Back to top

Bizarre exception to Covid rules for 'God Save the Queen' on Remembrance Day

Elizabeth Windsor at a remembrance ceremony

Bizarre exception to Covid rules for 'God Save the Queen' on Remembrance Day

Faith leaders are questioning new Covid rules that change a ban on church singing to allow God Save the Queen to be sung at Remembrance events.

The rules for outdoor Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in England, which were updated yesterday, state, "Limited communal singing, involving the national anthem and one additional song, is permitted outside for Remembrance Sunday, if additional mitigations are put in place".

But critics asked why God Save the Queen should be treated differently to other songs, as well as questioning what role it has in ceremonies to remember people killed in war.

Rev Stella Bailey, a Church of England priest organising a Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Kenilworth in Warwickshire, explained how the change in ruling, which will allow hymns to be sung by a congregation for the first time since the initial lockdown in March, showed the wrong priorities for an act of worship. She said she is aware of other clergy with similar objections.

"Until now, we have been worshipping under an explicit ban on congregational singing for both indoor and outdoor services," said Rev Bailey. "It has not been allowed for funerals or weddings even if part of the funeral service was held outside. Yet suddenly for this event they are making an exception. If we were following the science before, why has the science suddenly changed to help the political optics of the government?"

She explained, "Allowing 'God Save the Queen' has an undertone of bending the rules for nationalism."

Her concerns are shared by the Peace Pledge Union, who distribute white poppies to remember all victims of war and to demonstrate a commitment to peace.

"Do the government think that coronavirus respects the monarchy?" asked Symon Hill, the PPU's Campaigns Manager. "A song celebrating monarchy has nothing to do with remembering people who have died and suffered in war. The government seem to  be assuming that a remembrance ceremony should be a nationalistic celebration rather than a recognition of the horrors of war for people of all nationalities."

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, a Christian pacifist group that supports the distribution and wearing of white poppies, suggested this change in rule would do little to help remember all those who have died in wartime.

"To change the rules around communal church singing simply for Remembrance Sunday does little to respect or remember the brutal human cost of war," said Richard Bickle, Chair of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in England. "It politicises a moment in the nation's calender that should be used to remember all those who have died in conflict. Instead it will make even more painful the individual restrictions people currently live under."

The Peace Pledge Union will live-stream an Alternative Remembrance Ceremony at 12.00 noon on Sunday. Contributors will include Yemeni-Scouse poet Amina Atiq and Scottish singer and composer Penny Stone. The ceremony will feature footage of white poppy wreaths being laid around Britain in memory of people of all nationalities who have died and suffered in war. All are welcome to attend online.