Why Rule, Britannia must stay

Why Rule, Britannia must stay


norman lebrecht

August 24, 2020

I’ve just had a ding-dong with Wasfi Kani on the BBC Today programme as to why Rule Britannia is a Proms tradition worth keeping.

You’ll be able to listen to the exchange later on BBC i-Player.

Briskly, I argued that Rule Britannia is a unifying hymn, one that gives the nation confidence to face a bleak winter ahead. The words are innocuous – certainly compared to the ‘Qu’un sang impur/Abreuve nos sillons !’ of the French national anthem – and to tamper with tradition at a time of national uncertainty would be an act of self-harm by the BBC.

My opponent, Wasfi Kani, argued that the word ‘slaves’ made minorities feel unwanted. I said, it just rhymes with waves.

Between us, we later agreed to replaces waves with another noun. Seas, maybe.

What rhymes with ‘seas’?




  • Joe Orton says:

    Of yore, of yore, Britannia
    ruled the Seas,
    Now Britons never, never, never will be alike as peas…

    • dayskipper says:

      coda no 2:
      Rule Britannia, Britannia ruled the Ocean,
      The West Africa Squadron in 1808,
      Set Abolition in motion.

  • Stephen Maddock says:

    I like Mary Beard’s suggestion: replace Slaves with Knaves.

    The other point is it is ALWAYS sung (and often printed) wrong.
    Thomson’s original is:
    Britannia rule the waves (not rules)
    Britons never will be slaves (not shall)

    It’s an exhortation – not a description or a prediction. Which makes it a bit less objectionable.

    • Harold says:

      Quite true. When he wrote it Britain was nervous about its place. Later the emphasis was changed when Britain had consolidated its empire. It’s transition in meaning is lost, certainly at the Proms.

  • Poet Laureate says:

    Rule Britannia
    Britannia waives the rules
    Governed by bunch of liars
    Stupid fools

  • W. Shakespier says:

    Rule Britannia
    Britannia rules the seas
    With a government that’s mired in
    Endless sleaze

  • Appropriate for Covid-ruled Britain:
    “Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves!
    Britons never, never, never shall be shaved!”

  • Wasfi Kani says:

    I said “Britains never shall be slaves” suggests that other people SHOULD be slaves. And they were. And Britain was v. busy in that line of trade. The climax of the world’s biggest music festival should serve as a vehicle for humility and contemplation of our humanity.

    • dayskipper says:

      Coda no 5:
      Rule Britannia, we lost Singapore, Prince of Wales and the Repulse,
      But to hold that we’re Imperialists still,
      Would be to promulgate something false.

    • That is exactly what you said, and I found myself cast down that someone with your wonderful track record could so wilfully twist the poem’s meaning to fit your (highly laudable) opposition to slavery.

      As a political statement, the poem in fact implies that Britons [sic.] should fight tooth and nail against slavery: and as a nation, we have a proud record of continuing to do so.

      I was baffled and cast down by your strange attack on this excellent piece of anti-slavery propaganda.

      (PS And have you looked at the words of “I vow to thee my country”? These actually seem to be advocating human sacrifice, which I trust you are not in favour of!)

      • Poet Laureate says:

        Not entirely sure you are right about “fighting tooth and mail against slavery”. When slavery was abolished the slave owners (many of whom had got rich from this obscene exploitation) were compensated handsomely from the public purse, the costs only being finally paid a few years ago. They and their heirs were never made accountable and in many cases continue to reap the benefit of their wealth, whilst those whose lives were ruined and their descendants have never been compensated. It was an utterly shameful episode in the nation’s history and its subsequent handling was barely any better.

        Whilst it can be argued that the song intended a different message, it rings pretty sour in these times, especially when the country now appears unable to rule over anything except lies, incompetence and cronyism – thus this song is unquestionably an anachronism.

        • I don’t think anyone here is defending slavery: but you are right, that the song (sung by freedom-fighters against a repressive super-power) has a different message entirely. You can hardly make it a punch-bag for the disgustingly venal incompetence of our present so-called government!

    • dayskipper says:

      Thanks for the fun!
      I stumbled on this site looking up something about Vikram’s Seth’s book on classical music. Great site!
      And, what a great cosmopolitan that guy is ; so encompassing!

    • Novagerio says:

      Mr.Kani why is it a problem now, and not back in the days of Malcolm Sargent and Colin Davis?

    • Adrienne says:

      A lot of people were “very busy in that line of trade” at the time and in centuries before, but not a word about this from you – why? At least Britain stopped it.


