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.......St George’s Cross in History.......

The Red Cross, it has been claimed, was used in Britain “for a common signe eche manne to knowe his nacion from enemies” long before St George was born. But whether or not St George truly lived is a matter for argument. No one can be certain. However, despite the uncertainty, from a very early date he was regarded as the martyred soldier of the Church. Harding’s Chronicle, pp 84-5

Bollandus, Acta Sanctorum, III, pp 153 et seq

In the First Crusade he was reported as turning the battle for the Christians at Antioch in 1099 when he appeared at the head of a heavenly army of white horses, his followers displaying white banners, after which the Crusaders adopted him as their especial patron. Baldrici Episcopi Dolensis, pp 77 and 96
That Richard Lionheart was the first to take the red cross of St George is unproven. Indeed, at that time the English Crusaders wore white crosses, the French red, and the Flemings green. St Thomas of Canterbury was the English patron saint, and the first known appearance of the banner of St George was in 1300 at the siege of Caerlaverock. Diceto, II, p. 51

Gesta Regis Henrici II

Caerlaverock Roll

Although both Edward I and Edward II flew the St George banner in their wars against Scotland, it was not until the reign of Edward III that St George became the Patron Saint of England. Froissart, who wrote from 1357 onwards, repeatedly refers to the English calling on St George for aid. Bain’s Cal. Doc. Scot. II and IV

Froissart, passim

Edward III “appoynted his souldiers to wear white Coats or Jackets, with a red Crosse before and behind over their Armoure, that it was not onely a comely, but a stately sight to behold the English Battles, like the rising Sunne, to glitter farre off in that pure hew; when the souldiers of other nations in their baser weedes would not be discerned.” Speed, Historie of Great Britain, p. 687, quoting Polydore Vergil
In 1364 the Teutonic Knights quarrelled with the English Crusaders over the use of the St George banner, and this was repeated with the Earl of Derby in 1391. On 17 June 1386 Richard II ordered his soldiers to wear the Red Cross to identify themselves in battle. Script. Rer. Pruss. II p. 544 and III p.168

Nicolas, Battle of Agincourt, p. 107

At the siege of Harfleur in 1415 the English ships displayed St George’s Cross, and the Saint supported the English at Agincourt where his banner was flown and his name invoked as the English warcry. Lydgate, Siege of Harfleur and Battle of Agincourt, pp 16 and 22

Foedera, X pp 318-9

In 1418 at the capture of Rouen St George’s name was again the English warcry and his banner was flown, and Henry V ordered his soldiers to wear the Red Cross. Excerpta Historica p. 28
It is well attested in many contemporary reports that in 1451 the English garrison at Bayonne, terrified by the appearance of a white cross in the sky (similar to that the French then wore on red jackets), removed the red cross from their banners and pennons, and surrendered, pleading that since it pleased God they should become Frenchmen, they would all wear white crosses. Waurin, vol. 1422-1431, p. 103

Bekynton’s Correspondence. II pp 245-6

Monstrelet’s Chronicles, Johne’s translation, II p. 198

and others

In the French campaign of 1513 Henry VIII wore the Red Cross, the warcry was “St George”, and the banner was displayed. In 1552 his son, Edward VI, while revising the Statutes of the Order of the Garter, noted that although St George’s name was no longer to be used, the Red Cross was to be kept because it was not the special ensign of St George but that of the English soldiers. Hall’s Henry VIII, I passim

Archaeologia, LIV p. 179

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