Commonwealth Games 2022: Why do English athletes sing ‘Jerusalem’ and not ‘God Save The Queen’?

Enfield Independent
Commonwealth Games 2022: Why do English athletes sing ‘Jerusalem’ and not ‘God Save The Queen’?

As the Commonwealth Games kicks off in Birmingham, English spectators may be left wondering about that state of the national anthem.

Athletes lining up to compete across 22 different sports will sing the popular hymn "Jerusalem" rather than "God Save The Queen" before they enter the fray.

While the latter remains the national anthem for the UK, England itself has no set song and indecision reigns over what should be sung before major international sporting events.

Questions in Parliament have yielded no definite answer so, at present, sports are free to choose whether "Jerusalem", "God Save The Queen" or "Land of Hope and Glory" is used to set the mood.

"Jerusalem" opens cricket and rugby league tests but England's football and rugby union teams opt for "God Save The Queen".

As for the Commonwealth Games, Team England conducted a public vote in 2010 to decide the issue, with "Jerusalem" winning out narrowly with a 52 per cent majority, hence that song ringing out today.

"Jerusalem" is an adaptation of William Blake's poem "And Did Those Feet in Ancient Times", taken from the preface to his two-part epic verse Milton of 1804, which was set to music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916 in a bid to lift spirits in the midst of the First World War.

The poem imagines Jesus Christ visiting the "pleasant pastures" of Glastonbury in his wilderness years and paints a vision of England as a heaven on earth, at odds with the "dark Satanic mills" of industrialisation Blake regarded with such dismay.

Perhaps surprisingly, King George V and Prince Charles have both stated a clear preference over "God Save The Queen" in the past, which is more typically opposed by republicans as an outmoded relic of empire.

The Sex Pistols did more than most to popularise this anti-royal sentiment when they released their own sardonic take on the anthem on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee in 1977 at the height of the punk era: "God save the Queen/A fascist regime... There's no future when England's dreaming".

The complete lyrics to "Jerusalem" are as follows:

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England's mountain green?

And was the holy Lamb of God

On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the countenance divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here

Among those dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,

Till we have built Jerusalem

In England's green and pleasant land.