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1. God save our gracious king!
Long live our noble king!
God save the king!
Send him victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us;
God save the king!
2. Thy choicest gifts in store
On him be pleased to pour;
Long may he reign!
May he defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the king!
Text: Anon., 18th century
Music: From Thesaurus Musicus, London, 1744
-History: (Source: Wikipedia)
“God Save the Queen” (alternatively “God Save the King“) is an anthem used in a number of Commonwealth realms and British Crown Dependencies. The words of the song, like its title, are adapted to the gender of the current monarch, with “King” replacing “Queen”, “he” replacing “she”, and so forth, when a king reigns. It is the de facto national anthem of the United Kingdom and some of its territories; one of the two national anthems of New Zealand (since 1977) and those of Britain’s territories that have their own additional local anthem; and theroyal anthem of Australia (since 1984), Canada (since 1980), Barbados, Jamaica, and Tuvalu, as well as Gibraltar and the Isle of Man. In countries not previously part of the British Empire, the tune of “God Save the Queen” has also been used as the basis for different patriotic songs, though still generally connected with royal ceremony.
The authorship of the song is unknown, and beyond its first verse, which is consistent, it has many historic and extant versions: Since its first publication, different verses have been added and taken away and, even today, different publications include various selections of verses in various orders. In general only one verse is sung; sometimes two verses are sung, and on rare occasions three.
The sovereign and his or her consort are saluted with the entire anthem, while other members of the royal family who are entitled to royal salute (such as the Prince of Wales) receive just the first six bars. The first six bars also form all or part of the Vice Regal Salute in some Commonwealth realms outside the UK (e.g., in Canada, governors general and lieutenant governors at official events are saluted with the first six bars of “God Save the Queen” followed by the first four and last four bars of “O Canada“), as well as the salute given to governors of British overseas territories.
In The Oxford Companion to Music, Percy Scholes devotes about four pages to this subject, pointing out the similarities to an earlyplainsong melody, although the rhythm is very distinctly that of a galliard, and he gives examples of several such dance tunes that bear a striking resemblance to “God Save the King/Queen”. Scholes quotes a keyboard piece by Dr. John Bull (1619) which has some similarities to the modern tune, depending on the placing of accidentals which at that time were unwritten in certain cases and left to the discretion of the player (see musica ficta). He also points to several pieces by Henry Purcell, one of which includes the opening notes of the modern tune, set to the words “God Save The King”. George Frideric Handel used the tune as theme in the variation piece ‘Sarabande’ of his Suite No.4 in E minor, HWV 429, composed prior to 1720. Nineteenth century scholars and commentators mention the widespread belief that an old Scots carol, “Remember O Thou Man” was the source of the tune.
The first published version of what is almost the present tune appeared in 1744 in Thesaurus Musicus. The 1744 version of the song was popularised in Scotland and England the following year, with the landing of Charles Edward Stuart and was published in The Gentleman’s Magazine (see illustration above). This manuscript has the tune depart from that which is used today at several points, one as early as the first bar, but is otherwise clearly a strong relative of the contemporary anthem. It was recorded as being sung in London theatres in 1745, with, for example, Thomas Arne writing a setting of the tune for the Drury Lane Theatre.
Scholes’ analysis includes mention of “untenable” and “doubtful” claims, as well as “an American misattribution”. Some of these are:
- The French Marquise de Créquy wrote in her book “Souvenirs”, that the tune Grand Dieu Sauve Le Roi, was written by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Lully set words by the Duchess of Brinon to music, and de Créquy claims the tune was later plagiarised by Handel. Translated in Latin under the name Domine, Salvum Fac Regem, it became the French anthem until 1792. After the Battle of Culloden, the Hanover dynasty supposedly then adopted this melody as the British anthem.
- James Oswald: He is a possible author of the Thesaurus Musicus, so may have played a part in the history of the song, but is not a strong enough candidate to be cited as the composer of the tune.
- Dr. Henry Carey: Scholes refutes this attribution, firstly, on the grounds that Carey himself never made such a claim. Secondly, when the claim was made by Carey’s son (as late as 1795), it was accompanied by a request for a pension from the British Government on that score. Thirdly, the younger Carey claimed that his father had written parts of it in 1745, even though the older Carey had died in 1743. It has also been claimed that the work was first publicly performed by Carey during a dinner in 1740 in honour of Admiral Edward “Grog” Vernon, who had captured the Spanish harbour of Porto Bello (then in Colombia, now Panama) during the War of Jenkins’ Ear.
Scholes recommends the attribution “traditional” or “traditional; earliest known version by John Bull (1562–1628)”. The English Hymnal (musical editor Ralph Vaughan Williams) gives no attribution, stating merely “17th or 18th cent.”
