Which is the only nation competing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup that, when the two teams line up ahead of kick off, doesn’t have an anthem to call its own? Easy! Easy! England of course. Whatever the Scots, Welsh and at least half the Northern Irish’s view of the Royal Family, God Save the Queen is as much their anthem as ours, so why on earth doesn’t England get a tune that belongs to us?
Of course the Scots and the Welsh have decided that while God Save the Queen is good enough when the Union Jack is run up the Olympic Flagpole for their Gold Medalists Chris Hoy and Nicole Cook, when their football or rugby teams are competing in the colours of Scotland or Wales its time to belt out Flower of Scotland or Land of My Fathers. OK, so Northern Ireland has opted for no anthem of their own, though at Stormont they do at least have a Parliament they can call their own, a subject for another debate.
‘Happy and Glorious’ God Save the Queen goes, and ‘long to reign over us’ a line later. Nothing could sum up English subjecthood better. Of course the Royal Family are happy, because they reign over us at our expense, but the argument for an anthem to call our own cannot be reduced to making the case for English Republicanism. However, a song that celebrates being ruled by others put in place simply by accident of birth, and which in not one stanza ever actually mentions England is surely not a fitting tune.
After World Cup 2002 the FA quietly ran a poll amongst England supporters on whether an alternative to God Save the Queen should be considered for international matches. With zero campaigning, and no alternatives offerred, an astonishing 36% voted for change. Nothing came of it, the opportunity to inauguarate the new Wembley with an anthem to call our own squandered, but there remains significant popular support whenever the argument is made not in terms of knocking God Save the Queen but simply pointing out that England should have its own anthem.
And the contenders? Well it would be very New Labour to commission Simon Cowell and Andrew Lloyd Webber to come up with ‘Anthem Idol’ wouldn’t it? It’s just the sort of thing Blair-lite Cameron might favour too. But twenty-first century manufacturing of tradition could never match the heritage of the songs we have on offer to choose from.
Each will have their favourites. If I was asked to plump for a modern classic I’d choose The Jam’s English Rose. Haunting, full of longing for a country. But that’s probably too up-to-date for most tastes. I Vow To Thee My Country has probably the best tune of the lot but I’m not sure that words written by a Yank entirely fit the bill – although music provided by a Swedish immigrant born in Cheltenham is rather neat. Rule Britannia is rousing enough yet is clearly a British anthem, not an English one in any obvious sense. Some will differ but I also find the singing of ‘Britons, never, never will be slaves’ more than a tad dodgy when the team we’re supporting on the pitch is made up of a fair number of players whose great grandparents were precisely that, slaves. Land of Hope and Glory fails for me on similar counts. Again, with no actual mention of England it is a celebration of the Britishness of Empire, not England. And do we really want a tune that marks England’s fate after Empire ‘By Freedom gained, by Truth maintained, Thine Empire shall be strong’.
No there’s one runaway contender, presuming Cowell and Lloyd-Webber failed to find their anthem-factor. Jerusalem. Words by one of England’s greatest cultural figures, William Blake. Artist, poet, thinker. Music by an English composer. The words actually mention England. A bit too Christian? That might put off some, attract others. But of course the Jerusalem Blake was writing about was a better, brighter society we could call England. A bit political? Come off it, who doesn’t want a better England, the argument is only what we might mean by better.
Will it ever happen? I mean an anthem to call our own, not the better England! I entirely back the idea of an English Parliament but right now I would put the anthem, and a day off for St George’s Day too, right at the core of campaigning for England’s place in the break up of Britain. These are hugely popular issues, they carry none of the trappings of Westminster politics currently mired in scandal and disrepute. Yet they codify our difference, our independence and have the potential to appeal to all who call England their home.
Mark Perryman is the editor of Imagined Nation : England after Britain and co-founder of philosophyfootball.com. The company poduces a T-shirt with the words to Jerusalem forming a St George Cross, and on the back for fans of cult 70s sci-fi… well what other squad number could you give William Blake apart from ‘7’. Available from philosophyfootball.com
In his recent call to celebrate Englishness, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, ended his speech with the lyrics of Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory (which happen to be the two front-runners in our current poll). However, there are those who would like a new, contemporary, anthem for England.
The BBC and Arts Council England have teamed up to commission a new anthem for England. The result is Sam Dunkley’s Made in England.
