Saint George’s Day is the feast day of Saint George and the National Day for England, although it is not an official national holiday in England. It is celebrated by various Christian churches and by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint. Saint George’s Day is celebrated on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of Saint George’s death in 303 AD.
The earliest documented mention of St. George in England comes from the venerable Bede (c. 673–735). He is also mentioned in ninth-century liturgy used at Durham Cathedral. The will of Alfred the Great is said to refer to the saint, in a reference to the church of Fordington, Dorset. At Fordington a stone over the south door records the miraculous appearance of St. George to lead crusaders into battle. Early (c. 10th century) dedications of churches to St. George are noted in England, for example at Fordingham, Dorset, at Thetford, Southwark and Doncaster. In 1222 The Synod of Oxford declared St. George’s Day a feast day in the kingdom of England. Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St. George. This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England and St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order. The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon. Froissart observed the English invoking St. George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453). Certain English soldiers also displayed the pennon of St George. In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare famously invokes the Saint at Harfleur prior to the battle of Agincourt (1415): “Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'” At Agincourt many believed they saw him fighting on the English side.