Thursday, February 28, 2008

God Save the Queen

When we went to school in the fifties and early sixties we were taught to sing the Anthem and that meant, "God Save the Queen". I did not have a chance to sing, "God Save the King" because I went to school after Queen Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England.

And interestingly it has taken me almost 45 years later to have a proper look at the anthem which we sang so often as children. It did not mean much to us then, but we knew that we were singing it to show our loyalty to the Queen. Apart from that we did not have any idea what the anthem really meant, being such naughty kids. And any way no one actually took the pain to explain to us the lyrics.

And today, thanks to the Internet, I have more information on the anthem.

The British National Anthem dates back to the eighteenth century.

'God Save The King' was a patriotic song first publicly performed in London in 1745, which came to be known as the National Anthem at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The words and tune are anonymous, and may date back to the seventeenth century.

In September 1745 the 'Young Pretender' to the British Throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, defeated the army of King George II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh.

In a fit of patriotic fervour after news of Prestonpans had reached London, the leader of the band at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, arranged 'God Save The King' for performance after a play. It was a tremendous success and was repeated nightly.

This practice soon spread to other theatres, and the custom of greeting monarchs with the song as he or she entered a place of public entertainment was thus established.

There is no authorised version of the National Anthem as the words are a matter of tradition. Additional verses have been added down the years, but these are rarely used.

The words used today are those sung in 1745, substituting 'Queen' for 'King' where appropriate. On official occasions, only the first verse is usually sung.

The words of the National Anthem are as follows:

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.

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.

The British tune has been used in other countries. European visitors to Britain in the eighteenth century noticed the advantage of a country possessing such a recognised musical symbol.

In total, around 140 composers, including Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms, have used the tune in their compositions.

The last time this anthem was played in Sarawak was when the last Governor Sir Alexander Waddell made his salute to the lowering of the British Flag just before the birth of Malaysia came at 12.30pm on Sunday, September 15, 1963.

A description of this exit of the most unusual Brooke Rule and then another 17 year of British rule is taken from the book ‘The Formation of Malaysia’ written by the late Ho Ah Chon: “On getting abroad the HMS Killisport, the Governor took another salute from a Royal Navy Guard of Honour.

“A 17-Gun Salute boomed from Fort Margherita. The Governor returned the salute. It was a touching moment. Made sadder as the frigate sailed past

Fort Margherita, where the Sarawak Constabulary played ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

“As HMS Killisport gathered speed downriver, the crowd lining the river bank, seemed conscious that as the last of the British Governors of Sarawak departed, one chapter of the country’s history — 17 years of benevolent British rule — had closed and a new chapter — independence with its great challenges and promises — had opened.”

The next day, September 16, 1963, Malaysia was born… 16 days behind schedule because originally, the formation of Malaysia was slated to be on August 31 to coincide with the Independence Day of the Federation of Malaya.

2 memories:

AlisonBuda said...

How about the Sarawak Anthem before Malaysia "Fairland Sarawak"?

The Quartet of El Dorado said...

Yes I still have it but I have no story about it in my memory.

Do you know that it is in three languages?

I loved to sing it as a student.


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