church, Henley, who gave a comprehensive but light-hearted description of the patron saints of England.

He said St George had three predecessors, the first of whom was St Gregory, the first Gregory to become Pope (590-604).

His memorable words referred to the English boys he saw at a slave market, remarking that they were not Angles but angels and, as a result, he sent Augustine to Britain to convert the population to Christianity.

St Edmund, the king of East Anglia from 855 until his death at the hands of the Danish Viking invaders in 869, was another of England’s saints, while the third of George’s predecessors was Edward the Confessor, the penultimate Anglo-Saxon King of England who constructed Westminster Abbey, where he was buried.

The making of George as the final patron saint in 1350 was due to Edward III, who admired the exploits of one of his predecessors, Richard I (Lionheart), in the Third Crusade against Saladin.

Edward established the Order of the Garter in 1348 and renamed St Edmund’s Chapel at Windsor St George’s.

However, it was probably not until the time of Shakespeare, about 250 years later, that George’s iconic status was immortalised, when his play Henry V contained the famous line: “Cry, ‘God for Harry, England and St George!’”

Roger Sayer, the club’s president-elect, proposed the vote of thanks.

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