In our business, one is used to watching the tide of fashion rise and fall. Fortunately, in the world of traditional British tailoring, the tide is a gentle one that cleanses and refreshes whilst leaving the landscape largely intact. Not so the tide of popular opinion. Take the figure of Saint George, for example. One moment he’s the toast of the town (say, in the Lybian town of Silene in the third century) and then, a mere 1,800 years later, he’s suddenly seen as synonymous with a certain breed of unsavoury football enthusiast. Let us – for the weekend at least – attempt to set the record straight. For though he was born in modern-day Turkey, England’s patron saint has more in common with the English at their best than at their worst.
An excellent and principled soldier, he wasn’t one to sit idly by and watch injustice go unchallenged. He knew, no doubt, that pagan Roman Emperors are liable to ungentlemanly fits of temper, but that didn’t stop him calling foul when confronted with religious persecution. Being imprisoned, tortured, dragged through the streets and beheaded over the question of what is and what very definitely isn’t quite cricket is unquestionable a noble thing. The George Cross and the George Medal reflect this. Similarly, damning a dragon’s eyes for him before skewering the reptilian rogue with a lance surely falls within the highest sporting traditions.
The Scots celebrate St Andrew with a quiet dignity perfectly in keeping with their nation’s character. The Welsh remember St David with the sincerity and confidence that reflects their own. The Irish, of course, mark St Patrick’s Day with the raucous song and joyous verse that one can’t but admire. This Sunday, St George’s Day, let the English take on board these lessons and perhaps, with a red rose here or there, quietly, firmly but unambiguously be mighty proud of this personification of fair play.