God Save the Queen

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'God Save the Queen' is a patriotic song whose author is unknown. It is traditionally used as the national anthem of the United Kingdom, 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] There has been some recent debate about replacing 'God Save the Queen' with 'Jerusalem', another popular patriotic song, in England. Its music was adopted, with new lyrics, by American rebels who knew the music from their days as Britons; they know the song as 'My Country, Tis of Thee.'


As a phrase from the Coverdale Bible of 1535, 'God Save the King' was used as a naval watchword to which the countersign was 'Long to reign over us.' For a long time it was used generally as an expression of personal loyalty to the king. This dates from the reign of King Henry VIII. 'God Save the King', can also be found in the King James version of the Bible, published in 1611:

'And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God Save the King.' 1 Samuel 10:24.

Opinions differ on authorship of words and melody of the song. The tune's origin may have been borrowed from galliard keyboard music of the 16th century. A manuscript of 1619 attributed to Dr. John Bull, an organist in the Chapel Royal during the reign of King James I, contains a song called 'God Save the King', dating from shortly after the Gunpowder Plot, but the music to the song is slightly different than today. It was sung for the first time at Merchant Taylor's Hall on 7 July 1607, by 'the gentlemen and children of His Majesty's Chapel Royal' when James I was present at the dinner given by the company on his escape from the Gunpowder Plot. An English Christmas carol of 1611 'Remember, O thou Man' also has stylistic resemblances.

It's now generally thought that the melody of 'God Save the Queen', was composed in its present form by Dr Henry Carey sometime between 1736-1740, although many of the musical phrases were present in various earlier melodies such as a Henry Purcell's piece, set to the words 'God save the King', leading to some confusion. The first public performance of the work is now believed to be when Carey sang it during a dinner banquet at Mercer's Hall, Cheapside 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.) The oldest copy is in 'Harmonia Anglicana' of 1743 to which Carey was one of the chief contributors, and issued by John Simpson in London.

The tune was published in almost its present form in 'Thesaurus Musicus' in 1744, and arranged in Grand Fashion by Thomas Arne in 1745, with words published in Gentleman's Magazine the in October 1745 as 'a song for two voices', as sung at both the playhouses.' It was first sung in the Drury Lane Theatres and Covent Garden Theatres in support of George II after a defeat of Sir John Cope's army by the Jacobite pretender to the British throne, 'Bonnie Prince Charlie', at Prestonpans in September 1745. This support caused the later attachment of a verse, which has an anti-Scottish sentiment, and is no longer sung nowadays. The best-known ceremonial arrangement is by Gordon Jacob.

In 1954, music scholar Percy Scholes attempted to find the earliest authenticated authorship of the song but was unable to say with 100 per cent accuracy a definitive name.[2] He recommended the attribution on all music publications as 'traditional' or 'traditional; earliest known version by John Bull (1562-1628).' The musical editor Ralph Vaughan Williams of the English Hymnal, gives no attribution, stating merely '17th or 18th cent.'


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:

In international football matches England uses 'God Save the Queen' while Scotland uses 'Flower of Scotland' and Wales uses 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau'. The anthem was traditionally played at closedown on BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. BBC2 and ITV dropped this practice in the early 1990s, but it continued on BBC1 until December 1997.

It was formerly used as a national anthem by most of the Commonwealth Realms, including Australia, and Canada. It has since been replaced by 'Advance Australia Fair', and 'O Canada', respectively, though it remains those countries' royal anthem. It is played during formal ceremonies involving the Royalty or viceroyalty (Governors-General, Governors, and Lieutenant-Governors). 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').

'God Save the Queen' was the very first song to be used as a national anthem, 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. The tune is still used as the national anthem of Liechtenstein, as 'Oben am jungen Rhein'. In Iceland, the tune is called 'Eldgamla à safold', while in Norway, it is known as 'Kongesangen'. Numerous composers have used the tune, including Carl Maria von Weber, Johannes Brahms, Niccolò Paganini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Gaetano Donizetti. Composer George Frideric Handel used the song within his 'Occasional Oratorio' in 1746, which dealt with the events of the Jacobite uprising. In 1763, Johann Christian Bach composed a set of variations on 'God Save the King' for the finale to his sixth keyboard concerto (Op. 1). Ludwig van Beethoven used 'God Save the King' in 'Wellington's Sieg' and wrote a set of piano variations on it between 1802-3. In 1797, Joseph Haydn composed the Austrian/German hymn 'Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser' (God Save Emperor Francis) after hearing the English anthem while in London in 1794, and concluding that Austria needed an equivalent. It was later adopted as the Prussian national anthem 'Heil Dir im Siegerkranz'.

It is also the melody to the popular United States of America songs 'My Country, Tis of Thee', 'God Save America', 'God Save George Washington', and 'God Save the Thirteen States'. The present 'My Country, Tis of Thee' words are from 1831, and the work of the Revd. Samuel Francis Smith.


Music to the anthem 'God Save the Queen' (traditional).

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 thine 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 4-6 are now omitted entirely- partly to reduce the length of the anthem and partly due to the 'rebellious Scots to crush' line in verse six (which was added at the time of the 1740s Jacobite rebellion)


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 over.


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!

First verse in French, as sung in Canada

Dieu protège la reine
De sa main souveraine!
Vive la reine!
Qu'un règne 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 becomes:
'with heart and voice to sing,
God Save the King'

United States variant

Since the music was well known, an alternate set of lyrics makes it a common patriotic song in the United States:


My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the Pilgrims' pride,
from every mountainside let freedom ring!


My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free, thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills, like that above.


Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees sweet freedom's song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.


Our fathers' God, to thee,
Author of liberty, to thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by thy might, great God, our King.


  1. British National Anthem
  2. Scholes, Percy (1954). God Save the Queen!: the History and Romance of the World's First National Anthem, 1st. London: Oxford University Press.