“God Save the Queen” is the national anthem of the United Kingdom. Like many aspects of British constitutional life, its official status derives from custom and use, not from Royal Proclamation or Act of Parliament. In general only one or two verses are sung, but on rare occasions three. The variation in the United Kingdom of the lyrics to “God Save the Queen” is the oldest amongst those currently used, and forms the basis on which all other versions used throughout the Commonwealth are formed; though, again, the words have varied throughout these years.
England has no official national anthem of its own; “God Save the Queen” is treated as the English national anthem when England is represented at sporting events (though there are some exceptions to this rule). There is a movement to establish an English national anthem, with Blake and Parry‘s “Jerusalem” and Elgar’s “Land of Hope and Glory” among the top contenders. Scotland and Wales have their own anthems for political and national events and for use at international football, rugby union and other sports in which those nations compete independently. On all occasions Wales’ national anthem is “Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” (Land of my Fathers). Scotland has no single anthem; “Scotland the Brave” was traditionally used until the 1990s, when “Flower of Scotland” was then adopted. In Northern Ireland, “God Save the Queen” is still used as the official anthem.
Since 2003, “God Save the Queen”, considered an all inclusive Anthem for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as other countries within the Commonwealth, has been dropped from the Commonwealth Games. Northern Irish athletes receive their gold medals to the tune of the “Londonderry Air“, popularly known as “Danny Boy“. In 2006, English winners heard Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, usually known as “Land of Hope and Glory”, but after a poll conducted by the Commonwealth Games Council for England prior to the 2010 Games, “Jerusalem” was adopted as England’s new Commonwealth Games anthem. In sports in which the UK competes as one nation, most notably as Great Britain at the Olympics, “God Save the Queen” is used to represent anyone or any team that comes from the United Kingdom.
The Queen herself prefers to refrain from singing along with the song when it is being performed.
The phrase “God Save the King” is much older than the song, appearing, for instance, several times in the King James Bible. Scholes says that as early as 1545 “God Save the King” was a watchword of the Royal Navy, with the response being “Long to reign over us”. He also notes that the prayer read in churches on anniversaries of the Gunpowder Plot includes words which might have formed part of the basis for the second verse “Scatter our enemies… assuage their malice and confound their devices”.
In 1745, The Gentleman’s Magazine published “God save our lord the king: A new song set for two voices”, describing it “As sung at both Playhouses” (the Theatres Royal at Drury Laneand Covent Garden).
Traditionally, the first performance was thought to have been in 1745, when it was sung in support of King George II, after his defeat at the Battle of Prestonpans by the army of Charles Edward Stuart, son of James Francis Edward Stuart, the Jacobite claimant to the British throne.
It is sometimes claimed that, ironically, the song was originally sung in support of the Jacobite cause: the word “send” in the line “Send him victorious” could imply that the king was absent. Also there are examples of early eighteenth century Jacobean drinking glasses which are inscribed with a version of the words and were apparently intended for drinking the health of King James II and VII.
Scholes acknowledges these possibilities but argues that the same words were probably being used by both Jacobite and Hanoverian supporters and directed at their respective kings.
In 1902, the musician Dr William Hayman Cummings, quoting mid-18th Century correspondence between Dr Charles Burney and Sir Joseph Banks, proposed that the words were based on a Latin verse composed for James II at the Chapel Royal.
There is no definitive version of the lyrics. However, the version consisting of the three verses reproduced in the blue box on the right hand side has the best claim to be regarded as the ‘standard’ UK version, appearing not only in the 1745 Gentleman’s Magazine, but also in publications such as The Book of English Songs: From the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century (1851), National Hymns: How They are Written and how They are Not Written (1861), Household Book of Poetry (1882), and Hymns Ancient and Modern, revised version (1982). The same version with verse two omitted appears in publications including Scouting for boys (1908), and on the U.K. Government’s “Monarchy Today” website. At the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Party at the Palace concert, Prince Charlesreferred in his speech to the “politically incorrect second verse” of the National Anthem.
According to Alan Michie’s “Rule, Britannia,” which was published in 1952 after the death of King George VI but prior to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the first General Assembly of the United Nations was held in London in January 1946, and the King, in honour of the occasion, “ordered the belligerent imperious second stanza of ‘God Save the King’ rewritten to bring it more into the spirit of the brotherhood of nations.”
In the United Kingdom, the first verse is the only verse typically sung, even at official occasions, although the third verse is sung in addition on rare occasions, and usually at the Last Night of the Proms. At the Closing Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the fourth verse of the William Hixton alternative lyrics was sung instead of the third verse.
Around 1745, anti-Jacobite sentiment was captured in a verse appended to the song, with a prayer for the success of Field MarshalGeorge Wade‘s army then assembling at Newcastle. These words attained some short-term use, although they did not appear in the published version in the October 1745 Gentleman’s Magazine. The source of this verse was a later article on the song, published by theGentleman’s Magazine in 1837. Therein, it is presented as an “additional verse… though being of temporary application only… stored in the memory of an old friend… who was born in the very year 1745, and was thus the associate of those who heard it first sung”, the lyrics given being:
- Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
- May by thy mighty aid,
- Victory bring.
