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A complete guide to God Save The Queen

As a royalist, I feel having a national anthem about our Queen is a fantastic thing. Republicans argue (they always do) that God Save The Queen shouldn’t be Britain’s anthem because it’s ‘all about The Queen’ – we’ll come onto why that’s not the case in just a minute, though I thought I’d take this opportunity to go back a few centuries to see how the song (and then anthem) came into existence.


In 1745, the patriotic song God Save The King was performed in London for the first time. The lyrics, rather different to what we know as God Save The Queen these days, but the tune – unmistakably that of the anthem.

The song was actually written as a rallying cry around the King after the defeat of his army at Prestopans by that of the ‘Young Pretender’ – Charles Edward Stuart, now more commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Starting in a theatre in London, before spreading to others across the country, the practice of playing God Save The King at the end of performances became de rigueur and eventually the tune was adopted as the official national anthem of Great Britain.

To this day the tune remains the anthem of the United Kingdom and also of some of the other realms with Her Majesty as Head of State.

The tune to God Save The King even forms the basis to some other countries’ national songs including America’s My Country is of Thee, The Norwegian Royal Anthem and even the national anthem of Liechtenstein!

The anthem has moved with the times and in 1952, (as in 1837) was modified from God Save The King to God Save The Queen, on Her Majesty’s accession to the throne – ever since she has doubtless heard it thousands of times, yet the only one she was apparently genuinely moved by was Benjamin Britten’s rendition of the anthem, first played in the 1960s and played annually at Last Night of the Proms (below).

Nowadays, despite no official record of the anthem’s current verses existing, through tradition and persistence of use, 6 verses have been ‘adopted’ as the de facto official anthem (see below).

Typically, only the first verse is sung though on occasion a second verse may be sung (when two verses are sung, it’s verses 1 and 3) and on rare occasions, all of the first three verses may be used. Almost never are any of the other 3 verses used.

In fact, most Britons know the first verse and part of the second verse, though as a general rule that’s enough to get by on most occasions – the anthem is quite slow in comparison to other nations’ anthems, so typically just the first verse is used because of this.

Two verses are used in the presence of Her Majesty usually.

Verse 6 holds a special place with the national anthem in that it can never be used. References to ‘crushing Scots’ are to blame for the neglect of this verse.

.. God Save The Queen#1

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.


Oh, Lord our God arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all.


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!

Not in this land alone,
But be God’s mercies known,
From shore to shore.
Lord make the nations see,
That men should brothers be,
And form one family,
The wide world o’er.#5

From every latent foe,
From the assassin’s blow,
God Save The Queen.
O’er thine arm extend,
For Britain’s sake defend,
Our mother prince and friend,
God Save The Queen.


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 Queen.

As I mentioned earlier, republicans remonstrate about how the anthem focuses too much on The Queen and neglects to mention the people. The answer to this is obvious though. The Queen embodies Britain as its head of state – whereas some countries tie their national identity up in a flag, Britain is unique in that ours is represented by a living, breathing Queen – so in that respect God Save The Queen just as much represents the people! – And who can say they are not at least slightly moved by this rendition of the anthem?

As far as national songs go, I believe God Save The Queen is the best one for the United Kingdom. In modern Britain the 4 countries that make up the UK have adopted their own anthems (for example, Scotland uses Flower of Scotland) but God Save The Queen will I hope remain Britain’s anthem for many years to come. God Save The Queen.

Quick Facts
  • The Queen herself never sings the anthem though other members of the Royal Family do – including the Duke of Edinburgh.
  • Correct protocol in Britain for the national anthem is simply to stand up (and remove headdress where appropriate) – it isn’t seen as correct to put your hand across your heart as with some other nations.
  • When Prince Charles accedes as King, the anthem will revert to being God Save The King.

photo credit: Defence Images via photopin cc

  • Rodrigo Poit

    There is also a Brazialian patriotic song called ‘Ave Gloria, Ave Imperio’ in which its tune is also based on God Save The Queen. This tune is from Brazilian Empire times (probably composed for Dom Pedro II) and unfortunately is quite unknown today…. Very nice to see some kind of British heritage over South America too!

    • Tamarindwalk

      In the US we also have a patriotic song the tune of which is the same as ‘God Save the Queen’. Nice to see that at least the tune has stayed with us from the days when we had a king and queen.

      • James M. Grandone

        Let Freedom Ring

        • Tamarindwalk

          …under the king.

  • Tamarindwalk

    I remember listening to it on Canadian radio stations and then later at when the TV stations would close down in Hong Kong. Of all the national anthems that I know, and in spite of it not being my own, I like it the most.
    As a young boy, we took a trip to Canada and were present at some sort of military parade. I remember my mother and her sister discussing whether we should stand if they played ‘God Save the Queen’. Well, they played it and almost automatically, we stood with respect.

  • Jovan Weismiller

    I learned the words at my Hampshire born Mum’s knee! I love it! God save the Queen!

    • Kathleen Ames

      Me too!

  • Malcolm marshall

    Something worth talking about it was one thing my father insisted on was knowing the 1st verse of the National Anthem, which every body regardless should know weather they sing it or not. Living in the US for sometime so i also know the 1st verse of the star spangled banned

  • Glenys Hutchinson

    I wonder if we should use ‘God Save the Queen’ when Her Majesty is present, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ or ‘Rose of England’ for a National Anthem for England.

    • Matt

      I agree, although would disagree with ‘Rose of England’ as it’s not widely known

      • Kathleen Ames

        It is too slow and too difficult to sing for a National Anthem as well and what happens when we change to a King?

  • Simon Reilly

    Another reason verse six can’t be used is that Marshal Wade is dead (I resist the temptation to comment on whether the sentiments are appropriate or not!).

  • Carol Newman

    in school we had another verse that started One realm of nations four, blessed ever more and more.

  • J

    Was used as a funeral march in a German Opera

  • David

    Verse 6 quoted here is spurious and should never be included as being in any way part of the anthem and cannot even be traced back to the 45 rebellion. The first three verses are those printed, with slight variations, in 1745.

  • Vancouverois

    I learned another verse that (I imagine) was added in Canada:

    Lord, our Dominion bless
    With peace and happiness
    From shore to shore;
    And let the Empire be
    United, loyal, and free,
    True to itself and Thee

    • Andrew

      This verse was also used in Australia well into the ’70’s

  • Roger Grenville

    We are the only country to have as its National Anthem a hymn of homage to its Head of State. Hitler, Mussolini, Mao Tse-Tung, Stalin, Franco, Salazar and Kim Il Sung never had their country’s anthem about them. Just ‘free, democratic’ Britain !

  • Bill Kenny

    From 1871 to 1917, the tune was also used as the German Imperial anthem “Heil dir im Siegerkranz.”

  • Cheryl Allen

    It’s a ridiculous anthem the majority of people in this country do not describe themselves as Christian alot do not recognise a God so who are we asking to save whom?

  • fluffnik

    As an atheist republican Scot who regards the UK as an unwelcome occupying power in my country, there is nothing about this dirge that I like.

  • Paul Sexton

    Love all the verses but not sure about THE REBELLOUS SCOTS that might cause a problem!!

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