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The Cult of St George in Medieval England

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Shortlisted for the Katharine Briggs Award 2010

Recently, St George has enjoyed a modest revival as a specifically English national symbol. But how became the patron saint of England in the first place has always been a mystery. He was not English, nor was his principal shrine there - the usual criteria for national patronage; yet his status and fame have eclipsed all others. Instead, it was Edward III's use of the saint in his wars against the French that really established him as a patron and protector of the king. Unlike other such saints, however, George was enthusiastically adopted by other English people to signify their membership in the `community of the realm'. This book traces the origins and growth of his cult, arguing that, especially after Edward's death, George came to represent a `good' politics [in this case, the shared prosecution of a war with spoils for everyone] and could be used to rebuke subsequent kings for their poor governance. Most kings came to realize this fact, and venerated St. George in order to prove their worthiness to hold their office. This political dimension of the cult never completely displaced the devotional one, but it was so strong that St. George survived the Reformation as a national symbol - one that grows ever more important in the wake of devolution and the recovery of a specifically English identity.

JONATHAN GOOD is Assistant Professor of History at Reinhardt College.

Reviews

The book is definitely a full, erudite consideration of the origins, development, and overall history of the Cult of St. George, from its inception and arrival in England to its influence through the Middle Ages and beyond. JOURNAL OF ENGLISH & GERMANIC PHILOLOGY

An engaging [...] and generally excellent volume. JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES

Ein angenehm lesbarer, mit Gewinn zu benutzender Einstieg in die hagiographische Wunderwelt des spätmittelalterlichen England und die besondere Rolle, die dem heiligen Georg darin zukam. Good liefert damit einen soliden Ausgangspunkt für weitere Untersuchungen. H-SOZ-U-KULT

A delightful study. BOOK NEWS

A timely addition to the canon of St George studies - and in many ways it is far more useful than a number of recent works, not least because it is supported by a full set of references, a piece of scholarly apparatus that is often denied to those authors (myself included) who may publish with less thoroughly academic imprints than Boydell. [...] A timely and useful text which will do much to assist the ongoing invigoration of interest in St George and his English cult. REVIEWS IN HISTORY

An excellent, methodical study, highly recommended to academics and curious lay readers alike. MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

A well-researched and clearly written account of how England adopted its improbable national saint. TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT

Details

First Published: 16 Jul 2009
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843834694
Pages: 230
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press
Subject: Medieval History
BIC Class: HBLC1

Details updated on 23 Sep 2014

Contents

  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  George the Saint, England the Nation
  • 3  The Cult of St. George: Origins, Development, and Arrival in England
  • 4  Royal St. George, 1272-1509
  • 5  Popular St. George in Late Medieval England
  • 6  St. George's Post-Medieval Career
  • 7  Appendix
  • 8  Bibliography