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World Cup 2022

Why does the Spanish anthem have no lyrics and what other countries only have music in their anthem?

Spain’s national anthem will ring out ahead of Spain vs Costa Rica at the World Cup in Qatar, but nobody will be singing. Why is that?

Spain's national anthem will ring out ahead of Spain vs Costa Rica at the World Cup in Qatar, but nobody will be singing. Why is that?

The Spanish national anthem, also known as the Marcha Real (the Royal March), will ring out ahead of the Spain vs Costa Rica game at the World Cup in Qatar, but nobody will be singing along to the stirring tune, because the anthem does not have any words.

The melody, one of the classic national anthems, has its origins in an 18th century song known as the ‘Marcha de Granaderos’ orMarch of the Grenadiers’, which appears for the first time in 1761, in a book of Military Marches of the Spanish Infantry. The tune itself was a popular number among the Spanish people and it was eventually declared a ‘March of Honor’ by Charles III in 1770.

Little by little it gained supporters to the point where it became known as the ‘Royal March’, being played during the acts and events where members of the Royal Family were present. By 1908, Bartolomé Pérez Casas, Head Musician of the Royal Corps of Alabarderos Guards, adapted the tune, which became the specific anthem that has survived to this day.

Ok, so it’s a cracking tune, but why doesn’t the Spanish national anthem have any lyrics?

The lack of agreement, key to the non-existence of letters

The answer to this question lies in disagreements among the population of the country. Put simply, the Spanish people have never managed to agree on a set of lyrics. Never, at least, unanimously, because there have been a number of attempts to come up with words for the anthem. The first major attempt was in 1870, by one General Prim.

At his prompting Spanish officials commissioned a contest for both musicians and poets to put lyrics to the hymn. However, the competition failed to produce a winner, with the judges failing to reach a consensus on any of the entries. The ‘March of the Grenadiers’ was left without a set of lyrics.

The best known attempt to give the Spanish something to sing with their anthem dates from the fairly recent past. The Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) set up, in 2007, a new competition to find a writer for a set of lyrics for the Spanish anthem. This time there was even a winner. Paulino Cubero, from Ciudad Real, was commissioned and composed a text for Plácido Domingo to sing. The opera singer even ended up rehearsing it.

The lyrics go something like this: “Long live Spain! Let’s all sing together with different voices and one heart. Long live Spain! From the green valleys to the immense sea, a hymn of brotherhood, Love the Homeland because it knows how to embrace, under its blue sky, all the peoples in freedom. Glory to the children who give justice and greatness to history, democracy and peace”.

However, the lyrics did not even reach Spain’s Congress for approval. Why not? Because vocal groups from around Spain were set against it and the controversy and wide criticism the lyrics generated around the country led to the organizers abandoning the idea. The new words are kept locked in a dusty drawer now.

Spain's National Anthem piano score
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Countries that do not have lyrics for their anthems

Spain isn’t the only country not to have words for its national anthem. There are three other national anthems with no lyrics: Bosnia Herzegovina, San Marino and Kosovo.


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