Memorial XXXIII: The National Anthem

Page 182

Memorials of the Guild of Merchant Taylors of the Fraternity of St. John the Baptist in the City of London. Originally published by Harrison, London, 1875.

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It is alleged by some (fn. 1) that the words of this Anthem were written by Ben Jonson, and the music composed by Dr. John Bull for the Merchant Taylors' Company, in honour of King James the 1st, A.D. 1607, set forth in the last Memorial.

It is undoubtedly true—

1. That James I. (with Prince Henry), was entertained in Merchant Taylors' Hall on the 16th July 1607.

2. That Ben Jonson was engaged by the Company "about a speech to be made to welcome His Majesty, by reason that the Company doubt their Schoolmasters and Scholars be not acquainted with such kind of entertainment."

3. That Dr. John Bull "did play all the dinner-time, and the children of the King's Chapel did sing melodious songs at the said dinner"; "after which His Majesty came down to the great Hall—did hear a melodious song of farewell by three rare men in a ship, being apparelled in watchet silk like seamen: which song so pleased His Majesty that he caused the same to be sung three times over."

4. That Dr. Jno. Bull was admitted to the Livery (though not sworn) "for his love and kindness in bestowing the music which was performed in the King's Chamber gratis," and the Company "mean not that this calling into the Livery hath any burthen or charge to him further than as shall stand with his own good liking."

5. That Dr. Bull went out of this kingdom in 1613, and of this world in 1622, leaving a song entitled "God save the King."


  • 1. See Clark's account, printed and published in 1822 by W. Wright (London). Others have insisted that the song dates only from 1745.—See Gentleman's Magazine, vols. xcv. (p. 206); and xcvi. (p. 440).