- May he sedition hush,
- and like a torrent rush,
- Rebellious Scots to crush,
- God save the King.
The 1837 article and other sources make it clear that this verse was not used soon after 1745, and certainly before the song became accepted as the British national anthem in the 1780s and 1790s. It was included as an integral part of the song in the Oxford Book of Eighteenth Century Verse of 1926, although erroneously referencing the “fourth verse” to the Gentleman’s Magazine article of 1745.
On the opposing side, Jacobite beliefs were demonstrated in an alternative verse used during the same period:
- God bless the prince, I pray,
- God bless the prince, I pray,
- Charlie I mean;
- That Scotland we may see
- Freed from vile Presbyt’ry,
- Both George and his Feckie,
- Ever so, Amen.
Various other attempts were made during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to add verses to commemorate particular royal or national events. For example, according to Fitzroy Maclean, when Jacobite forces bypassed Wade’s force and reached Derby, but then retreated and when their garrison at Carlisle Castle surrendered to a second government army led by King George’s son, the Duke of Cumberland, another verse was added. Other short-lived verses were notably anti-French, such as the following, quoted in the book Handel by Edward J. Dent:
- From France and Pretender
- Great Britain defend her,
- Foes let them fall;
- From foreign slavery,
- Priests and their knavery,
- And Popish Reverie,
- God save us all.
However, none of these additional verses survived into the twentieth century. Other changes were incorporated over time, for example King George V (1865–1936) asked that the line ‘Frustrate their popish tricks’ should be changed to ‘Frustrate their knavish tricks’.
The style most commonly heard in official performances was proposed as the “proper interpretation” by King George V, who considered himself something of an expert (in view of the number of times he had heard it). An Army Order was duly issued in 1933, which laid down regulations for tempo, dynamics and orchestration. This included instructions such as that the opening “six bars will be played quietly by the reed band with horns and basses in a single phrase. Cornets and side-drum are to be added at the little scale-passage leading into the second half of the tune, and the full brass enters for the last eight bars”. The official tempo for the opening section is a metronome setting of 60, with the second part played in a broader manner, at a metronome setting of 52. In recent years the prescribed sombre-paced introduction is often played at a faster and livelier tempo.
Until the latter part of the 20th century, theatre and concert goers were expected to stand to attention while the anthem was played after the conclusion of a show. In cinemas this brought a tendency for audiences to rush out while the end credits played to avoid this formality.
The anthem was traditionally played at closedown on the BBC and with the introduction of commercial television to the UK this practice was adopted by some ITV companies (with the notable exception of Granada) BBC Two never played the anthem at closedown, and ITV dropped the practice in the late 1980s, but it continued on BBC One until the final closedown on 8 November 1997 (thereafter BBC1 began to simulcast with BBC News 24 after end of programmes). The tradition is carried on, however, by BBC Radio 4, which usually plays the anthem as a transition piece between the end of the Radio Four broadcasting and the move to BBC World Service. Radio 4 and Radio 2 also play the National Anthem at 0700 and 0800 on the actual and official birthdays of the Queen and the birthdays of senior members of the Royal Family.
The anthem usually prefaces The Queen’s Christmas Message (although in 2007 it appeared at the end, taken from a recording of the 1957 television broadcast), and important royal announcements, such as of royal deaths, when it is played in a slower, sombre arrangement.
Frequently, when an anthem is needed for one of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom – at an international sporting event, for instance – an alternative song is used:
- England generally use “God Save the Queen”, but “Jerusalem“, “Rule, Britannia!” and “Land of Hope and Glory” have also been used.
- At international test cricket matches, England (and Wales) have, since 2004, used “Jerusalem” as the anthem.
- At international rugby league matches, England use “God Save the Queen” and also “Jerusalem”.
- At international rugby union and football matches, England use “God Save the Queen”.
- At the Commonwealth Games, Team England use “Jerusalem” as their victory anthem.
- Scotland use “Flower of Scotland” as their anthem for most sporting occasions.
- Wales use Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (“Land of My Fathers”) for governmental ceremonies and sporting occasions. At official occasions, especially those with royal connections, “God Save the Queen” is also played.
- Northern Ireland use “God Save the Queen” as its national anthem. Northern Ireland also use “Londonderry Air” as its victory anthem at the Commonwealth Games.
- The British and Irish Lions rugby union tour used the song “The Power of Four“, but this anthem was especially designed for the 2005 tour and was used only then.
- God Save the Queen also serves as the National Anthem of New Zealand.
