God Save the King!

Posted by Tory Historian Friday, September 28, 2007 ,

Well, yes, Tory Historian is aware of the fact that our ruling Monarch is a Queen, Elizabeth II and, therefore, we sing God Save the Queen. Well, those of us who know the words sing it on the rare occasions it is still asked of us. There are times, grumbles Tory Historian, when it seems that this is the only country in which generations of children are not taught the National Anthem.

September 28, 1745 was when God Save the King (you see, there was a reason for that title) was sung for the first time after a performance of Ben Jonson’s “The Alchemist” at the Drury Lane Theatre. The tune was Thomas Arne’s.

In the middle of the Jacobite rebellion (or the forty-five as “1066 and All That” refers to it) patriotic fervour was rife in London. After this night it was sung by “the Gentlemen of the House” every night.

This website, Know Britain, tells an interesting detail. The original song, not yet the National Anthem, more by way of prayer for the safety of the Monarchy and the realm, included the following verse:
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.
For obvious reasons, this was subsequently omitted, though the lines about confounding their politics and frustrating their knavish tricks remained to delight us all and spur us on to provide candidates for them.

Inevitably, the story of where the tune comes from has been the source of much discussion and debate, as this Wikipedia entry outlines. The same entry gives a detailed history of its acceptance as the National Anthem and the influence it has had on the national music of other countries, English-speaking or not.


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