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Encyclopedia > God Save the King

This article is on the British patriotic anthem. For the Sex Pistols song, see God Save the Queen (Sex Pistols).

God Save the Queen is a patriotic song whose author is unknown. It is traditionally used as the national anthem of the United Kingdom and of England, one of the two national anthems of New Zealand, and the royal anthem of Canada and the other Commonwealth realms, as well as the royal anthem of the British Royal Family. When the British monarch is male it becomes God Save the King, as it was originally sung.

It should be noted that there is no authorised version. Indeed the anthem has never been officially adopted by Royal Proclamation nor Act of Parliament. In general only one, or rarely two, verses are ever sung [1] (http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page317.asp). There has been some debate about replacing God Save the Queen with Jerusalem, another patriotic song popular in England.



It's now generally thought that the melody was composed in its present form by Dr. Henry Carey, although many of the musical phrases were present in various earlier melodies, leading to some confusion.

The first public performance of the work is now believed to be when Carey sang it during a dinner in 1740 in honour of Admiral Edward Vernon who had captured the Spanish harbour of Porto Bello (then in Colombia, now Panama) during the War of Jenkins' Ear.

Traditionally, the first performance was thought to have been in 1745, when it was sung in support of George II after the defeat of his army at the Battle of Prestonpans by the Jacobite claimant to the British throne, Bonnie Prince Charlie, whose forces were mostly Scottish. To express this support verse 6 was added, but as its call to crush the rebels now suggests an anti-Scottish sentiment it is rarely (if ever) sung nowadays.

Joseph Haydn was impressed by the use of God Save the King as a national anthem during his visit to London in 1794 and on his return to Austria wrote a national anthem, the God Save Emperor Franz ('Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser'), for the birthday of the Emperor Franz of Austria. The tune was later adopted for the German national anthem "Das Lied der Deutschen", also known as "Deutschland Über Alles".

Use in the Commonwealth

It was formerly used as a national anthem by most of the Commonwealth Realms, including Australia, Canada, and Jamaica. It has since been replaced by Advance Australia Fair, O Canada, and Jamaica, Land We Love respectively, though it remains those countries' royal anthem and is played during formal ceremonies involving the governor general. It continues to be recognised as the national anthem of New Zealand, together with God Defend New Zealand. It is also the former national anthem of Ireland, replaced in the 1920s by Amhrán na bhFiann (in English, 'The Soldier's Song').

Use elsewhere

God Save the Queen was the very first song to be used as a national anthem (although the Netherlands' national anthem, the Wilhelmus, is actually older), and its tune was either used as or officially adopted as the national anthem for several other countries, including those of Denmark, Germany (unofficial), Russia (until 1833), Sweden and Switzerland.

It is also the melody to the popular United States song My Country, Tis of Thee. The tune is also used as Norway's Royal anthem entitled Kongesangen. The rock band Queen played God Save the Queen at the end of all of their concerts.

The tune is still used as the national anthem of Liechtenstein. This was a source of embarrassment to Winter Olympic officials in 1980 when Hanni Wenzel won this country's first gold medal ever, and they had no record of her country's national anthem. There was also an amusing incident when England met Liechtenstein in a Euro 2004 qualifier, which necessitated the same tune being played twice.

Other UK anthems

Frequently, when an anthem is needed for one of the component countries of the UK — at an international sporting event, for instance — an alternate song is used:

  • Wales has its own recognised anthem in Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau;
  • Scotland uses either Flower of Scotland or Scotland the Brave, or traditionally Scots Wha Hae;
  • England generally uses God Save the Queen, but has used Jerusalem or Land of Hope and Glory.
  • Northern Ireland generally uses God Save the Queen at events rooted in the British tradition, and the Irish national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann at events rooted in the Irish tradition. Additionally, Danny Boy is a popular cross-community anthem.
  • In international football matches England and Northern Ireland use God Save the Queen while Scotland uses Flower of Scotland, and Wales uses Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
  • In international rugby matches England uses God Save the Queen while Scotland uses Flower of Scotland and Wales uses Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. Ireland (a team representing both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) sing Ireland's Call, a song which attempts to unite the two traditions on the island.


Traditionally the tune is played at a slow and sombre pace which many consider to be dreary. Occasionally events use a faster and livelier beat to reduce that effect. Comedian Billy Connolly performed a sketch broadcast on TV comparing the UK's slow tune to the lively ones of many other nations and suggested that it should be replaced by the theme tune to The Archers.

At the end of theatre performances the audience was expected to stand to attention while the anthem was played. In cinemas this brought a tendency for audiences to rush out while the credits played at the end of the film to avoid this formality.

The anthem was traditionally played at closedown on BBC One and in some ITV regions. ITV dropped this practice in the late 1980s, but it continued on BBC One until December 1997 and is still done on BBC Radio 4.

In 1977 during Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee, a punk rock band called The Sex Pistols released an anarchistic and anti-royalist song with the same title. Attempting to play the song from a boat on the river Thames outside the Palace of Westminster on the Jubilee holiday itself (a day which was billed as a national party), the band was arrested by the British police. See: God Save the Queen (Sex Pistols).

