Friday, 24 April 2009

A Fitting Symbol

“A better St George’s day message would have been to emphasise that George was either Turkish or Palestinian and that, like Christianity itself, his legend was an immigrant to these shores.” [1]

The expression of the need to emphasise non-Englishness on England’s national day is hardly a notable occurrence, having now become quite a tradition, but here Mr Giles Fraser adds to the festivities a strained and clumsy equivocation on the word “immigrant” which does at least deserve note. It seems that, since we have admitted some legends, ideas, and beliefs as “immigrants” from foreign lands, and we do not object too much to their presence, we ought not to refuse other immigrants of a more bodily kind. In this, Saint George is a fitting symbol: a foreigner who replaced a native — Saint Edmund.

[1] Giles Fraser, “St George the immigrant”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s weblog), 23rd April 2009.

14 comments:

dearieme said...

Does he fool even himself? Doubtful.

Deogolwulf said...

Who knows? But this country seems to have a plentiful supply of blighters.

The Dandy Highwayman said...

I was once accused of racism for displaying the English flag on my computer at work on St George's day. I did it again this year.

Incidentally, St George replaced St Edward, not St Edmund. Edmund, although popular among the nobility, was not really a national patron. He also continued to be popular after George's arrival; both St George's cross and St Edmund's arms were flown at Agincourt, for example.

I may be wrong but I do not think that England had an official (that is to say, recognised by the Church) patron saint before Edward the Confessor was adopted by Henry II. I believe Edward is still the patron saint of the English royal family.

Deogolwulf said...

Mr Highwayman,

I may be in murky ecclesiastical-historical waters here, and I certainly hope I have not been holding to a myth, but I have long believed that, before the Conquest, Edmund was considered to be patron saint of England; but, now that you mention it, I cannot rightly say on what basis I have believed it to be true. Whether, or to what extent, such a status was official at that time, I am at a loss to say. I shall have to look it up; but I see that you may well be right.

dearieme said...

"the English royal family": no such beast; abolished 1707.

David Duff said...

You mean they're bloody immigrants, too, 'DM'?

The Scylding said...

Question: In my modge podge of ancestry, I have French (Hugenot), German, English and Dutch ancestors, and my wife has English, Irish, Scottish, Dutch and (distant) Breton ancestory.

My English ancetsors were Gilpin & Warrington, my wife's were Lawrence.

If we where to migrate to England, would we be immigrants as per the above discussion?

And yes, I'm trying to be difficult....

BTW, we are bilingual in my house, and two different English accents are spoken....

The Dandy Highwayman said...

Dear dearieme,

Abolished? More expanded, I think. You are quite right though, St Edward is now patron of a family that rules, at least nominally, more than merely England.

Dear Deogolwulf,

I suppose it all depends on what you mean by "patron saint". As far as I am aware, the first saint recognised as patron of England by the Roman Catholic Church was St Edward. However, it might not be incorrect to refer to St Edmund, who certainly was very popular among the English, as a patron saint. If you do find a definitive answer either way, please do post it here.

Deogolwulf said...

Mr Scylding,

I am not sure why you wouldn’t consider yourself an immigrant. (Then again, I suppose it all depends on the domain and its bounds: ethnic group, state, nation, race, linguistic group, etc.) As for the United Kingdom, not even HM Government has yet determined that all who enter for permanent residence are somehow non-immigrants thereto. Since, however, the genius of that government has no problem with the concept of compulsory volunteers, I should think that the concept of non-immigrant immigrants would present little difficulty.

Mr Highwayman,

It seems, from what little I have learnt, that Edmund was indeed widely venerated before the Conquest and into the High Middle Ages, and was in that time also considered a patron of England amongst other things, most notably also of royalty, but I am little clearer about how far such consideration was official, or even what it meant for it to be official, and whether to speak of such is at all applicable to the times. As you say, there may have been no particular stipulation for official patronage. Still, my knowledge of the history of ecclesiastical officialdom is very far from adequate! (Besides, you probably know more about this than I do, and so I find myself in the embarrassing position of telling you hazily what perhaps you already know in greater detail.) A few quotes from J.B. MacKinlay’s Saint Edmund: King and Martyr (London and Leamington: Art & Book Co., 1893) follow:

“And so it happened that, petty sovereign though he was, he gained universal love and admiration. Englishmen proudly ranked him with Constantine, Theodosius and Charlemagne. East Anglians considered him the equal of Alfred the Great.
Christendom honoured him with St. Edward the Confessor, St. Stephen of Hungary, St. Ferdinand of Castile, St. Canute of Denmark, St. Louis of France, as a royal national patron.” (p.136.)

“Lambert, abbot of St. Nicholas’, Angers, used to relate how on one of his many visits to the tomb of the renowned king and martyr the community asked him the reason of his singular devotion to St. Edmund, and he answered them: ‘Beloved brethren, St. Edmund king and martyr is deservedly considered our father as well as patron of England’.” (p.292.)

“This universal homage frequently took the form of verse. A poet of Rufford Abbey conceived the lines which fixed St. Edmund as a national patron.” (p.311.)

Cheeky Boy said...

The guy's an ignorant bald fat twat(Fraser). There were no Turks in what is now called Turkey back then.It was a Roman province, then part of the Byzantine Empire.As for Palestine, Roman again. George was supposed to have been a Roman soldier. Death to those who insult England!

The Scylding said...

Of course to make things even more confused, when I take up Canadian citizenship whne I finally qualify for it in about 20 months time, I would have the right to vote in Britain if I happen to be there and register.

My point was that it is easy for folks of a specifc, and relatively stable nationality (ie older than say 400 years) to claim country of origin. For us whose forefathers have been immigrating to the colonies between 1680 and 1880 approximately, these things can get rather murky, even more so when you yourself immigrate from one colony to the other.

Immigrant as a legal status is one thing, and is generally determined by government. Immigrant as a in "ghastly outsider" or "different culture" is not always a clear-cut matter.

Coments?

The Scylding said...

I was typing in a hurry, so my apologies for the typing errors in the comment above...

James Higham said...

And neither are remembered all that much.

Deogolwulf said...

"For us whose forefathers have been immigrating to the colonies between 1680 and 1880 approximately, these things can get rather murky, even more so when you yourself immigrate from one colony to the other."

And by such things new nations arise, just as, say, the Mongolian nation, or the nations of Europe, arose from the coming-together of various different tribal groups. Yet, for nations and cultures to arise, there has to come a time of lasting stability with a large degree of isolation whereby they arise and become discriminate as such. Moreover, if they are to survive as nations and distinctive cultures in any meaningful sense, then they must maintain their integrity to a great degree. If, on the other hand, there is a constant and great degree of interchange and migratory turmoil, then nothing settles and little of distinction emerges or survives.