    • Briton says:

      The climax of the Proms should serve as the great patriotic vehicle it always has been. And people like you who have had every benefit Britain has to offer should recognize the miniscule, barely registrable, role they play in making the country what it is. Kehinde Andrews, for instance. Emigration is always an option, you know, when all one can do is subtract from British history and traditions! As for Dalia Stasevska, she was hired to be a pawn in some official’s game and would be smart to remain quiet.

      • I don’t think it is fair to attack Ms. Kani personally, who has done an enormous amount for her country – at least in the fabulous work in prisons she generated with Pimlico Opera. But it does seem tactless, for a woman who now runs a country-house opera company serving the well-heeled middle-classes, to be airing such baseless prejudices against a popular, patriotic song which clearly champions the underdog!

    • V. Lind says:

      Why on earth should the world’s biggest music festival end with humility? It should — and does — end with pride.

      And read the whole song, and try to think yourself into the idiom of the age. It was NOT suggesting that Brits were all okay with others being slaves as long as they were not. I have sung that verse all my life and never once thought of the slave trade when I sang it.

    • V. Lind says:

      Why should the world’s biggest music festival end with humility? It should, and does, end with pride.

      I have sung that verse all my life and never, ever thought of the slave trade when I did. But I am British-born and educated, and having read the whole thing, and having been educated thoroughly in literature, do understand the idiom of the day.

    • Britain came to terms with her role in the slave trade some 200 years ago and made every effort to put things right since then. We need to lay these ghosts to rest. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It does mean that we should be acknowledging that Britain has had an important anti-slavery role in the world since recognising her own part in the slave trade and being the first nation to abolish and outlaw slavery.

    • V. Lind says:

      Why should the world’s biggest music festival end in humility? It’s surely a matter of pride.

      And I do not lose my humanity when I sing Rule, Britannia, which I have done all my life. I never made the association with the slave trade. I always heard it as a frame of mind.

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      Confronting an audience likely to be less than wholly consonant with your stance in this controversy is commendable, and I for one respect your courage.

      But I can find no logic in your argument:
      “Britons never shall be slaves”, suggesting that OTHER people SHOULD be slaves?

      Deriving a normative statement from the affirmation of its categorical contrary is logically absurd.

      Let’s try a few other shoes for size:
      • “Britons never shall be serfs” — an incitation to serfdom outside Britain?
      • “Britons never shall be Nazis” — an endorsement of Nazism all over Europe?
      • “Britons never shall be homophobic” — a normative call for homophobia beyond Albion’s shores?
      • “Britons never shall be racists” — an appeal to universal racism, just not in this scepter’d isle?
      I could continue ad libitum. No logic.

      But wait: “…this scepter’d isle,
      This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars…”
      A manifesto for monarchy, imperialism, and militarism?
      Once you leave out context, history, and logic, there are no limits.

    • Patricia says:

      Oh stuff it. Go and live elsewhere if you don’t like the music. The Proms has nothing to do with humility and contemplation of humanity. It’s a wonderful tradition – in which you are not required to participate. Clearly you know nothing about the tradition of English music. What do you make of Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.?”

      • V. Lind says:

        Remember Jim Hacker, in “Yes, Minister,” saying to Sir Humphrey when he used the word “enigma,” “I don’t care for that word.”

        Philistines of the world, unite!

      • Conductor2 says:

        Enigma Variations? It’s a cute piece about his best mates; an improvised melody spun into endless variety. Nothing more, nothing less.

    • Rob says:

      It doesn’t suggest that people should be slaves. It suggests that Britain will be a strong country and will not be bullied.

    • Yes, we do have to stop and think, even if that challenges much-loved music that has become a tradition. Thomas Arne wrote ‘Rule Britannia’ in 18th century when Britain did ‘rule the waves’ and the slave trade was robust to say the very least. He wrote for his time, what was happening around him and his patrons, right or wrong. In 21st century Britain we need to have a care. Yes?

      • Marfisa says:

        No, Britain did not rule the waves when the song was written. Yes, the slave trade existed. No, the song is not even remotely about the slave trade.
        Some people want to focus on the transatlantic slave trade as the dominant factor in Western history over the last half millennium. That might be a corrective, but it would also be a distortion.

  • dayskipper says:

    Coda no.3:
    Rule Britannia, Britannia ruled the Channel,
    ‘Push the BEF into the sea’ at Dunkirk,
    Was a load of Nazi Blitzkrieg flannel.

