The Life and Times of the Star-Spangled Banner

God Save the King (Queen)

The authors of both the tune and words of God Save the King are unknown. The historical record of both the words and music does not go back much further than some of the American patriotic songs. The earliest known version of the modern song first appears in 1745. In 1745, Scotland attempted to break away from Great Britain, re-establish their royal line and put Bonnie Prince Charlie Stuart on the throne. This rebellion failed. God Save the King expressed the wish that the English royal house continue to rule over a united Britain. Whatever the merits of the Scottish cause, it was the English side that prevailed.

Like some of the other songs in this book, God Save the King was not written in a single act of creativity. As early as 1545, a call and response in the Royal Navy consisted of "God Save the King," answered by "Long to reign over us." Likewise, similar tunes have been found going back more than 100 years. Clearly, the author borrowed from existing material.

The 1745 version of God Save the King had a verse that is always omitted today. It is as though the American national anthem was written during the Civil War, and contained a verse that was hostile to the South. Here is the verse:

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.

Even the second verse is often considered inappropriate in a connected world.

Because Britain sometimes has a king and sometimes has a queen, the words of the song change, depending on whether the monarch is male or female. Most of these changes are obvious, interchanging "king" and "queen" and also "he" and "she." The only significant change is in the second to last line of the last verse, where a greater change is needed for the sake of the rhyme. Both versions of the line are given below.

King George III, King of England during both the American Revolution and the War of 1812

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 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 [With heart and voice to sing)],

God save the Queen.