The patron saint of England since about the time of the institution of the Order of the Garter (1349). St. George was " adopted " by Edward III. He is commemorated on April 23. St. George had been popular in England from the time of the early Crusades, for he was said to have come to the assistance of the Crusaders at Antioch (1098), and many of the Normans (under Robert, son of William the Conqueror) then took him as their patron.
The existence of historical St. George is in doubt, but his legend has been a powerful one. There are various versions of his Acta, one saying that he was a tribune and that he was asked to come and subdue a dragon that infested a pond at Silene, Libya, and fed on the dwellers in the neighborhood. St. George came, rescued a princess (Sabra) whom the dragon was about to make its prey, and slew the monster after he had wounded it and the princess had led it home in triumph by her girdle.
The legend of St. George and the dragon is in part a universal folk theme (see
Andromeda ), in part an allegorical expression of the triumph of the Christian hero over evil, which St. John the Divine beheld under the image of a dragon. Similarly, St. Michael, St. Margaret, St. Sylvester, and St. Martha are all depicted as slaying dragons; the Saviour and the Virgin as treading them under their feet. A snake or a dragon biting its tail was sometimes an attribute of Father Time in Renaissance art.
The legend forms the subject of an old ballad given in Percy 's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. Spenser introduces St. George into The Faerie Queene
as the Red Cross Knight.