  • dayskipper says:

    Coda no. 4
    Rule Britannia, as an Island we must be wary:
    We faced Exocets and Seahawk jets
    To take The Falklands back
    From Galtieri.

  • V. Lind says:

    Rule, Britannia,
    Britannia rules the waves,
    Anyone who can’t agree must
    Dwell in caves.

    • dayskipper says:

      Plato maintained that you could learn a lot dwelling in caves, as long as you stopped looking only at your shadows on the cave wall from your camp fire, and looked outside the entrance at the real world- in all its complexity. It’s a pity his Greek contemporaries were slave-owners.

  • Richard Slack says:

    It could be quite amusing actually to have the items there and at the appropriate points the conductor turns to an absent audience to conduct them and be greeted with ….silence, is there a choir by the way? Seriously Henry Wood would have knocked the tired ritual on the head decades ago.

  • Doug says:


  • Zelda Macnamara says:

    “A unifying hymn”? I am Scottish, and it does not represent me at all. And I don’t see why “Britannia” should aim to “rule” anything.

    • dayskipper says:

      Linda Colley’s book “Britons” is very enlightening on the Scots’ role in Empire. Also the Cambridge investigation into Compensation for the release of slaves in the West Indies showed substantial payouts to Scottish slave-owners, including many single females dependent upon slaveowning as their sole capital investment. Often only one slave owned.
      (Ref David Olusoga at the BBC)

      • Zelda Macnamara says:

        Yes, I’m aware of that dark aspect of our history. Even our national poet Robert Burns almost went to Jamaica. But present-day Scots tend to distance themselves from that and are rightly critical. But we’re talking about right now, and right now, “Britannia” does not include Scotland.

        • Marfisa says:

          It did at the time Arne composed the tune, and it still does (for the moment).

        • Marfisa says:

          The words of Rule Britannia were co-written by two Scotsmen, James Thomson and David Malloch (Mallet). There were then (and are now) Scottish people supportive of the Union of the Crowns and the Act of Union.

    • Karl says:

      Are you going to demand reparations for Culloden? My father was born in Scotland so I should have a claim too.

      • Paul Brownsey says:

        Culloden was not an England-Scotland battle. It came about because the exiled Stuarts wanted to regain the British crown for themselves. The Stuarts were opposed by lots of Scots.

    • Patricia says:

      Then you needn’t listen.

  • V. Lind says:

    Just heard the Today piece. (It’s at 2:25 for those who want to find it more quickly than I did). I could just about live with I Vow to Thee My Country, which is a wonderful hymn from a piece of music I love, but if she really thinks that All You Need is Love — a grand tune and suitable in many circumstances — belongs on Last Night, she is just a philistine.

    But I am not sure the “unifying” argument is the way to go. Alas, there are all too many people like her — people with legitimate grievances about their treatment who nonetheless have the time to go looking for them where there is no intent to aggrieve — who would not find that argument persuasive.

    Let’s face it, the final half hour of Last Night bears more resemblance to the football terraces than anything else. (Perhaps she would be assuaged by You’ll Never walk Alone, though that’s an American song, whatever they believe in Liverpool). But the point is tradition, amity — which I suppose is unifying, but the virtue-signallers would get into the political meaning of the word — and shared experience.

    Her point about bringing the world together is a nice one, but for one half-hour out of this longest classical music festival in the world, it ends on a British note. For the love of God, Britain is part of the world, its history is its history, and the BBC, which ought to be (and for a very long time was) part of the very identity of Britishness throughout the world — and admired for it — needs to get its spine back.


    • MDR says:

      And you think it’s your place to tell people how they should, or should not, react to their grievances?

      V.Lind I was a fan, but on this you have gone to the dark side. Is lockdown getting to you?

  • Bored Musician says:

    Have any of you had to endure playing this crap and the rest of the dreadful second half of the program? Barely anyone understands it these days, it has no relevance to our lives whatsoever and all it does it prop up some benevolent fantasy of the past that never existed. Elgar hated the lyrics add to Pomp & Circ. Take it from a musician who has played the real thing and countless spins offs … it’s not much fun at all; frightful people come many of the spin offs just to get pissed and jingoist; in fact the RAH is full of rent a hurry Henry brigade in the box who who are only this on corporate hospitality and wouldn’t know an orchestra if they fell over one. GnS would be more honest and heaven knows how sexist, racist and imperialist that is. This moment is the prefect time to rethink this out dated, unimaginative rot and replace it with something worth celebrating; for heavens sake change the record. If this is the only way the art music community can have a party there’s no wonder we look so dull to the rest of the world.

