LibLink: Greg Mulholland – A day to celebrate England, Englishness, and all things English

st georgeToday is St George’s Day, and Greg Mulholland has marked the occasion with an article in Endeavour Public Affairs.  He writes:

St George’s Day is an occasion when we should celebrate England, Englishness, and all things English.  Yet how many English people actually take the time to celebrate, to commemorate the event, even by that most English of pastimes, by popping for a pint of England’s national drink, beer, in one of our most distinctive of English institutions, the public house?

It often seems to me, surely strangely, that the answer is fewer than the number of people who live in England and celebrate St Patrick’s Day.  It is not only the Irish Diaspora communities who celebrate this, so why is it that not more English residents, whether born and bred or not, choose to celebrate our national day?

He asks why the English are so reticent to celebrate their Englishness.

… is it because we are still not always clear what it means to be English and many English people continue, to the ongoing annoyance of those in Scotland and Wales who support the Union, to confuse and conflate England with Britain and the UK?

… Politicians and commentators, for example, call William Shakespeare a ‘great Briton’.  He was great certainly, but not a Great Briton.  There was no Great Britain in his day; he died in 1616, 91 years before Great Britain was formed via the union with Scotland.  He was and is a great Englishman!

Similarly, the RFU continue to persist with the nonsense of having England singing the British national anthem, which equally belongs to Wales and Scotland, at Six Nations matches.

He concludes with a call to action:

So let us start with a simple move.  We, the English, have now realised that when we are being English and representing England, that we use the English, not the UK flag.  So now it is time to reserve “God Save the Queen” for the Olympics and Paralympics, for UK and British teams, and any time we are proudly representing the UK or Great Britain.  Then, let us, when are we representing England, be English and sing as English men and women, players, athletes, and fans.  We need a strong, English song to sing when England take to the sporting pitch, so we can be proud of representing or supporting England.

Any suggestions for a song for England?

You can read the full article here.

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24 Comments

  • Paul in Twickenham 23rd Apr '13 - 12:15pm

    Land Of Hopeless Tories?

  • Morwen Millson 23rd Apr '13 - 12:23pm

    As a proud Welshwoman and Briton, I strongly support Greg on this. I hate the use of our national anthem in support of English teams. I hate it when Celts of all nations boo the National anthem, but English theft of it encourages this. If England had its own anthem, it may encourage respect for all anthems. Sorry Andy, but it would be pretty stupid for the home internationals to be flagless and anthem less!

  • Dominic Carman 23rd Apr '13 - 1:33pm

    The Lib Dems need to develop a credible set of policies on immigration and the underlying subordinate issues of jobs, housing and welfare, otherwise the party is destined to become the fourth party of English politics behind UKip.

  • @Andy, it’s that sort of attitude which drives people in Scotland and Wales to independence. “God Save the Queen” is the British national anthem – so when (for example) Jonny Wilkinson represents the British Lions, then he’s representing the whole of the UK and that’s fine. But when he played for England, he was no more representing me and my country as Lionel Messi does in football (though I wish we could find a Scottish granny or something!) and to use my national anthem because of sheer laziness or misplaced Imperialism is actually quite offensive.

    Now, for an English tune, I actually think “Jerusalem” is the best – stirring, and easily singable.

  • @Morwen, “English theft”??? What are you are on about? As far as I was aware, the English are a part of Britain, or did that change without my knowledge?

    Many English people just think, why celebrate disunity, when there is so much more to be gained from showing our unity. We respect your right not to use the British national anthem, so can you please be more respectful of our right to use it.

  • Steve Griffiths 23rd Apr '13 - 1:50pm

    An anthem or song for England yes, but please anything BUT ‘Jerusalem’. So many people have said to me it reminds them of their school, as it was their school song. I cannot take it seriously since the Monty Python crowd lampooned it, and who in their right mind would want to build ‘Jerusalem’ in “England’s green and pleasant land”?

  • “… is it because we are still not always clear what it means to be English and many English people continue, to the ongoing annoyance of those in Scotland and Wales who support the Union, to confuse and conflate England with Britain and the UK?”

    This in, my opinion, is one of those big social misconceptions held by those who spend too much time distancing themselves from the stereotyped, rather the stereotype. Most English people are well aware of the difference between being British and being English; however, as the English are simply not that concerned about differentiating themselves from the Scottish and Walsh, people seem to have developed a misconception that we are unmindful of our Englishness. Furthermore, England is simply less devolved, both legally and socially, from Britain than Scotland or Wales, and as a natural result, the lines between these two concepts appears to blur more for those outside of them.

    I will not lie, there is a problem outside of Britain about people confusing the differences between Britain and England, as highlighted by the fact that both Japanese and Chinese technically use the same words for these two rather distinct concepts, and have only recently began developing new terms for the two. However, how many people here know the difference between a Han Chinese and a Manchurian without looking it up? How many people understand the subtle and rather complex issues over nationality that exist between the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China? So I think this an understandable misconception.