The rock band Queen put a version of God Save the Queen on their 1975 album A Night at the Opera. During the Queen's Golden Jubilee pop concert at Buckingham Palace on June 4, 2002, Brian May performed the anthem on electric guitar from the palace roof.


Since God Save the Queen is the Royal Anthem of Canada, the first verse has been translated into French for use in that country, as shown below. As sung in English in Canada, God Save the Queen has an additional English verse, sung after the first or second verse, which is also given below.


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 1.

Although in the original lyrics, verses 4-5 are now omitted entirely - partly to reduce the length of the anthem and partly due to the 'rebellious Scots to crush' line in verse five:


From every latent foe,
From the assassins 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!

Verse 5 responded to Sir John Cope's defeat by the Jacobites at the Battle of Prestonpans with a prayer for the success of Wade's army then assembling at Newcastle.

The Jacobite forces bypassed his force and reached Derby, but then retreated and when their garrison at Carlisle surrendered to a second government army led by King George's son the Duke of Cumberland another verse was added:


George is magnanimous,
Subjects unanimous;
Peace to us bring:
His fame is glorious,
Reign meritorious,
God save the King!

In the 19th Century, there was some lively debate about the national anthem. Even then, verse two was considered to be slightly offensive. Notably, the question arose over the phrase "scatter her (or his) enemies". Some thought it placed better emphasis on the respective power of Parliament and the Crown to change "her" to "our"; others pointed out that the theology was somewhat dubious and substituted "thine" instead. In 1836, William Edward Hickson wrote four alternative verses:


God bless our native land!
May heaven's protecting hand
Still guard our shore:
May peace her power extend,
Foe be transformed to friend,
And Britain‘s rights depend
On war no more.


O Lord, our monarch bless
With strength and righteousness:
Long may she reign:
Her heart inspire and move
With wisdom from above;
And in a nation's love
Her throne maintain


May just and righteous laws
Uphold the public cause,
And bless our isle:
Home of the brave and free,
Thou land of liberty,
We pray that still on thee
Kind heaven may smile.


Nor on 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

The first, third, and fourth of these verses are appended to the National Anthem in the English Hymnal. However, only the fourth seems to get even the rarest airing nowadays, often with the first word erroneously changed to "not". Charles T. Brooks, in 1833, translated a German Lutheran hymn also starting with the words "God bless our native land." This hymn inspired Rev. Samuel F. Smith to write the words to the American patriotic song My Country, Tis of Thee (also known as America), sung to the same tune, in 1832.


God bless our native land!
Firm may she ever stand
Thro' storm and night!
When the wild tempests rave,
Ruler of wind and wave
Do Thou our country save
By Thy great might.


For her our prayer shall rise
To God above the skies;
On Him we wait.
Thou who art ever nigh,
Guarding with watchful eye,
To Thee aloud we cry,
God save the State!

To this hymn is often added the fourth of Hickson's verses.

First verse in French, as sung in Canada

Dieu protčge la reine
De sa main souveraine!
Vive la reine!
Qu'un rčgne glorieux,
Long et victorieux
Rende son peuple heureux.
Vive la reine!

Additional verse sung in Canada

Our loved Dominion bless
With peace and happiness
From shore to shore;
And let our Empire be
Loyal, united, free
True to herself and Thee
God save the Queen3.


  1. When the monarch of the time is male, the last two lines of Verse 3 become

'with heart and voice to sing, God Save the King'

See also

External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
God Save the Queen
  • Listen to the British National Anthem (http://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/1035000/audio/_1038758_united_kingdom.ram)
  • God Save The Queen (MIDI) (http://david.national-anthems.net/gb.mid)
  • Official Royal Family site (http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/page317.asp) - National anthem page
  • Department of Canadian Heritage (http://www.pch.gc.ca/progs/cpsc-ccsp/sc-cs/godsave_e.cfm) - Royal anthem page

  Results from FactBites:
Political Animal by Brian Morton: God Save the King | 3/30/2005 (850 words)
We call him “King George, the Second,” because he’s the second in his line, and since the last George we were subject to was the Third, it’s only appropriate that we’re going backward.
Kings can hide evidence that points to their hypocrisies—like memos that say Osama bin Laden was at Tora Bora and our military let him get away.
Kings can use public monies to convince the public that programs in their best interest need to be eliminated, just like King George’s road show to convince Americans that Social Security is failing, even if his proposed “plan”—he hasn’t really revealed it yet—will do nothing to fix the crisis he’s telling us about.
Royal anthem "God Save The Queen" (349 words)
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN is sung in the United Kingdom as a matter of tradition.
"God Save The Queen" has no legal status in Canada, although it is considered as the royal anthem, to be played in the presence of members of the Royal Family or as part of the salute accorded to the Governor General and the lieutenant governors.
"God Save The Queen" is in the public domain and may be used without having to obtain permission from the Government.
  More results at FactBites »



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