Sunday, 15 June 2014

God save the Queen?

I just caught a brief moment in a TV debate about the EU and our place in it. Usually I avoid such occasions like the plague as they are never anything more than an excuse for blinkered idiots of all persuasions to vent their ill informed opinions while keeping their ears and minds firmly shut.

I did catch one speaker, presumably from the anti EU camp, saying the only National Anthem he recognised was 'God Save the Queen'.

This got me thinking about National Anthems in general and ours in particular. The British National Anthem is the only one (as far as I am aware) that makes no mention of, or reference to, the country it is the anthem of.

God Save our Gracious Queen -
We are asking some mythical sky being to 'save' the Queen. It doesn't say which Queen as we don't know who is meant by 'our', but as it specifies a 'Gracious Queen', they must be talking about the British one because, quite frankly, all the others are a bit common, it has to be said. 

It doesn't say what she is supposed to be being saved from, or for, or just being generally saved. Is she being attacked by mutant zombies, or has she fallen down a well? Perhaps she being saved for later in case we run out.

Long Live our Noble Queen -
Can't argue with that. Coronations are expensive.

God Save the Queen -
Ditto the above.

Send Her Victorious -
Victorious against who - or what? The mutant zombies perhaps?

Happy and Glorious -
Again, this is a good idea. Miserable monarchs are a pain. Yours truly is the only one allowed to be grumpy around here.

Long to Reign Over Us -
Now it's starting to get monotonous. 

God Save the Queen -
What did I just say about monotonous.

You will notice that there is absolutely no reference to any nation. Someone listening to this being sung would have no idea what it was about unless they were told beforehand. 

Most National Anthems are full of patriotic rhetoric, historical references of the favourable variety and even downright xenophobic rambunctiousness, but not ours.

I suppose that, given that we don't bother to put our country's name on our stamps or, until recently at least, military i.d. cards, we assume everyone knows it belongs to us simply by being better than everyone else's. Quite frankly, if we were to list all the things we think are great about being British, the song would last forever.

Having said that, ours almost does, and runs to at least six verses. You need to get to verse 5 before you find any mention of Britain and it's not till verse 6 that things really start to get interesting when it talks (or sings) about crushing rebellious Scots.

Why haven't we got a proper English National Anthem? The rebellious Scots have several. The Welsh sing something in Welsh which no-one understands (not even the Welsh). Do they have anything in Northern Ireland? Probably, but no-one would be able to agree on the words, or the tune, or when to sing it.

So far, the only proper attempt at a genuine English National Anthem was written by Flanders & Swann. This version (there are several) was performed on Broadway for an American audience in 1967.

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