The readers of This England Magazine have chosen Land of Hope and Glory as their favourite anthem for England.
This England’s National Anthem Survey
Many thanks to all of you who voted either through the website or by post. Thank you also for your many interesting comments, a selection of which will be published in the summer edition of This England, together with details of the “Other” suggestions. The results of the vote are as follows:
Should England have its own National Anthem?
What would your choice of National Anthem be?
Land of Hope and Glory 40%
I Vow to Thee, My Country 32%
Rule Britannia 3%
The adoption of Jerusalem as England’s ‘victory anthem’ at the Commonwealth Games has provoked some controversy. Admittedly not much, but some. The Guardian decided to conduct an online poll to determine what the English anthem should have been. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve… Too late, Guardian.
Our first gold medalist, Fran Halsall, complained that she did not know the words:
“It definitely wasn’t expected, even my coach got a little bit excited about that and he doesn’t get excited by much. It was really nice to see the England flag at the top and two Aussies underneath. I don’t really know the words to Jerusalem, though: I was going to sing Land of Hope and Glory because that’s the one I know.”
Jerusalem was slagged off by Clare Balding and everyone in the BBC studio. Clare read out one of the ‘many’ anthem-related emails that they had received, and the particular one she chose asked “Why is our anthem not God Save the Queen?” To her credit Clare gave the following answer that could have been lifted straight from this site.
Technically it shouldn’t be actually because, obviously, God Save the Queen is the national anthem of Great Britain, it is not the national anthem of England and it would be rather arrogant if England were to assume that it was.
Liam Tancock, England’s second gold medalist of the day, was far more relaxed, remarking that Jerusalem allowed him to enjoy a longer time on the podium than would otherwise have been his privilege with the shorter Land of Hope and Glory.
An anthem4england supporter emailed the RFU to point out that England’s Commonwealth Games governing body has recently held a poll, involving the public and English athletes, upon which anthem should be used to celebrate England’s success at the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Dehli.
He asked why the RFU did not follow suit. This is the response:
Thanks for your mail. We are aware of the Commonwealth Games survey as we promoted ourselves on our Facebook site given our 7s team will play a key role at the Games. However we have no plans to change the anthem we use for games as we have always had strong links to our royal family and Prince Harry is our vice patron and we think that is the appropriate anthem to use and our member clubs agree. We realise that others have a different view and we accept that but for now we will stay with God Save the Queen.
Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs
Rugby Football Union
The patron of Welsh Rugby is the Queen, and the Vice Patron is Prince William, yet they seem to be able to get away with singing a Welsh anthem.
The Patron of Scottish Rugby is Princess Anne, and the Scots seem to get away with a Scottish anthem. Princess Anne doesn’t sing God Save the Queen when attending Murrayfield for diplomatic reasons, but she belts out Scotland the Brave. She once remarked of the English rugby crowd “I wonder why they don’t sing Land of Hope and Glory instead”.
So what’s the big deal about God Save the Queen and Prince Harry being the Vice Patron of English Rugby?
On St George’s Day 2010 Commonwealth Games England announced that they would let the nation decide which anthem is to be played at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi by allowing the public to vote for the song of their choice.
Voters were able to choose between God Save The Queen, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory – with Jerusalem beating the both the national anthem and the anthem previously used for English athletes competing at Commonwealth Games. The new official anthem of the England Team will be played for English athletes on the podium in Delhi when a Gold medal is won.
England athlete Dean Macey, who won Gold at the 2006 Games in Melbourne, welcomed the new anthem, saying: “Jerusalem’s awesome for getting you pumped before competing. Couple this with the huge pride that comes in wearing the red lion and you’ve got the perfect anthem for England’s Commonwealth Games’.
Duncan Lewis, Marketing Director for Commonwealth Games England, said, “The nation has spoken and we are delighted to accept Jerusalem as the anthem for England athletes in Delhi. The response from the public has been absolutely fantastic and I hope they will carry on this level of enthusiasm in supporting the team in Delhi this summer.”
Survey by YouGov of 1,896 entrants
1. Jerusalem: 52.5%
2. Land of Hope and Glory: 32.5%
3. God Save The Queen: 12%
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
Blake’s lines can be made to mean very much what those who sing and hear them want them to mean. Only one idea has to be common to every interpretation. Jerusalem is a paean of praise for England – England as it is, as it could be or even as it once was. — Roy Hattersley