If memory serves me correctly, it was in 2001 (or thereabouts) that I used my opinion column in the newspaper group for which I was senior editor to call for the British national anthem to be reserved for purely British use.
I argued that, as Wales has Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and Scotland has Flower of Scotland, it is inappropriate for England to use the British God Save The Queen. It is not England’s property and never has been. It is just that although both Wales and Scotland have their own identities, England hasn’t.
It’s hardly surprising that some people from other countries get Britain and England confused.
On more than one occasion when I have told someone that I lived in Wales, as I did at the time, the follow-up was along the lines of ‘Oh, right, Wales is in England’ to which I would point out, as politely and diplomatically as I could that Wales is most certainly not in England but that they are both part of Great Britain.
So, having explained all that, you can possibly imagine my delight in the fact that a cross-party group of MPs is going to present a Bill in the House of Commons to give England its very own anthem. And it looks like, if it is successful, that the anthem may well be Jerusalem.
The words to Jerusalem are taken from William Blake’s preface to his epic poem, Milton, and the music was composed by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916. It is well known as the WI hymn as, at every Women’s Institute branch in England, members sing it at their meetings; it refers to ‘England’s green and pleasant land’.
Some people may feel that There’ll always be an England may be preferable but that in itself has a problem because it contains the words ‘Red White and Blue, what does it mean to you?’ but the English flag is an upright red cross on a white background. Red, white and blue are, of course, the colours of the British flag. The words also contain the call ‘Britons awake’.
It may have taken 15 years for my dream to come true but it certainly looks hopeful that the Bill will eventually become Law. Apparently, Prime Minister David Cameron welcomes the proposal and favours using Jerusalem as the English anthem.