century. Studiessuch as these help to provide something of a methodological framework for this paper, where we identifyhistorical narratives and attempt to understand their evolution in the context of the commercial, political andcultural realities of the time.
Saint George is a problematic figure as a national and social brand. A common theme running throughcurrent popular debate is his mythical status. To an extent this is as a result of the accretion of layers of centuries of spontaneous and state-sponsored myth. Historians tend to place George's legends, in Lydda(Palestine), having been born in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey, Farmer 1977:177-8).
The Golden Legend
has the saint doing his valiant deeds in Libya, but when transplanted to England, local folklore has the saintfighting his battles in Herefordshire and Berkshire (Westwood & Simpson 735). A 16th century version of the tale recasts St George as a gentleman from Coventry (Simpson & Roud 2000:308). This problematicmythical status was further undermined when St George's official status as saint was reduced by the Vaticanin 1969, to that of local importance only (Farmer 1977:177).Moreover, the very foreignness of St George further undermines the appeal of his brand - particularlywhen he supplanted two perfectly sound local national heroes in Saints Edmund of East Anglia and Edwardthe Confessor in 1422. Recent calls for a national day have suggested more acceptable national saints for England, such as Alban (said to be the first Christian martyr in the country, Doughty 2006), a saint with lessmythical baggage. As if to emphasize the point, St George's cosmopolitan status is confirmed by his role asnational patron of Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as beingadopted by more than a dozen cities overseas. In branding terms, this relative ubiquity must surely underminethe potential value of St George as repository of exclusively English attributes?There are some more fundamental issues with the symbolism, though. Part of the problem is the core of the legend, the dragon - something that tends to undermine the Welsh national brand also. From the 18
century onwards a general admission that dragons were mythical creatures meant that they had to be re-conceptualized as allegorical figures on a par with many of the monsters in medieval bestiaries. The problemfor a brand is one of believability and trust in a set of values: St George appealed to medieval English rulersfor a number of supposed attributes, and because he was surrounded by a powerful narrative that woulddisseminate successfully in largely illiterate societies. But when core elements of this narrative are identifiedas apocryphal, where does this leave the power of the brand? And can such a brand survive the transitionfrom an agrarian, feudal society to then represent a post-industrial, post-empire, multi-cultural nation?
Historical context: saints, symbols and nation states
The adoption of saints as national symbols in western Europe started in about the 13th century, when theconcept of the nation state started to gain ground. Rulers, having identified themselves through their relationship with other rulers and with Rome, came to redefine themselves as sovereigns in their own right,answerable to God and,
, the Pope. National groupings came to be recognized through diplomatic