NewslettersSign inAPP
spainSPAINargentinaARGENTINAchileCHILEcolombiaCOLOMBIAusaUSAmexicoMEXICOperuPERUlatin usaLATIN USAamericaAMERICA


Why do England sing the national anthem of the United Kingdom “God Save the King”?

You recognize the tune, even if you don’t know the words, but why does England sing this particular song before their soccer games?

You recognize the tune, even if you don’t know the words, but why does England sing this particular song before their soccer games?
picture allianceGetty

The World Cup is the only sporting event, with the possible exception of the Olympics, where we get to look at the top stars from every country go head to head. With every nation fielding a single team, FIFA made an exception in their guidelines for the “home nations” of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to field individual teams rather than a single national side.

This is a strange anomaly on the world sporting stage, where countries are required to compete as one, whether they like it or not. The old Soviet team was an example of this, as is the current Spanish side, many of whom are from Catalunya and would prefer to field their own team, untethered from Madrid.

FIFA’s rules forbid such a move, however, although there are some grey areas in the system, which allows Puerto Rico, Gibraltar, and French Guiana to compete as nations despite being constituent parts of a larger country.

But in the case of the British isles, it would all seem to be more complicated. After all, none of these are small, faraway outcrops, and with the exception of Northern Ireland, they are not even “overseas”.

As a single nation, the anthem of the UK is “God Save The King”, sung to the tune familiar to most American schoolchildren as “America (My Country, Tis Of Thee)”.

That is to say, this is the national anthem of Scotland and Wales, as well as England and Northern Ireland. Only the two latter choose to sing it at their soccer matches, however.

Of course, all of this has a political element. While three of the four nations in the UK have devolved governments, and naturally anthems that more befit an independent people, it is perhaps notable that the only one that doesn’t is England. Scotland have their own government, as does Wales and Northern Ireland, but uniquely in the UK, England has no parliamentary body governing them alone. And along with that, no specifically English national anthem.

And this is the heart of much of the controversy drawn from the use of the British anthem for the English team. While Welsh, Scottish, and even Liverpool supporters have booed “God Save The King” as a form of protest, the use of the song as the team’s anthem has strong opposition in England as well.

A majority of England fans would prefer the use of “Land of Hope and Glory” or “Jerusalem” as a specifically English anthem, according to a 2014 poll to find the best song for the Three Lions.

Of course, as an anthem, the tune can be used by any of the various parts of the United Kingdom, including Gibraltar, or even Commonwealth nations who have the monarch as head of state, such as Canada or Australia.

Here are the lyrics to the song, although only the first verse is generally sung.

God Save the King

God save our gracious 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!

O Lord our God arise,

Scatter his enemies,

And make them fall:

Confound their politics,

Frustrate their knavish tricks,

On Thee our hopes we fix:

God save us all.

Thy choicest gifts in store,

On him be pleased to pour;

Long may he reign:

May he defend our laws,

And ever give us cause,

To sing with heart and voice,

God save the King!


To be able to comment you must be registered and logged in. Forgot password?