  • James Weiss says:

    Here in the US, realtors have started to replace “master bedroom” with “primary bedroom” as they claim “master” has slave connotations.

    This is how ridiculous this is getting.

  • dayskipper says:

    We could replace ‘Rule Britannia’ with a rendition of ‘Drake’s Drum’, if anyone could find a good tune for it.
    As he only ruled the ‘narrow seas’ it would be less likely to offend.
    Only the Don’s would be offended, if they sighted Devon, by the threat to drum them up the Channel; as Drake drummed them long ago.

  • Pineapple says:

    I think it’s a pity no one asked Ms Kani why she doesn’t hire women directors in her Summer Festival, or in fact why she doesn’t champion the careers of many directors? In 2021 she has one man directing 3 operas? What a pity.

    • Joe Orton says:

      Country house wealth has been identified with profit from slavery. Perhaps Ms Kani has already expressed her objections to country houses promoting their cultural status without drawing attention to their links to the slave trade in earlier times. If popular culture has to take responsibility for its past then so should elite culture, perhaps.
      Wikipedia identifies West Horsley Place (Grange Park Opera) as a centre for fox-hunting in the 1860s.
      I hope that doesn’t make too many of Ms Kani’s future patrons choke on their canapes in the future – long after Lockdown ends, of course, and peace and tranquility returns to the Shires.

      • It is certainly an interesting contradiction, that Ms Kani’s offended onslaught on the popular, freedom-fighting anthem that is “Rule, Britannia!” goes flat against the beliefs of her operatic, country-house patrons, who would most certainly prefer England to return to the 1860s.

        Mind you, she wouldn’t be the first mandarin of the cultural elite (from either political wing) to be personally affronted by populism and the sentiments of “ordinary people”.

        Perhaps she’s planning to send back her OBE in disgust, unless the BBC bow to her pressure and scrap “Rule, Britannia!” from the last night. Who knows what her motives might be?

  • Bored Muso says:

    I agree entirely with Bored Musician…
    What is there to celebrate in any case? Certainly not being British the way this hapless Government have handled the Covid crisis as demonstrated to the rest of the world.
    Why is there a desperate need to put any RAH gig on when there is no audience, it could put the long suffering musicians and technicians broadcasting the gig at risk of catching each other’s germs…
    Why didn’t auntie Beeb just give in to the plight of all those musicians who remain out of work because of the crisis?
    I suppose, as they will be using one of their house bands, they need to prove the point and put them to work showing they have furloughed them during the crisis.
    Why not cancel the excruciating Last Night circus for ever, using this crisis as a starting point?
    Will listeners really want to celebrate anything this year??

  • Stephen Birkin says:

    Please, I beg you – ENOUGH!!

  • Anon says:

    Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the seas!
    Britons never, never, never shall be Chinese.

  • Gustavo says:

    Rule, Britannia,
    Britannia rules the seas,
    Britons, never, never, never catch a disease.

    Rule, Britannia,
    Britannia rules the seas,
    COVID, only, only, only kills the Chinese.

  • Jack Hackett says:

    The Brits need to drop it, the Empire has long gone and they no longer rule the seas.

    Look here is a song which lightens the heart, lyrics T. Crilly, music D. Maguire.

    After hearing it sung, with the famous Sax solo, Franz Schubert declared his lieder was only fit for the bonfire.

    Ah, lighten up there folks.


  • sam says:

    Rule, Britannia,
    Britannia rules the Thames,
    Them lil’ Britons today sure got phlegms.

  • mary says:

    Yeah, the last time Britain sent its Navy anywhere was to fight Argentina.

    Not exactly the Cuban missile crisis, if you know what I mean.

    • dayskipper says:

      We didn’t have anything Galtieri wanted instead; such as Jack and Bob’s missiles in Turkey to swap with Nikita’s ones in Cuba.
      We could have offered a few Penguin eggs for breeding conservation but certainly not the farmers, the sheep, the krill, the squid or the oil prospecting rights; not to mention the potential 21st C. rare metal mining prospecting on the seabed.
      Much better to get out the old Vulcan bombers and the Naval and Air Arm Task Force.
      1982’s message – don’t twist the old Lion’s tail .
      – Still holds- Britannia’s Rules!; however narrow the margins.
      Ask Tony about that!

      • 18mebrumaire says:

        Nurse! Screens, and hurry, please.

