God Save the Queen? This is what she needs saving from…

God Save the Queen? This is what she needs saving from…


norman lebrecht

August 25, 2017

The Libyan Army’s reception of the British Foreign Secretary today.


  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Caught a bad cold at the Edinburgh festival and feeling low. But this has made me laugh, thank you.

  • Islander says:

    This is quite the best rendition of the tedious dirge that is our national anthem that I’ve ever heard. (Actually, it’s a royal anthem – we don’t have a proper national anthem.)

    • John says:

      What a nasty little comment. Of course we have a proper national anthem: you just don’t like it.

    • Alex Davies says:

      Musically, our national anthem is certainly among the poorest in the world, and is the worst that comes to mind right now. While the Russian national anthem is probably the most impressive, the most beautiful, in terms of both the music and the lyrics, is surely the Czech national anthem, Kde domov můj. Interestingly, the Czech national anthem was composed as a piece of music for the theatre and was subsequently adopted as a national anthem, rather than being composed specifically for the purpose. This may go some way towards explaining its superior artistic quality. Furthermore, it is a song in which Czech peasants simply list the beautiful features of their homeland: the rivers, the meadows, the woodlands, the mountains, and the orchards flowering in the spring.

      The British national anthem is properly understood only if one reads the text of the second half of the second verse: ‘May she defend our laws and ever give us cause to sing with heart and voice, “God save the Queen”.’ It is precisely because the Queen defends our laws that we pray to God for her salvation. The second half of the second verse of the national anthem is essentially a succinct explanation of the British constitution, in which we consent to be governed by the monarch on condition that he or she guarantees the rule of law. Since sovereignty is vested in the monarch, the earlier parts of the text, in which we pray for the Queen’s salvation and for her to enjoy a long life and a long reign, replete with blessings bestowed by God, are correctly understood as a prayer for the preservation of the sovereignty of the United Kingdom and for the nation’s longevity and success. After all, should Prince Charles succeed his mother as our next monarch, few of us will realistically imagine that his life (measured from the time of his accession) or his reign will be long.

      But you are quite right that our national anthem is a poor piece of music and a poor work of poetry (indeed, its literary merits may be even more negligible than its musical merits). Not that that is necessarily a bad thing: it always amuses me that the splendid State Anthem of the USSR, adopted in 1944, speaks over and over about the everlasting nature of a union that was to be dissolved in 1991. Well, it was a fantastic anthem for 47 years. I imagine that it is to some extent precisely because of the almost unparalleled stability of our history that we have a rather modest little anthem. That said, were it not for the Welsh, the Scottish, and the Northern Irish, I’d gladly see Jerusalem, a work of extraordinary vision, adopted as our national anthem.

      • Furzwängler says:

        Thank you Alex, most interesting.

      • Father Ted says:

        There is no such Nationality called Northern Irish! You cannot have an NI passport you can have a UK or Irish one or some have both! Yes its total bollix here are the Dubliners doing Nelson’s column!
        Maybe this is what the UK needs!


        • Alex Davies says:

          I didn’t say that Northern Irish was a nationality. Neither are English, Welsh, or Scottish nationalities. My point was that we are, of course, prevented from adopting Jerusalem as our national anthem because it represents only one of the four nations of the United Kingdom.

      • Robert Holmén says:

        To watch American movies of the 50s and 60s you’d think “Rule Britannia” was the British anthem.

  • Ravi Narasimhan says:

    Very nice raspberry. Intentional?

  • John Borstlap says:

    John Cage would have loved it.

  • John de Jong says:

    In Egypt they tried their best for Hollande: