The English are not a very patriotic people. We used to be, but look where that got us. The whole British Empire thing was very naughty and, well, the whole episode embarrasses us somewhat. So we've overcompensated to the point that any outward display of pride in England is regarded as definitely non-PC if not out and out racism. However, there are three occasions on which we are allowed to be as patriotic as we like - three o'clock on Christmas Day afternoon when the Queen (God bless Her Majesty) chats to us all for 15 minutes; anytime we beat the Germans at absolutely anything, from the World Cup to getting a decent spot by the swimming pool in Majorca and, of course, on the last night of the Proms. What makes me very proud to be English is that, with the exception of beating the Germans which is always a deadly serious matter, we always do patriotism with our English tongues firmly in our English cheeks.

Here is the high point of last night's last night of the Proms. I reckon that if someone did this to "The Star Spangled Banner" in the States they would be lynched on the spot.


RULE BRITANNIA — 30 Comments

  1. The Proms is a two month season of (mainly) classical music that BBC Radio Three has put on in the Royal Albert Hall every year since before the Romans invaded. There is at least one concert a day. Proms is short for “Promenade Concerts” and they are called this because the whole of the ground floor is standing only. The tickets for the stalls are very cheap and I believe they are only available to those who are prepared to queue for them on the day.

  2. Thanks for this. I fulfilled a long held dream and was in Hyde Park for the Last Night of the Proms last year. I did attend the Albert Hall the previous 2 nights but, unless someone offers to accommodate and feed me for a month in London, it is unlikely I will ever get to the Last Night actually in the Albert Hall. Here in Dunedin we hold a traditional LNOTP every February. This year my sister and I duelled with the Aussie and Kiwi flags during the singing of Rule Britannia. Because our city is overrun with Brits at the moment for the World Rugby Union Cup we are having an extra ‘Last Night’ on Thursday week and I have my ticket. And, if you think the English are not patriotic, you should have been in the centre of Dunedin last Saturday afternoon with the English red and white lined up against the Argentinian Blue and White and the police down the middle. However it was all good fun.

  3. Oh, that’s not patriotism. That’s rugby. They’re just supporting their team. I think England is the only country in the world that doesn’t have a bank holiday that celebrates the country, patron saint, famous citizen or some national achievement. I’m not saying we should have, I simply find it interesting. We may also be the only country thats national anthem doesn’t mention the country or how wonderful we are. Not only is this also interesting I think it’s a great idea. Nobody can hijack it for their own political ends.

  4. Brilliant. Suffered through buffering and replayed. Brilliant. And do you mean The Star Speckled Banana, MP? You’re right. We Yanks have no sense of humor. Now if only we’d adopt a proper amount of shame, we might loosen up a bit. But that would be unpatriotic. So I have to settle for Rule Britannia to celebrate country.

  5. We had Renee Fleming last year, not as much fun as Susan Bullock, though I guess the slipping helmet was not planned but hilarious anyway. I have just checked Renee’s version and she is waving the stars and stripes. SACRILEGE.

  6. MP, I love the Last Night of the Proms which is broadcast here in the US on the radio, and I always sing along lustily to “Rule Britannia”. It carries an incredible blend of nostalgia, British self-mockery, and genuine affirmation of what is truly (deep down) GREAT about Great Britain, the indefinable something that endures after the glories of empire have faded. . .

    I’m so glad you posted this today. I had been thinking of one of my most indelible 9/11 memories, which involved the LNOTP. That year I believe the concert was postponed because of the tragedy over here. People in Britain were immensely sympathetic and shaken along with us. When the concert was finally held, it opened with the orchestra and chorus and the entire audience singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Truly one of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard.

  7. anytime we beat the Germans at absolutely anything

    Doesn’t it really FEEL better beating the French? The Jerries are Johann-Come-Latelies to the patriotic-to-beat stakes.

  8. Yes, the British are so unpatriotic they can’t even get the words right … *sigh*

    While Susan Bullock was wonderful, my own high points were the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Grainger’s Mo Nighean Dubh, and the gorgeous Britten setting of the National Anthem (recording from last year, but we did the same one on Saturday).

    Incidentally, Mary Clara, the concert was not postponed after 9/11, but the repertoire was altered. We had been going to sing Lambert’s Rio Grande, but this was cut (too bouncy!), and instead we did the last movement of Beethoven 9 and the spirituals from Tippett’s Child of our Time. The orchestra cut John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine for obvious reasons and played Barber’s Adagio for Strings. And yes, we all sang The Star-Spangled Banner.

  9. The question is, is our relaxed, apologetic patriotism, in fact, more cohesive and protecting in the long run than more strident expressions of love of country?

  10. For those who might be unfamiliar, the flowers represent the UK:

    Daffodil = Wales
    Rose = England
    Thistle = Scotland
    Shamrock = Ireland

    I think I got it correct.

  11. …the Germans really are so infuriatingly good at everything.

    Yeah, the FIRST time the Germans united as a people, they sent the Romans home – the ROMANS – wearing their ass cheeks as earmuffs.

    The SECOND time they united as a people, they sent kicked the Muslims right over the Pyrennes.

    The THIRD time they united would have been under Charlemagne and all of northern Europe, part of Italy and all the way over into Bohemia were all under one unified ruler. And HE was thinking about having a Byzantine empress as his wife.

    So this is just a few of the reasons why the rest of Europe very quickly figured out that if they wanted any peace, prosperity and to sleep safely at night, they had to keep the Germans busy fighting Germans – thus, the Holy Roman Empire. Hahahahaha!

  12. LOL sorry. Joe and I always have a giggle about that…partially because his great-grandmother was from that part of the world. 🙂

  13. As was my great, great grandfather, Our Tracie. When people demand we have an official language (U.S. American English, and just how do they expect to standardize that!), because all the immigrants that came before came here to become Americans, I remind them that the Germans came here to transplant Germany onto this soil and kept their language (until WWI) and customs. My father was the first in four generations on this soil not to speak German as his primary language. Well, enough about the Germans. Back to work.

  14. The Germans never really united. The Prussians just ordered them to unite.

    One of my favorite Yank tunes is Dixie, a tune written in New York by a Black guy that became the national anthem of the pro-slavery Confederacy. Who says Yanks have no humor?

    Lincoln was right when he said after the Civil War ended, “At last. I can whistle Dixie again!”

  15. Interesting.

    I really hope other societies stop trying to imitate American culture in some respects and that we could continue to learn from others. Everyone has something nice to contribute, but our current consumerism is so vapid and hollow, and the so-called culture wars have so tainted our own nostalgic traditions, that I get really envious of other nations at times.

    A technical point, but isn’t the actual official national anthem for Great Britain “God Save the Queen”?

    Speaking of Germans on the one hand and national anthems on the other, I seem to recall they have some problems, as in, singing some parts of it can get you run out of town by an angry mob. So there’s one up on them from Britain’s point of view.

  16. The national anthem of the UK is “God save the Queen.” They did perform a rather nice version of it at the Proms this year (arranged by Benjamin Britten).

  17. I heard the Welsh “national vegetable” was the leek, but I confess I spent much of the song looking for the Welsh dragon, before I realized that dragons are not flowers…