British Lion

(The). The pugnacity of the British nation, as opposed to the John Bull, which symbolises the substantiality, solidity, and obstinacy of the people, with all their prejudices and national peculiarities.

To rouse the British Lion
is to flourish a red flag in the face of John Bull; to provoke him to resistance even to the point of war.

“To twist the lion's tail” is a favourite phrase and favourite policy with some rival unfriendly powers.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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