The National Anthem

On the 4th March, MPs will debate whether to adopt an official national anthem. The current situation is as follows. God Save the Queen is the national anthem for the UK as a whole, however is used by England at sporting events. Other countries in the UK have their own unofficial anthems. Scotland for example sings ‘Flower of Scotland’.

Why does England need a National Anthem? Well let’s start by pointing out that the United Kingdom, made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, is technically classified as a Sovereign State. Not a nation, even though it has a national anthem: God Save the Queen. France is a nation. China is a nation. Kenya is a nation. But the United Kingdom is not and so how can it have a national anthem? God Save the Queen is used by New Zealand as a sort of second national anthem, often sung on Anzac Day. In Australia, Canada, Jamaica, and Tuvalu, it is the ‘official royal anthem’, sung at events involving royalty.

Now I’m a huge supporter of the British monarchy. The Queen is amazing for the country and she’s someone who we can be proud of. However, we sing our national anthem in support of her. Which is all very well, but in France they have a rather less conservative anthem, but one that is actually far more inspiring in my opinion. Here’s the English translation of it:

Arise children of our nation
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and women

To arms citizens
Form your battalions
March, march
Let impure blood
Water our furrows

Yes it is talking about cutting throats as oppose to being happy and glorious, but I believe, that is what a national anthem should be like. For much of the population, it is about sporting events and this would undoubtedly fire up the crowd far more than God Save the Queen. At events where the Queen is present, God Save the Queen is appropriate. It is a mark of respect for her from the public. But at a sporting event, surely you want something that will prepare you for the match. I can’t help thinking that in the Rugby World Cup, the English players started the game having just sung about how gracious and noble the Queen is. And although it’s true, the French would start the game having just sung about cutting throats, soldiers and war. I doubt there is any direct impact between performance and what they sing. But surely, at Twickenham, before a match, the crowd should sing something to prepare them. Something like….Jerusalem:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear: o clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariots of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight;
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

This is patriotic. While God Save the Queen talks about how wonderful the Queen is, this talks about how wonderful England is. As is I Vow To Thee My Country:

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love:
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace.

One of the things that defines your nationality, in my opinion, is that you sing your national anthem with pride, whatever you may face. I was lucky enough to be at Twickenham when England faced Australia in the Rugby World Cup. And although England were faced with a hugely difficult task under immense pressure having just lost to Wales the previous week, the crowd sung God Save the Queen at the top of their voices. The sound really was quite something. Everyone was so passionate and you can’t help but feel immensely proud and patriotic.

Labour MP Toby Perkins recently set out the reasons for debating the subject of having an official English national anthem in the commons. He said it was odd for Welsh teams to sing ‘Land of My Fathers’ and Scottish teams to sing ‘Flower of Scotland’ but for English teams to “sing about Britain”.

“This not only denies us English an opportunity to celebrate the nation that is being represented but is also a cause for resentment amongst other countries within the British Isles who feel that England have requisitioned a British song.”

Perhaps not directly linked but a possibility: we can safely assume that of the 231 Labour MPs, some are republicans (directly opposed to the British Monarchy). Indeed the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn is an open republican (although he has said he would not abolish the monarchy in what I think is an unlikely event of him becoming the Prime Minister). Standing in defiance refusing to sing the national anthem was further evidence of that. So could it be that it is Labour’s goal to abolish God Save the Queen as England’s national anthem (it will remain the UK’s national anthem though) in order to diminish the Monarchy’s impact on society?

Lots of news websites around the internet run polls. On this topic, having seen about 5 or 6 polls, the general opinion of the public seems to suggest that we should adopt an official nation anthem for England, but obviously God Save the Queen would remain as the anthem for the United Kingdom. So I conclude that, as soon as this summer, we could have an English national anthem. I’m undecided as to whether that is a good thing. But I think it will happen.


3 thoughts on “The National Anthem

  1. I’m running out of nice things to say about you Henry!

    But seriously, you’re writing was insightful and well articulated as always, and you make a lot of good points. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure where I stand on this, but I do agree that it is probably going to happen.



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