God Save the Queen: National anthem lyrics and origins

God Save the Queen has been a national anthem since the early 19th century.  (Getty Images)
God Save the Queen has been a national anthem since the early 19th century. (Getty Images)

As the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations draw near, it’s time to familiarise ourselves with a particular song that is sure to be sung up and down the country –God Save the Queen.

The national anthem will play a key role in the celebrations, and will likely be sung multiple times over the four-day Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

But where did God Save the Queen come from, and how did it become a national anthem? Plus, how does it differ from Scotland and Wales’ national anthems?

Find out everything you need to know about the patriotic song below…

God Save the Queen lyrics

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.

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.

Although additional verses have been added to the anthem over the years, only the first verse is traditionally sung at official occasions. The word “Queen” or “King” is used when appropriate.

When Prince Charles becomes King, the lyrics will be changed to “God save our gracious King!”

England’s national anthem is God Save the Queen (Getty Images)
England’s national anthem is God Save the Queen (Getty Images)

God Save the Queen origins

God Save the Queen in its current form dates back to the eighteenth century and became England’s – and Britain’s -national anthem at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

It is not known who wrote the song’s music and lyrics, but God Save the King was first publicly performed in 1745, as a patriotic song.

The leader of the Theatre Royal band arranged to perform God Save the King after a play in September 1745, following news that Prince Charles Edward Stuart had defeated King George II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh.

Other theatres began playing the song, and it became tradition to play it to monarchs when they entered a public venue, like a theatre.

And you may be wondering–what was the national anthem before God Save the Queen?

But neither England nor the UK as a whole had a national anthem before God Save the Queen. Around the time that the song became popular, countries did not typically have national anthems.

Although God Save the Queen is officially Britain’s national anthem, Scotland and Wales have their own–technically unofficial–national anthems too.

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Scottish national anthem

Scotland’s national anthem is O Flower of Scotland. It was written by Roy Williamson of The Corries and is the official anthem of the Scottish football and rugby teams.

The lyrics refer to King of Scots Robert the Bruce’s victory over Edward II’s English army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

O flower of Scotland

When will we see your like again

That fought and died for

Your wee bit hill and glen

And stood against him

Proud Edward’s army

And sent him homeward

Tae think again

The hills are bare now

And autumn leaves lie thick and still

O’er land that is lost now

Which those so dearly held

And stood against him

Proud Edward’s army

And sent him homeward

Tae think again

Those days are passed now

And in the past they must remain

But we can still rise now

And be the nation again

That stood against him

Proud Edward’s army

And sent him homeward

Tae think again

Scotland’s national anthem is O Flower of Scotland (Getty Images)
Scotland’s national anthem is O Flower of Scotland (Getty Images)

Welsh national anthem

Wales’ national anthem is Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, or The Land of My Fathers. It was written in 1856 by father and son Evan James and James James from Pontypridd, South Wales.

Originally titled Glan Rhondda (or Banks of Rhondda), it became popular at patriotic events like eisteddfodau, and gradually became accepted as the national anthem.

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi,

Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri;

Ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mâd,

Tros ryddid gollasant eu gwaed.

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad,

Tra môr yn fur i’r bur hoff bau,

O bydded i’r heniaith barhau.

Wales’ national anthem is Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Getty Images)
Wales’ national anthem is Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Getty Images)

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