Today is the feast of Saint Edmund, England’s original patron saint. In many ways he has more to offer than Saint George. He was a King of East Anglia, who fought alongside Alfred the Great, unlike Saint George who never came here. Saint George is also rather a busy patron saint, with many other places to consider. George became the patron saint of England on the order of Edward III, but his unfortunate links with the crusaders (he was said to have appeared to the crusader army at Antioch in 1098) makes him a difficult saint for all English to get behind.
While Saint Edmund, a man who died rather than betray his country, is an excellent possibility for a new patron saint, he is not the only candidate. Others could include
- Saint Alban – The first recorded British martyr, predating Saint Edmund the Marty by (possibly) over 600 years
- Saint Augustine – As the head of the church of England is the Archbishop of Canterbury, surely Saint Augustine, the first Archbishop would be a good choice. A friend of Pope Gregory the Great, he is styled Apostle to the English.
- Saint Felix – Another saint associated with East Anglia and the man credited with bringing Christianity to East Anglia. I am biased here as his see was (probably) at my favourite place – Dunwich. Dunwich today
- Saint Petroc – A saint which takes into account England’s Celtic heritage and one of the best candidates from the West Country.
- Saint Hilda – Representing both women and the North, this wise woman was consulted by Kings and was the founding abbess of Whitby Abbey.
- Saint Swithun – My personal favourite. Advisor to the Wessex Kings, Egbert and Athelwulf and a teacher to Alfred the Great. A humble man, who gave us the English summer – if it rains on his feast day it will rain for the next forty days! Given almost everyone in England has moaned about the weather at some point, Saint Swithun is surely one saint who can truly be for all the English!
So, Saint George, Saint Edmund or someone else. What do you think?