        • dayskipper says:

          For this relief, much thanks.
          Don’t forget the PPE and Trace and Contact App (and, specifically, oilskins, grappling irons and a small tender with outboard or oars!)

      • Eric says:

        When asked what he thought about the Falkland war, the Argentine writer Jorge Borges said it was like two bald men fighting over a comb.

    • Daryl says:

      Hmmm…. tell that to the scores of men and women killed and maimed by missiles sold to the Argentines by the French (with the blessing of the USA) during the war…….but it probably didn’t matter… such a piddling little war….

  • James Weiss says:

    Here’s a thought. If you don’t like something don’t watch, don’t listen. Why must you interfere with others enjoying something? The main difference between the left of the 1960s (when I was growing up) and today’s left is that they want no freedom of choice, no freedom of speech. They want conformity to their opinions only. It’s leftist fascism.

    Start your own tradition, your own festival. Don’t mess with others’ traditions. The bottom line is they want to smash the past they don’t like. And they want to beat the rest of us into submitting to the “wokeness.”

    I say resist.

  • Wayward Ed says:

    How about
    “Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    “Britons never will be behave.”

  • wasteland says:

    I can understand the need for music in times of national crisis, but resort to expressions of crude jingoism only reveals weakness. The British are better than that.

  • sonicsinfonia says:

    If we have to rewrite history to remove the politically unacceptable and support the virtue signalling, box ticking that replaces it, surely we have to find a new venue for the former ‘Greatest Music Festival in the world’?

    The Royal Albert Hall, funded by and still owned by the profiteers of trade and corporations which promulgate such shameful practices (let alone built to commemorate the memory of the husband of that arch-imperialist, Queen Victoria) is a distinctly inappropriate venue for the new ‘Woke Concerts Series’.

  • Nick2 says:

    Keeping it merely on the grounds of national unity is nuts. Sorry, Norman but Britain is very far from united and a jingoistic piece of nonsense is not going to do anything promote unity.

  • Eduardo says:


  • Karl says:

    If you give an inch they want to take a mile. Never cave in to the woke mob.

  • Gustavo says:

    – the bees’ knees
    – soon without cheese
    – acting like John Cleese

    • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

      You do know, I hope, that his family’s original surname WAS Cheese. His father felt embarrassed by it and he enlisted in the army (WW1) as “Cleese”, and officially changed the name in 1923.

  • George says:

    Dalia Stasevska’s request is not helpful. She completely ignores the way the song is performed during the Last Night. It brings people from all nations together in joy.
    It’s not as if a troupe of soldiers is marching down the Mall or slaveholders singing it.
    These are thousands and on TV millions of ordinary people, dressing up for a night of music and fun, including the orchestra and soloists.
    To me it seems, she’s trying to get attention not through the quality if her conducting, but rather through imposing her views on the vast majority of concert goers and faithful subscribers to the Proms. She has missed the whole idea of the Last Night of the Proms.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Frankly what sickens me about the whole argument is that when there are an estimated 40 million slaves in the world today we have some woke people arguing whether we should sing a song at the Proms rather than getting on with the job of fixing slavery today. Still I suppose it gives them a good feeling, deluding themselves they are fighting for a cause when they are doing nothing.

    • Karl says:

      Isn’t most of the slave labor in China? The woke mob loves communism and will never speak out against it.

    • Stan says:


      So much abuse and injustice in the world to challenge but let’s waste time attacking a song in an annual Prom!

      When Rome burns just fiddle!

    • SVM says:

      M McAlpine makes the most important point in this thread. Slavery still blights the world, including many people in the UK, some of whom are even British citizens (I hasten to add that citizenship status should make no difference to the fact that slavery is unacceptable, but the point is that the line “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves” still expresses an unrealised aspiration).

      Let the song remain in its present form as an admonishment to us all to consider how we are failing to prevent modern slavery, and how we are enabling it through our patterns of consumption and voting.

      Maybe, one day we will earn the right to make a very small revision, substituting “Humans” for “Britons”, thus:

      “Humans never, never, never shall be slaves”.

      Then again, such a change may blind future generations to the fact that the British Empire was *not* primarily a humanitarian operation.

  • Helen says:

    Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the seas!
    Britons never, never, say no to tea.

