Monday, December 13, 2010

The National Anthem

'God Save The King' was a patriotic song first publicly performed in London in 1745, which came to be referred to as the National Anthem from the beginning of the nineteenth century.  The words and tune are anonymous, and may date back to the seventeenth century.

In September 1745 the 'Young Pretender' to the British Throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, defeated the army of King George II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh.   In a fit of patriotic fervour after news of Prestonpans had reached London, the leader of the band at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, arranged 'God Save The King' for performance after a play.  It was a tremendous success and was repeated nightly thereafter.  This practice soon spread to other theatres, and the custom of greeting monarchs with the song as he or she entered a place of public entertainment was thus established.

There is no authorised version of the National Anthem as the words are a matter of tradition.  Additional verses have been added down the years, but these are rarely used.  On official occasions, only the first verse is usually sung, but sometimes verse 3 is also added.  The words used are those sung in 1745, substituting 'Queen' for 'King' where appropriate.

The British tune has been used in other countries - as European visitors to Britain in the eighteenth century noticed the advantage of a country possessing such a recognised musical symbol - including Germany, Russia, Switzerland and America (where use of the tune continued after independence).   Some 140 composers, including Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms, have used the tune in their compositions.

I particularly draw your attention to the sentiment of verse 6, whilst as a Scot, making no comment!

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us;
God save the Queen!

O Lord our God arise,
Scatter her enemies
and make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all!

Thy choicest gifts in store
on her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign;
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
to sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen!

Not in this land alone,
But be God's mercies known
from shore to shore!
Lord make the nations see
that men should brothers be,
And form one family,
The wide world o'er.

From every latent foe,
From the assassin's blow,
God save the Queen!
O'er her thine arm extend,
For Britain's sake defend
our mother, prince, and friend,
God save the Queen!

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 Queen!

1 comment:

  1. Over here in the states the tune is actually called "America" and our Cathedral organist plays the Charles Ives "Variations on America" at the service closest to the Fourth of July