QUEEN ELIZABETH'S DISLIKE Bede's " Certain Martyr"
The Archbishop of Liverpool, Mgr. Downey, uttered criticism of the way in which St. George's feast had been neglected in England since the Reformation. He pointed out that Queen Elizabeth had had a marked antipathy for St. George— though not for the dragon.
Mgr. Downey was speaking at a banquet in honour of the saint's feast day, which is reported elsewhere.
When two years ago he had the honour of speaking at that St. George's day banquet, said his Grace, he pointed out that Gibbon in the eighteenth century and Lord Rosebery in the nineteenth had confused the saint who was venerated throughout the whole Eastern Church as "the Great Martyr" with a villainous Arian bishop. George of Cappadocia, who for his multitudinous misdeeds was put to death by his flock more than half a century after the martyrdom of the real St. George.
Mr. Lloyd George was now to be added to the illustrious company in error. Gibbon, of course, set the ball rolling and his blunder constituted one of the most amazing cases of mistaken tdentFty on record.
It was explained only on the hypothesis that in this instance, as in' others, Gibbon allowed his anti-Christian prejudice to mould his presentation of history.
Psychologically he had always been prepared to believe the worst of anything or anyone Christian.
"Little is known of St. George for the simple reason that few records of the third century, in which he lived, have come down to us," said Mgr. Downey. "It is interesting to note, however, that St. Bede, the chronicler of the AngloSaxon Church, writing in the first half of the eighth century, records how he heard from a pilgrim returned from the Holy Land of a certain martyr called George, to whom a marble statue had been raised at Lydda. The reverence and honour in which he was held throughout the land is clear from many references to him in Shakespeare."
But there was sufficient evidence that St. George was associated with milder exploits and came to be regarded not merely as a patron of battles, but as a knight-errant against all evils and as a guardian of the peace.
Erasmus, the archbishop pointed out, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, in his Enchiridion, had said that it was customary among the faithful to pray to St. George for deliverance from one's enemies.
And as Erasmus himself had a plentiful crop of enemies who failed to circumvent him, he had presumably prayed to St. George. They did well to keep to the Shakespearean tradition and the ancient usage of the Church in England in invoking the aid of St. George as the heavenly protector of this realm.
The name George had always been popular in England and had been borne by many who had distinguished themselves in the service of their country.
They were reminded that it was the Christian name of their late beloved sovereign, who by his chivalrous qualities and noble life of consecrated service to his people, added to it a new lustre.