God Save the King (God Save the Queen, etc.)
DESCRIPTION: Good wishes for the King of England: "God save (our Lord, or any monarch's name) the King, Long live our noble king, God save the King. Send him victorious, Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us, God save the King." Other verses equally insipid
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1744 ("Harmonia Anglicana")
KEYWORDS: royalty political nonballad
FOUND IN: Britain(England)
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Chappell/Wooldridge II, pp. 194-200, "God Save the King" (1 tune plus variants, 1 partial text)
Jack, p. 244, "God Save the Queen" (1 text)
Fireside, p. 208, "God Save the King" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fuld-WFM, pp. 249-251+, "God Save the King"
cf. "America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)" (tune)
Heil Dir in Siegerkranz
O Deus Optime (cf. Chappell/Wooldridge II, p. 195)
America (My Country 'Tis of Thee) (File: RJ19006)
South Carolina, A Patriotic Ode (File: CAFS1298)
My Country (Greenway-AFP, pp. 88-89)
God Save the King (The King He Had a Date) (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 115)
My Country's Tired of Me (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 159)
Can Opener, 'Tis of Thee (Pankake-PHCFSB, p. 159)
Our Land Is Free (celebrating the end of transportation to Van Diemen's Land) (Robert Hughes, _The Fatal Shore_, p. 572)
God Save the Rights of Man (1798 Irish revolutionary song) (Lawrence, p. 128; mentioned in Thomas Pakenham, _The Year of Liberty_, p. 193)
God Save America (Lawrence, p. 78)
His Excellency George Washington ("From the Americ shore, The vast Atlantic o'er, Shout -- 'Washington!'") (Lawrence, p. 92)
(Washington songs) ("Americans rejoice, While songs employ each voice" and "Hail Godlike Washington! Fair Freedom's chosen son") (Lawrence, p. 96); Ode to be sung on the Arrival of the President of the United States ("Hail thou auspicious day! Far let America Thy praise resound") (Lawrence, p. 117)
Ode ("Now let rich Musick sound And all the Region round With Rapture fill") (Lawrence, p. 97)
Ode for the Fourth of July (Lawrence, p. 128)
NOTES: This, obviously, has never been a true popular or traditional tune. But, given the number of songs derived from it, as well as the parodies (e.g. "The King he had a date, He stayed out very late, He was the King. The Queen she paced the floor, She paced till half past four, She met him at the door, God save the King"), it seems to me that it belongs here.
Fuld tells an interesting anecdote showing that this was once a political song. As first printed, the opening line read "God save our Lord the King." When Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in 1745, this was hastily amended to "God Save great GEORGE our King" -- with "George" printed in large type. Nettel, p. 136, says it was taken up at that time by companies at Drury Lane and Covent Garden, and hence became popular with the public.
Prior to its adoption in Georgian times, the English used "The Roast Beef of Old England" as their anthem.
Julian devotes more than three large pages of small type to the origin of the song: "The origin and authorship of the English national anthem have given rise to much controversy, and many theories respecting them have been advanced, often demonstrating little save the writers' misapprehension of the points really at issue" (p. 437). In the appendix on p. 1566, he prints many stanzas of verses which were written as the song evolved toward its current form(s), with first lines like "God bless our native land."
Julian lists no fewer than seven claims to the authorship of the tune. 1. A certain Richard Clark attributed it to one Dr. John Bull, who played it for James VI and I in 1607; Julian notes that Clark's book is highly inaccurate. 2. It is derived from Thomas Ravenscroft's "Remember O Thou Man" (the resemblance, sez I, is faint indeed). 3. It is based on a sonata by Purcell (Julian says this resemblance is even fainter). 4. It is said to have been sung for James II c. 1688, but with no source mentioned. 5. It is claimed as a Jacobite composition of some later date. 6. The origin is a French piece made for Louis XIV -- an hypothesis which is highly unlikely, since the French words appear translated from the English. 7. Henry Carey is credited with both words and tune (this is the only hypothesis that is even slightly plausible, but proof is lacking; the song is not found in Carey's collected works, and the claim that he sung it in 1740 was not published until 1796.) Since none of these suggestions is tenable, it appears we must consider the composer to be unknown.
Julian adds that the text found in Harmonia Anglicana, the earliest verifiable version (undated but thought to be from 1743 or 1744) 'is headed 'For two voices,' the air differs slightly from the modern version, and the words consist of two stanzas only." This was quickly adapted the the "Great GEORGE" version described above, in a score by Arne (Julian, p. 438). Many other modifications and parodies followed.
The phrase "God Save the King" is officially listed as Biblical (1 Sam. 10:24, 1 Kings 1:25, 34, 39, 2 Kings 11:12, 2 Ch. 23:11, etc.). One has to note that this is an inaccurate translation in the King James version, leading to the speculation that the acclamation actually predates the KJV (the navy may have used it around 1545, and the Agincourt Carol, which is more than a century older than that, has a line "Now gracious God he save oure kynge"). The Hebrew phrase correctly translates as "let the King live," and so is rendered "Long live the King" in almost all modern Bible translations. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Julian: John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes)
- Nettel: Reginald Nettel, Seven Centuries of Popular Song, Phoenix House, 1956
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