Rule, Britannia! is a British patriotic song, although not a national anthem; these correspond to each constituent country of the British Isles. Rule, Britannia! was originally a poem by James Thomson, set to music in 1740 by Thomas Arne (1710-1778). Thomson (1700-1748) was a Scottish poet who lived mainly at the English court, and was strongly interested in developing a British identity in contrast to the older, separate identities of England, Scotland and Wales. Although it was written far earlier, the song is often associated with the Victorian age and the height of the British Empire. The song is regularly performed at events such as Last Night of the Proms, but is increasingly criticised in the post-imperial world for its suggestion that Britain has a right to dominate other countries.
Statue of Britannia at Somerset House, London - Credit: Alastair Rae