Sunday, April 02, 2017

Singing the Faith: Day 28: Anthems - Protest and Encouragement

The National Anthem

We don’t normally think of the National Anthem as a hymn, but it is addressed to God so it definitely qualifies.
Its origins are rather uncertain. It seems to date back in some form to at least 1688, when it was sung by Stuart loyalists who opposed the rule of William of Orange, but may be older than this. Ironically, there is a possibility that it was originally a French song, “Grand Dieu, sauvez le roi”. Eventually it was adopted by the Hanoverians, perhaps in order to “overwrite” its Jacobite associations. It received its first known performance at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on 28 Sept 1745 as a rallying call for soldiers to join the army against the Jacobites. Other theatres and public venues then also began to include it, which may be the reason why it was still played at the end of cinema performances right up to the late 20th Century.
It began to be sung in churches during George III’s bouts of illness. By the time of Queen Victoria, it was a standard accompaniment to royal appearances. God save the Queen seems to have been the first “official” national anthem – we gave the idea to the rest of the world.
It is thought that Henry Carey (died 1743) may have written the words, though various verses have been added (and taken away) over the years. The version printed here is the one in our hymn books at Seal, Hymns Old and New. The tune is often attributed to Dr John Bull (died 1628) who was organist at Antwerp Cathedral, but there is no firm evidence for this. All in all, though, it has a surprisingly international ancestry for something so firmly associated with England.

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.

Not on this land alone,
But be God’s mercies known
On every shore.
Lord, make the nations see
That all humanity
Should form one family
The wide world o’er.

  • ·         What do you think of our National Anthem, and National Anthems generally? 

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