April 23rd marks the greatest failure of Henry III’s 56 years on the throne. It is, of course, St George’s Day, who would not be the patron saint of England if Henry had got his way. He laboured endlessly to promote St Edward the Confessor for the role, regularly celebrating both of his feast days (5 January and 13 October) and rebuilding Westminster Abbey with a shrine to Edward as the centerpiece of it.
Henry’s great-grandson Edward III bore the name of the Confessor but he opted for George as his standard bearer. The reason was simple. Where Henry’s thing was peace, Edward’s was war. Can’t whip the French or Scots with a peacemaker as your inspiration.
In a long reign full of irony, this was perhaps the bitterest. Henry III was unjustly accused in his day (as well as ours) of being unnaturally bewitched by foreigners, and yet here he gives his people an English patron saint but they prefer George, whose origins are unknown but he certainly wasn’t English. Just no making these people happy.