giovedì, luglio 01, 2004

Flying the Flag

But, the flag of what?

Reading through the Guardian this morning, I was struck by a small cartoon at the bottom of the page by Austin, a regular contributor. A knight in armour, holding a banner showing the flag of St George. The dragon that St George is so famous for slaying is standing close by saying "That flag makes you look a bit of a loser".

It got me thinking about the flag of St George and how it has become the flag of England and the symbol of Englishness in a fairly myopic way these days.

How has St George come to be regarded as such a symbol of English might though? England's patron saint under the Normans and early Plantagenets was ironically, a Saxon king, Edward the Confessor. George crept in first as patron of the Order of the Garter in 1348 under Edward III. The following year Edward, during the siege of Calais, is said to have suddenly drawn his sword and called out: "Ha! Saint Edward. Ha! Saint George!". According to Thomas of Walsingham, these words "instilled spirit in his soldiers and they fell with vigour on the French and routed them". This was in the year 1349, 419 years after the same flag was awarded to Milano by Lambert, then archbishop of Milano, in the year 930.

Milano is not alone in having as it's flag that of St George (known as Gherghis or El Khoudi in Islamic renditions of his legend). It is also used by Genova (1198) and Frieberg (1368) as well as the Brasilian Merchant Navy Health Service!

So, what I would like to know is why they are so proudly flying the flag of Milano (and Genova, Frieberg and the Brasilian Merchant Navy Health Service) as though it's their own flag? Still - I suppose that as they stole the country, they might as well steal the flag as well!