In April 2007 there was an Early Day Motion, number 1319, to the UK Parliament to propose that there should be a separate England anthem: “That this House … believes that all English sporting associations should adopt an appropriate song that English sportsmen and women, and the English public, would favour when competing as England”. An amendment (EDM 1319A3) was proposed by Evan Harris that the song “should have a bit more oomph than God Save the Queen and should also not involve God.”
“God Save the King/Queen” was exported around the world via the expansion of the British Empire, serving as each country’s national anthem. Throughout the Empire’s evolution into theCommonwealth of Nations, the song declined in use in most states which became independent. In some countries it remains as one of the official national anthems, such as in New Zealand, or as an official royal anthem, as is the case in Australia, Canada, Jamaica, and Tuvalu, to be played during formal ceremonies involving national royalty or vice-royalty.
In Australia, the song has standing through a Royal Proclamation issued by Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen on 19 April 1984. It was declared the Royal Anthem and is to be played when the Monarch or a member of the Royal Family is present. The same Proclamation made “Advance Australia Fair” the National Anthem and the basis for the Vice-Regal Salute (the first four and last two bars of the Anthem).
In Canada, “God Save the Queen” is the Royal Anthem. It was adopted as such not by statute or proclamation (thus having “no legal status in Canada”), but throughconvention, and is sometimes played and/or sung together with the national anthem, “O Canada“, at private and public events organised by groups such as the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion, police services, and loyal groups.
“God Save the Queen” has been sung in Canada since the late 1700s and by the mid 20th century was, along with “O Canada”, one of the country’s two de facto national anthems, the first and last verses of the standard British version being used. By-laws and practices governing the use of either song during public events in municipalities varied; in Toronto, “God Save the Queen” was employed, while in Montreal it was “O Canada”. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in 1964 said one song would have to be chosen as the country’s national anthem and, three years later, he advised Governor General Georges Vanier to appoint the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the National and Royal Anthems. Within two months, on 12 April 1967, the committee presented its conclusion that “God Save the Queen”, whose music and lyrics were found to be in the public domain, should be designated as the Royal Anthem of Canada and “O Canada” as the national anthem, one verse from each, in both official languages, to be adopted by parliament. The group was then charged with establishing official lyrics for each song; for “God Save the Queen”, the English words were those inherited from the United Kingdom and the French words were taken from those that had been adopted in 1952 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. When the bill pronouncing “O Canada” as the national anthem was put through parliament, the joint committee’s earlier recommendations regarding “God Save the Queen” were not included.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces regulates that “God Save the Queen” be played as a salute to the monarch and other members of the Canadian Royal Family, though it may also be used as a hymn, or prayer. The words are not to be sung when the song is played as a military Royal Salute and is abbreviated to the first three lines while arms are being presented. Elizabeth II stipulated that the arrangement in G major by Lieutenant Colonel Basil H. Brown be used in Canada. The authorised version to be played by pipe bands is Mallorca.
The New Zealand national anthems are “God Save the Queen” and “God Defend New Zealand“. However, “God Save the Queen” is now most often only played when the Sovereign,Governor-General or other member of the Royal Family is present, or on certain occasions such as Anzac Day.
In New Zealand, the second more militaristic verse is sometimes replaced with Hickson’s verse “Nor in this land alone…” (often sung as Not in this land alone”), otherwise known as a “Commonwealth verse”.
“God Save the King” was the first song to be used as a national anthem, although the Netherlands‘ national anthem, Het Wilhelmus, is older. Its success prompted a number of imitations, notably in France and, later, Germany. Both commissioned their own songs to help construct a concrete national identity. The first German national anthem used the melody of “God Save the King” with the words changed to Heil dir im Siegerkranz, and sung to the same tune as the UK version. The tune was either used or officially adopted as the national anthem for several other countries, including those of Russia (until 1833) and Switzerland (Rufst Du, mein Vaterland or O monts indépendants, until 1961). Molitva russkikh, considered to be the first Russian anthem, was also sung to the same music.
The melody is used in the United States patriotic hymn “America” (also known by its first line, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee“), the lyrics of which were written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831. The song was the de facto national anthem of the US before the adoption of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 1930s.
The tune is still used as the national anthem of Liechtenstein, Oben am jungen Rhein. The same tune was therefore played twice before the Euro 96 qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Liechtenstein; likewise when England played Liechtenstein in a Euro 2004 qualifier. (When England play Northern Ireland, the tune is only played once.)
The melody of “God Save the King” has been, and continues to be, used as a hymn tune by Christian churches in various countries. The United Methodists of the southern United States, Mexico, and Latin America, among other denominations (usually Protestant), play the same melody as a hymn. The Christian hymn “Glory to God on High” is frequently sung to the same tune, as well as an alternative tune that fits both lyrics. Note also that in the Protestant Church of Korea, it is sung as a choral hymn under the name of “Since I Have My Retreat”.