God Save the Queen’s Composer

by Keith Clarke

The Master of the Queen’s Music is at it again. Republican-turned monarchist Sir Peter Maxwell Davies likes nothing more than upsetting the apple cart with his views on life and the universe, and now he has shared with Daily Telegraph readers his thoughts on the British national anthem. “Booooooring,” he says. Nothing controversial about that, you might think, and it would take a Daily Telegraph reader to disagree. The paper’s Tim Walker gets into the spirit of things, referring to “comments which some may regard as tantamount to treason.”

It’s not the first time Mad Max has been fingered for treason. Six years ago he was visited by the constabulary after he took home a dead swan to make a terrine. By law, British swans all belong to Her Majesty the Queen, so when police with a search warrant raided the composer’s Orkney home and seized the swan carcass as evidence, he told the Times: “I was cautioned and told that anything I said could be given in evidence. Naturally I’ve informed Buckingham Palace. Now I’m just hoping I’ll not be locked up in the Tower of London.”

Maybe his views on the national anthem are fuelled by a desire to write a better one. It probably rankled that despite his courtly duties he was not asked to write so much as a bar of music for this year’s royal wedding.


It’s not the only pasting the national anthem has taken this week. Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton was asking for a longer one – not for musical reasons, but because he felt he should have been given a longer opportunity to savour his moment of glory at the German Grand Prix last Sunday.

The longer drivers are kept from all that idiotic champagne spraying the better, but a new anthem is not the only answer. The Telegraph’s Ivan Hewett pointed out that God Save the Queen could be doubled in length by including the second verse. It is not much sung nowadays, perhaps because even the most bulging-eyed, red-faced, stiff-upper-lipped patriotic of Britishers would struggle to reconcile the jingoism with these multicultural times.

All together now:

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

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