Numerous small changes to British daily life are expected in the coming weeks to welcome the new monarch — King Charles III, who ascended to the throne after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on Thursday. For instance, the queen’s portrait appears on British money and postage stamps, and those will need new designs.
But one change will be less obvious: the words to the national anthem.
For the first time since 1952, English sports fans, for example, will need to change an important word in the tune they sing before matches — instead of “God save the queen,” they now have a king to pay their respects to. (Scottish and Welsh fans sing other songs.)
The British national anthem — “God Save the Queen” or “God Save the King,” depending on who is reigning, which is also used by many Commonwealth countries as the royal anthem — is not written into law, so its words could change immediately, making the first verse, the one traditionally sung:
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.
VIDEO: Mournful ‘God Save the Queen’ rings out at Buckingham Palace shortly after news broke of Queen Elizabeth II’s death pic.twitter.com/TItwsR3Pmu
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) September 9, 2022
One immediate question is whether fans embrace those tiny changes or continue singing “queen” — at least for now — in tribute to the much-loved Elizabeth. The answer will soon be apparent: England’s men’s soccer team plays Italy in Milan on Sept. 23.
Whatever happens at that match, the first time sports fans do sing the new words will be a highly symbolic moment, but also a discombobulating one for the English public.
For many Britons, old recordings of people singing “God Save the King” for Elizabeth’s father, George VI, sound strange, a remnant of another era, rather than a sign of an exciting future.
(Written by Alex Marshall)