I am England, England is inside of me.
I am England, England is what I want her to be,
I am England, I am English, I am England to my core,
And wherever you may find me, you’ll find England.
England Forever More!
England, my England, she never lets me down,
Hustle bustle, urban tussle, dancing through the crowds,
Or out in the country, a fresh place for me to breathe,
England my England is always home to me!
Fish and chips in paper, with mushy peas,
Balti chicken, naan bread and onion bhajis,
A cup of tea and toast, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding,
Tastes of our culture, tastes like England to me!
Swing low sweet chariot, God Save The Queen!
Land of hope and glory and of pleasant mountains green,
England’s future, past and today live in our minds on St George’s Day,
England, England, my country!
The Daily Mail calls it ‘banal‘, Cranmer calls it ‘utterly banal‘ and Anthony Barnett says ‘ouch‘.
You can judge for yourself by listening to it here.
ENGLISH NATIONAL ANTHEM
That this House believes that it is time for England to adopt an appropriate song as the English national anthem to be used by English sporting teams and athletes; further believes that it is quite wrong that England uses the UK national anthem; considers that God Save the Queen should only be used for British or UK teams, for example the British Lions and at the Olympics, including if a Team GB football team competes at the London 2012 Olympics; is concerned that the continued use of God Save the Queen by the English and the failure to make the distinction between England and Britain is inaccurate and confusing and that not making the distinction between England and Britain actually undermines the union; urges the English people to recognise that British and English identity are not the same and that God Save the Queen is the anthem of Britain as a whole; and calls, therefore, for the introduction of a solely English national anthem to be used on occasions when England, as opposed to the UK, is being represented.
Please write to your MP and ask them to support this Early Day Motion.
Maureen Keating has contacted the site to say:
Yes, England should most definitely have its own anthem – either Rose of England or Land of Hope and Glory.
What a shame that we don’t have ‘Rose of England’ as one of the options in our poll.
Rose of England
Grown in one land alone,
Where proud winds have blown;
There’s not a flow’r
Born of the show’r
Braver than England’s own.
Though gales of winter blow
Piercing hail and snow,
Shining she stays,
Bright as in days of yore,
Old England’s pride still blossoms
fresh on England’s shore.
Rose of England, thou shalt fade not here,
Proud and bright from rolling year to year.
Red shall thy petals be as rich wine untold
Shed by thy warriors who served thee of old.
Rose of England, breathing England’s air,
Flower of Chivalry beyond compare;
While hand and heart endure to cherish thy prime,
Thou shalt blossom to the end of Time.
Music by Ivor Novello from “Crest of the Wave”
Words by Christopher Hassall
Still, despite the original ovesight, ‘Rose of England’ now gets its own blog entry by way of amends.
In the Spectator’s St George’s Day special George Bridges asks should ‘Jerusalem’ be Engerlund’s anthem?
No. ‘Jerusalem’ is not a hymn for England, still less the Little Englanders…
Yes, I can well understand why the English feel taken for granted, and that the McMafia are taking the mickey. But an English national anthem will not help. We already have a national anthem — one that celebrates the monarchy, one of the few institutions that still binds us together as a nation. Yes, it is official in so far as we call it our ‘national anthem’, but there’s no law that enshrines its status. It’s part of the wonderful jumble of unwritten customs and traditions that make our constitution. Give England an official anthem, recognised by Parliament, and before long we will begin to unstitch another seam of our not-so-green and pleasant land. You can be English and you can be angry. But if we surrender ‘Jerusalem’ to the Little Englanders, those who believe in the United Kingdom would truly cease from mental fight.
The Welsh Sports Minister, Rhodri Glyn Thomas (Plaid Cymru), wants “common sense” to prevail so that the Welsh national anthem can be played alongside God Save The Queen when Cardiff City play in the FA Cup final.
In the absence of an English Sports Minister to call for an English anthem, common sense comes in the form of Cardiff City supporter Gwyn Davies:
“There’s no prouder Welshman than me but this is not the time and the place.
“It’s not Wales v England, it’s two teams in the English FA Cup final”.
Presumably both sets of fans will join together in singing Abide with Me.
Wayne Rooney has been criticised by Bob Peedle, Vice Chairman for Royal Society of St George, for not singing the British national anthem:
“The England footballer does not show the patriotism that I see from other players.
