King Charles III.

King Charles III.Getty

As Britain welcomes its new King Charles II we take a look at the history behind the national anthem "God Save the King".

The British National Anthem in its present form dates back to the 18th century. The words and tune are anonymous and may date back to the 17th century.

"God Save The King" was a patriotic song first publicly performed in London’s Drury Lane Theatre, on September 28, 1745, which came to be known as the National Anthem at the beginning of the 19th century.

In September 1745 the 'Young Pretender' to the British Throne, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, defeated the army of King George II at Prestonpans, near Edinburgh.

In a fit of patriotic fervour after news of Prestonpans had reached London, the leader of the band at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, arranged 'God Save The King' for performance after a play. It was a tremendous success and was repeated nightly.

This practice soon spread to other theatres, and the custom of greeting monarchs with the song as he or she entered a place of public entertainment was thus established.

There is no authorised version of the National Anthem as the words are a matter of tradition. Additional verses have been added down the years, but these are rarely used.

The words used today are those sung in 1745, substituting 'Queen' for 'King' where appropriate. On official occasions, only the first verse is usually sung.

The British tune has been used in other countries. European visitors to Britain in the eighteenth century noticed the advantage of a country possessing such a recognised musical symbol.

In total, around 140 composers, including Beethoven, Haydn and Brahms, have used the tune in their compositions.

The words of the National Anthem are as follows:

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.

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.