Posted by: rcottrill | June 10, 2012

Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee

T his past week-end, the Commonwealth of nations belonging to what used to be called the British Empire honoured Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, recognizing the sixty years of her reign. Only Queen Victoria, her great-great-grandmother, ruled longer (over sixty-three years).

The celebration involved much pageantry and many special events, including a record-setting regatta of over a thousand ships and smaller boats along the Thames River, and a raucous rock concert in front of Buckingham Palace. As a time of more sober reflection, a service of thanksgiving was held in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The Queen was praised for her devotion to duty, and for the stability of her reign.

Three great hymns were used during the service. You can find something about each on this blog: All People That on Earth Do Dwell; O Praise Ye the Lord; and Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (the latter amended to “Guide us O Thou great Redeemer”).

The service concluded with the singing of God Save the Queen, a prayer for the blessing of the Almighty on the reigning sovereign (changed to God Save the King, when used with a male monarch). British composer Thomas Arne (1710-1778) is credited with producing a version of the song in 1744 (first sung a year later), though its exact origins are unknown. It is usually simply listed as “Traditional.” (The tune is also used for the American national song, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.)

Usually omitted from God Save the Queen is a bellicose stanza which, in colourful phrases, calls down the wrath of God upon His enemies who are, by implication, the enemies of the British ruler. It says:

O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter Thine enemies,
And make them fall:
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix:
God save us all.

Commonly one stanza of the hymn is used, and on occasion two–as they were at the service in St. Paul’s. These are:

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!”


Responses

  1. On national anthems which have “bellicose verses with colourful phrases”:

    The anthem of the United States, the “Star-Spangled Banner,” also has a bellicose verse: the original third, which begins,

    “And where is that band, who so vauntingly swore . . . “

    and continues a line or two later with,

    “. . . their foul footsteps pollution. . .” (!)

    Because this anthem was written during the War of 1812, Great Britain was the enemy spoken of. And because our two nations long ago resolved our differences and have long been staunch allies, that verse is rarely printed anymore, making it appear as though the SSB has only three verses!

    But my favorite is the fourth:

    “O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand,
    Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
    Blessed with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land,
    Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
    Then conquer we must, when our cause, it is just,
    And this be our motto, “In God is Our Trust.”
    And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave,
    O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

    One day, before I die, at some patriotic event, we will sing the fourth verse instead of the first.

    • Thanks for your observations as always. I was aware of that last stanza The Star Spangled Banner. Too bad it isn’t used much now. Is there not an understanding among historians that Key’s words are the origin of the phrase, “In God We Trust”? I seem to recall that. Our own national anthem, O Canada, also has a strongly theocentric stanza that’s rarely used. Both countries could benefit from a reminder of their responsibility to a sovereign God!


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