God Save the Queen

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.

O 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 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.

«God Save the Queen» is the official national anthem of the United Kingdom and has been so since the late 1700s, although most often with the word «King» rather than «Queen». Until recently it was also the national anthem of some Commonwealth countries that recognize the British monarch as their head of state, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Oddly enough, the tune is also the national anthem of Liechtenstein, so when England and the tiny Alpen state meet in qualifying matches for the European Football Championships, the brass band has to play the same tune twice!

In Britain the national anthem is not heard nearly as often these days as it used to be. It used to be played wherever Britons assembled - at the theatre, at the cinema, at sporting events and even in front of the television at the close of transmission. These days «God Save the Queen» is most often heard at formal, national occasions, particularly where royalty is involved. Whenever the Queen makes an official appearance and the red carpet is rolled out, the band strikes up. So, with several official engagements every week, we can safely assume that Her Majesty has got the hang of the tune by now. And probably the words too - although, of course, she’s not allowed to sing them, since they’re all about her! 

It has to be said that many Britons find their national anthem a little easier to swallow without the words. It’s not that they don’t wish their monarch happiness and a long life - but victory and glory ...? If the anthem is sung, it is usually only the first verse. In fact, many Britons don’t even know there are any other verses, and would be rather baffled by the hopes and fears expressed in them. Which «enemies» are these,  whose politics should be "confounded" and whose «knavish tricks» should be frustrated?

To answer these questions we have to look at the time in which it was written. There is some doubt about the origin of the tune, but the first public performance of «God save the King» was at a theatrical performance in Drury Lane, London in the year 1745 during extraordinary circumstances. At the time, an army of Scots Highlanders was on its way towards London – and they were not coming for a night on the town. Their leader was Prince Charles Edward Stuart, nicknamed Bonnie Prince Charlie, and his aim was ambitious, to say the least - to oust George II from the throne of England and Scotland and claim the throne for his father.

His father, known variously as «the Old Pretender», «the king over the water» or «James III» was the son of James II of the House of Stuarts, who had himself been ousted from the English throne in a bloodless revolution 57 years earlier, because of his Catholic faith. But in 18th century England and Scotland there were still those in favour of the Stuart cause, and the King and his government lived in constant fear of plots from these «Jacobites», as they were called.

Because of repression by the government, the Jacobite threat was largely secret and therefore difficult to measure or identify. In Scotland dissatisfaction with the recent Act of Union (1707) with England made many sympathetic to the Jacobite cause. In Ireland years of bitter oppression of the native Catholic population meant that the Stuart claim to the throne would undoubtedly receive enormous popular support. Even in England there was cause for anxiety. Political life at the time was dominated by two parties, the Whigs and the Tories. The Whigs had been central in replacing the Stuarts back in 1680 and had since maintained complete dominance of Parliament. While there was no official support by the Tories by the Jacobite cause, London was full of rumours of Tory plots. These are the «knavish tricks» mentioned in the second verse.

In 1745, with several hundred Scottish Highlanders marching towards London, these fears seemed quite justified! After all, most of the British army was off fighting on the continent and it was left to Marshal Wade and a fairly small army to fend off the intruders. It was this atmosphere that inspired a fourth verse to be added to the anthem:

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 King!

As it turned out, the strength of the Jacobite cause had been overrated. By the time the Scottish army had reached Derby it was clear that the popular rising Charles Stuart had envisaged, was not going to materialise. These kilted, bagpipe-playing highlanders were seen as a foreign invasion, not an army of liberation. The decision was taken to retreat back over the Scottish border. The British army took up pursuit and on April 16th 1646 Charles Stuart’s exhausted army was massacred at the battle of Culloden, near Inverness, in what was to be the last military battle to take place on British soil.

It meant the end of the Jacobite cause, the end of Catholicism as a political force in Britain and the end of Scottish dreams of regaining independence. The hopes expressed in the last verse of «God Save the King» seemed to have been fulfilled. For the ruling House of Hanover it seemed indeed that God was pleased to «pour his choicest gifts» on them, for what followed was over a century of unparalleled stability and growth at home, and a colonial expansion abroad that established Britain as the leading world power.

It is now over two-and-a-half centuries since that first performance in Drury Lane. London no longer fears attack from wild highlanders, but neither are the prospects of world domination quite as realistic. If Britons sing their national anthem with a certain embarrassment today, it’s perhaps because they are aware of how changed their circumstances are.



1.Why are these items mentioned in the text? Write short explanations:
 - Liechtenstein
 - red carpet
 - Drury Lane
 - Bonnie Prince Charlie
 - Jacobites
 - the Act of Union
 - Whigs and Tories
 - Marshal Wade
 - Culloden
 - embarrassment

2.Match up the verbs in list A with the correct translations from list B.


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