Saturday, 21 April 2012

Why I believe we should keep the National Anthem

(Published in Forge Press, University of Sheffield's student newspaper - 29/03/2012. This was published as part of a debate where I argued 'for')

With the approaching Summer Olympics, the British national anthem is being brought under increasing scrutiny. Many feel it’s time we swept aside the old and brought in a new anthem that better represents our diverse nation. However, is it really accurate to accuse ‘God Save the Queen’ of being outdated? The national anthem contains themes that are still very much relevant and treasured in today’s society.

The most hotly criticized part of the national anthem is its focus on the monarch. There are a select few calling for the abolition of the monarchy, feeling it is too costly and unnecessary in modern Britain. However, these anti-royalist feelings certainly do not reflect general British opinion over the royal family. We need not look any further than the national frenzy over last year’s royal wedding to reveal widespread enthusiasm for the royal family. If we look beyond the crap merchandise and annoyingly overwhelming media exposure, it reveals that royalty still firmly has a place in British society. As part of our much-treasured national heritage, the royal family seeps into other areas of popular culture and an obvious example of this is the roaring success of films like The Queen and The King’s Speech. Our current National Anthem represents something which is cherished in British society and therefore, it would make no sense to abolish it.

 ‘God Save the Queen’, is also questioned due to its religious connotations. We seem to be an increasingly secular and multi-cultural country but officially Britain is still Christian and the Queen is head of the Anglican Church. To change the National Anthem over this issue of religion would mean changing the monarchy and government as well, as we live in a country that cannot claim that the church and state are completely separate entities. Religion is firmly entwined in Parliament. For example, in the House of Lords there are 26 bishops. Religion therefore remains part of our daily lives and it should not be considered a controversial part of our national anthem.

Religion and monarchy aside, the anthem as a song exudes British spirit. It is a huge source of pride and unity in our nation and as a firm fixture at sporting events, it is used as a sign of good sportsmanship and for podium position athletes it is associated with triumph. It is in this sense that the anthem has transformed its position in modern Britain. No longer is it a representation of war and empire but instead, sporting prowess. With London 2012 just around the corner, the national anthem is going to be ringing throughout the world and used to represent Britain internationally. It emphasises our country’s pride and determination and thus reflects a strong, positive image of our society to the rest of the world. The act of singing ‘God Save the Queen’ also binds us together.

We live in a nation that is home to people from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds and as a nation we are deeply proud of our heritage. Our national anthem lies at the heart of our rich British heritage and to lose a part of this would be a huge shame.

Alice Burrow

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