    At worst, the English can be blamed for not being nationalistic enough by others’ standards; to me being English is just not that important. My British nationality has a lot more influence on my life than my ethnicity as English, and as such, the only time I ever even mention to others that I am English is when I find myself having to explain the differences between being British, English, Scottish or Walsh.

  • Peter Watson 23rd Apr '13 - 2:37pm

    While we’re at it, can I suggest changing the national anthem for Britain as well. I would love to sing about pride in my country (whether it’s England or Britain), and that does not involve beseeching a deity to prolong the life of some old biddy or her offspring.
    And it’s such a dreary tune.

  • I personally would love “I vow to thee my country”, but with different lyrics.

    Any of you wordsmiths out there got any ideas?

  • St George was Lebanese. ‘Credible’ policies on immigration (btw, the definition is a loose one and covers students who only come for a period of a few years) presumably also include those on emigration (ditto) : should other countries stop UK citizens from working or living abroad? If the Lib Dems are ‘destined’ to become the fourth party behind UKIP it is because they reneged on their promises at the last election, sadly. People are rather desperate for a decent alternative, a middle ground, and now that the LDs have failed to supply it, will be turning everywhere else in frustration, and loss. Never a good thing.

  • I think the UK national anthem is a dismal dirge, and the English and their teams are welcome to it – even if they don’t usually get the words right!

  • Meral Hussein Ece 24th Apr '13 - 8:53am

    I’m all for celebrating St George’s Day – a truly multicultural patron saint – born in Turkey with a Palestinian mother.

  • Keith Legg – the “British” Lions is actually the British Isles Rugby Union Touring Team, now referred to as the British and Irish Lions. As such it is two nations (United Kingdom and Irish Republic) and GSTQ should never be used in that context (fine before 1922, not so afterwards).

    The English Rugby Union team should use “Jerusalem” as their national anthem. I believe this is used at the Commonwealth Games as the English anthem. Job done.

  • With the interesting exception of the United States, the nations which are most concerned to celebrate and shout out their identity are those which have a long experience of being threatened or marginalised. After long years when any expression of national identity could lead to legal sanctions, Basques and Catalans, Lithuanians and Estonians – and Welsh, though the legal disadvantage ended much longer ago – reassert their survival. Clearly the English are not threatened by whatever expression of national identity the Scots, Welsh and Cornish choose. Of course, there are people whose narrow conception of Englishness is threatened by immigration, the European Union or even gay marriage, but I agree with the promoters of Englishness that the English flag and identity cannot be left to the angry and paranoid far right. So red crosses on white at international sporting contests are fine.

    If English people want to drink beer in a pub on St George’s day, that’s fine by me (as long as they don’t suggest pubs and beer aren’t equally Scots and Welsh phenomena). It’s also fine by me if they wave the flag under which the armies of Parliament fought and overthrew Charles I, and fine if in a spirit of internationalism they celebrate the saint’s day of the patron saint of Bulgaria, a man totally unconnected to England in his lifetime.

    The idea of an English national anthem separate from the current British anthem appeals to me because the latter is a depressing dirge and neither my sense of Englishness nor my sense of Britishness depend on loyalty to or admiration of the crown.

  • @Merel Hussein Ece I don’t disagree that St George’s is a good saint for our multicultural country given his diverse background but a more accurate discription would surely be born in what is today Turkey to a Palestinian mother in what was at time the Greek speaking Eastern half of the Roman Empire.

  • Yorkshire Guidon 24th Apr '13 - 3:13pm
  • @Yorkshire Guidon an excellent blog post and a very good point about only being limited to one patron saint.

    Before the pushing or the cult of St George by the monarchy English monarchs had been particularly attached the cult of Edward the Confessor so I imagine a case could be made for including his cult amongst the list of potential patron saints.

  • I celebrated my Englishness by sticking two fingers up at all the jingoistic flag-wavers out there.

    I don’t celebrate my freedoms, I exercise them.

    Greg Mulholland on drinking beer, change the tune lad!

  • England began in 927 when Aethelstan was crowned as the first King of England at Kingston upon Thames, uniting several Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into one nation. I’ve always felt we should do more in Kingston to celebrate the birthplace of our nation. The Coronation Stone currently stands outside the Guildhall, but there are plans to move it back to the parish church where it belongs.

  • Mary,
    the story of ‘England’ is deeper than a date or page in a dusty book which nobody reads, it is a story without a single definitive beginning because it is constantly evolving as it reflects contemporary political fashion.

    Celebrate your own local history, and do it in your own way by all means, but please don’t impose it on people whose cares reside elsewhere.

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