“I can only assume that he does not know the words to the anthem and is just not prepared to learn them.<
“He just stands there stern faced. He sticks-out like a saw thumb and he is setting a bad example to the young people who idolise him.
“In America, every morning in school assembly they stand with the hand on their hearts and sing their anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.
“It is about time we started doing that in this country and then people like Wayne Rooney would know the anthem as second nature.
“I imagine Rooney has never been taught the words and does not know their significance.
“He can’t be embarrassed about his singing voice. He could take a leaf out of the book of the England Rugby team who really sing the anthem with a passion.
“He should learn the anthem and not just because he represents English football but because it is the duty of every Englishman to sing the anthem.
“I’d like to see him know the word of God Save The Queen by St George’s day and I would be very happy to teach him.”
Meanwhile the Dean of Southwark Cathederal has banned the hymn Jerusalem for being ‘too nationalistic’. If Wayne Rooney and the lads sang it instead of remaining silent during God Save the Queen I might well agree.
Astonishingly the Telegraph informs us that Jerusalem is the favourite hymn of Gordon Brown.
Alfie managed to ask James Purnell, Culture Secretary for England, the following question:
‘Can you ask Mr Purnell when England is going to be allowed her own National Anthem?
God Save the Queen is not the English Anthem, it is the British one – England doesn’t have one and it’s about time we did. I suggest ‘Jerusalem’.
Scotland and Wales have their own anthems – and it is plainly bizarre to hear the Welsh and the Scots booing ‘God Save the Queen’ as the anthems are played prior to England playing them in the 6 nations tournament.
Mr Purnell is the culture secretary for England – he should start to champion our country by promoting our culture. Our own unique national anthem would be a start’.
You can read his pathetic reply here.
Writing in the Sunday Times Jeremy Clarkson muses over the state of the nation:
I looked at our players mumbling their way through the national anthem and realised they didn’t really care about playing for England. Because they don’t really know what England is. And truth be told, neither do I….
This is the only country in the world where the national flag is deemed offensive. Small wonder the England players were disinclined to sing the national anthem with any gusto. It’s in English and that’s offensive too.
I recently received some interesting feedback via our contact form:
How can you use quotes from that communist lackey Billy Bragg, it is him and his ilk that have managed to bring England to the sad and sorry state it is at the moment, and quotes from the Daily Mirror, mouthpiece of New Labour who sold us out to Europe and allowed our Parliament to be constantly over ruled by a group of un-elected European federalists. Shame on you.
Andy, some of my best friends are communist lackeys and EU-federalists.
Actually I don’t know any but as it happens I did just read Billy Bragg’s new book ‘The Progressive Patriot’. In it Billy writes:
There is a simple reason why so many ordinary people have recently turned to the St George’s Cross as a means of displaying their support for our national team. It’s the only thing we English have that belongs to us alone. Of the thirty-two countries that competed in the 2006 World Cup there was only one which didn’t have its own parliament or passports or national anthem: England.
Of these three it’s the last which rankles most. It’s been years since our Welsh and Scottish neighbours stopped singing the British national anthem, ‘God Save the Queen’, at sporting events. It didn’t take an Act of Parliament, or the United Kingdom to crumble or the monarchy to collapse, to make the change. When the Welsh sing ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ they are sending out a message, and even if the language is unfamiliar, the meaning is clear: ‘Hello, we’re from Wales and we’re very proud of it.’ England’s continued attachment to the British national anthem smacks of a lack of self-confidence, a worry that, without it, we might somehow be a lesser people. The message sent out every time we sing ‘God Save the Queen’ is one of ambiguity: ‘Hello, we’re the English, but we’re not really sure what that means.’
Communist lackey or not he has a point. The Progressive Patriot is available from Billy Bragg’s website.
I do feel that things are changing for the better, but still, to anyone English, this passage from The Christian Science Monitor must serve as a damning indictment of lacklustre England:
There is no national dress, no national song. (The English footballers must sing the British anthem before matches.) The national day, April 23 – named for the patron saint of England, St. George – is an utter non-event compared with July 4 in the US, March 17 in Ireland, and July 14 in France. A decade ago, a World Cup run would have been feted with British Union jacks, not St. George flags.