  • violin accordion says:

    Incidentally Elgar disowned and shunned the setting of “Land and Hope and Glory” . He was a modest and unassuming Edwardian .
    Pomp and circumstance does not translate to Triumphant well, and indeed the modest theme hardly covers more than an octave in range, comes in “piano” but with the vainglorious lyrics , becomes inevitably pumped up to much more than it is as a straightforward orchestral March, much to the distress of the composer

  • Simon Behrman says:

    I find the words to Rule Britannia repugnant. But the melody is also so banal, almost as bad as God Save the Queen. On a musical level La Marseillaise beats seven bells out of the drabness that the British come up with. I think we should adopt the French national anthem in the UK – much more fun to sing, will help the English break out of their stubborn monolingualism, and will piss off all the right people.

  • James Marshall says:

    What a load of white middle class bs. Wave your pathetic little plastic (ocean life killing) flags and pretend you can rationalise hundreds of years of the most shameful exploitation of fellow humans.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Interesting that the Labour Party is making more fuss about Rule Britannia than tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

  • Bruce says:

    Rule, Britannia, Britannia waives the rules!
    Britons never never never shall be fools.

  • Orchestral Musician says:

    “Rule, Britannia” is a wonderful, rousing piece of music, and it is part of a great tradition. I truly hope it remains a feature of the Proms. I shall admit however, that whenever I hear it I get the sudden urge to throw a tea chest into the local harbor.

  • MacroV says:

    You’re right about the Marseillese; those are some pretty gruesome lyrics, but you can’t beat the tune.

  • Daryl says:

    Where do these stories come from? Who first suggested that we get rid of anthems associated with our history? Should we erase history? Let’s pretend we weren’t bastards and enslaved people…. cut down statues…. remove all traces…. then we can move on to the Holocaust…. remove all traces of that too. So more black teenagers get stopped and searched on London’s streets? In what boroughs? All of them? What’s the ratio of black/ caucasian teenagers in the boroughs where this happens? Your average person doesn’t hate black people. Asian people, African people, or any other kind of people. Your average person is just tired of the same angry , bitter arguments fueling rage on the streets and in our media which inevitably results in MORE racism not less. Churchill a racist? Or a person that held views that were popular at the time? No one would say those views were correct. Keep making it White versus black or Black versus white…..keep antagonising each other. See where are in fifty years….

  • Patrick G says:

    As a French citizen under the Marseillaise I totally agree with you Mr.Lebrecht.

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    If the problem is the word “slaves”, or even the “rule” sentiment, why not just adjust the lyrics? Let them sing: “Limes, Britannia, eat limes while on the waves; Britons never never shall be scurvy knaves!”

  • G.J. Harries says:

    The world has gone mad!! So – what about the “Pomp and Circumstance” March (aka “Land of Hope & Glory”)? The words therein include “Wider still and wider, may thy boundaries stretch” – so is that sentiment acceptable? Doesn’t it refer to pushing other nations out of the way and claiming their lands? Where will this nonsense end? Please – make it stop!!!!!

    • Garry Humphreys says:

      I’ve written to several Heads of Music at the BBC over a period of about forty years (including Pickard) and even had letters in The Times, suggesting that ‘Wider still and wider … ‘ should be replaced by the equivalent words for the same tune in Elgar’s Coronation Ode (1902), namely: ‘Truth and Right and Freedom, | Each a holy gem, | Stars of solemn brightness, | Weave thy diadem’. I received polite replies (or none at all) but nothing was done. Perhaps now is the time to do it?

    • V. Lind says:

      Ever heard of metaphor? Yeah – may not have been the meaning at the time. But this is not that time.

      Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. But we don’t do it now. we learned. Suggest you try to do the same.

      It’s a SONG. It’s a good one. Get over it.

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    “Briskly, I argued that Rule Britannia is a unifying hymn, one that gives the nation confidence to face a bleak winter ahead. ”

    It’s rather moving to notice the number of flags from around the world that are waved during the singing of “Rule, Britannia!”–the way something possibly jingoistic has morphed into a sort of world-wide sing-in.

  • Maria says:

    I heard you live on Radio 4’s Today programme. You were excellent. I went one particular night some years ago to hear a Shostakovitch symphony. A bunch turned up with the gin bottle and the flags, thinking the Proms every night was a replica of the Last Night programme akin to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. They left. Says it all. Nobody gets up, either myself as a soloist many times in provincial Prom concerts, or in the audience of the London Proms, with the intention of singing pro slavery. It’s a ritual. It’s an eccentric English tradition, tongue in cheek that even our Scots and Iriah don’t quite get, never mind about Americans. So get on with it and turn it off or don’t go if it’s so offensive. It’s what I do when I don’t like something. Plenty to turn off far more serious and abusive and fowl-mouthed.