Not just an English patriotic song (as had been claimed) but the British national anthem -- which is one of the reasons why the Sex Pistols' version was so shocking to the more "respectable" members of society at the time.

The origin of the song (both words and music) is unknown although some attribute it to Henry Carey. The first recorded public performance was in 1745. Although there are 5 verses (as well as an almost-forgotten anti-Scottish verse) it is extremely rare for any other than the first to be song. Of course when the British monarch is male the song becomes God Save The King...

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
Oh, 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 over

From every latent foe
From the assassin's blow
God save the Queen!
O'er her thine arm extend
For Britain's sake defend
Our mother, prince, and friend
God save the Queen!

Here is the omitted anti-scottish verse:

God grant that Marshall 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.

Some notes edited from http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~saxton/oz/gstq.html

This verse dates from the Jacobite Rebellion of 1746, when Scottish Rebels and the French attempted to invade England with the purpose of enthroning The New Pretender, "Bonnie Prince Charlie". This verse is virtually unknown today.


I can't find any relevant reference to Marshall Wade other than this song... if you find anything, node it!
Although it is officially the British national anthem, there is some feeling of vacillation about whether it is more British, English, or royal in character. At sporting events where England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland compete as separate countries it is inappropriate to use it as the England song.

Also it was the national anthem of Australia (and possibly other Commonwealth countries, I don't know) until fairly recently; supporters of its retention argued it was a royal anthem to the Australian head of state, the Queen, while opponents argued it was essentially the anthem of another country, Britain.

The tune is also used for the national anthem of Liechtenstein, Oben am jungen Rhein, "High up on the young Rhine"; and for the American song My Country 'Tis of Thee.

As to its being "official", it was changed in the Proclamation of the present Queen on 7 February 1952. The King died on 6 February while Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya. On her arrival home, she was "proclaimed" the following day in the City of London. (I don't know what "proclaim" technically means here, since the Crown passes to the next in line at the instant of death, and the Coronation is about a year later.)

I once looked back in Keesing's, the weekly (as it then was) archive of world events, and read their extremely detailed account of the events surrounding the King's death and the Queen's accession. The Proclamation dealt with may things, but among its technical details, the national anthem was changed from "God Save the King" to "God Save the Queen", the courts of the King's Bench were changed to Queen's Bench, and the lawyers called King's Counsels were changed to Queen's Counsels.

Most countries are much simpler: Chad or Togo became independent on such-and-such a date in 1960, with a brand-new constitution that stated inter alia that the national anthem is such-and-such, the flag is such-and-such. Britain's constitution has grown organically (with some pruning and forcing) for many centuries, and probably there was no one date on which an official declaration adopted the national anthem. (See my article on the Union Jack for an account of its complex history, as an example.)

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