The national anthem or national hymn of a country is a symbol of the nation. Over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, national anthems came into use in Europe. However, some national hymns are much older, including the Dutch “Wilhelmus”. Usually, the lyrics of a national anthem are rather grandiloquent, stirring, and easy for everyone to sing along to. Some national anthems were written by famous composers. An example of this is the German national anthem (“Das Lied der Deutschen”), whose melody comes from Joseph Haydn. The melody of the Austrian national anthem (“Land der Berge, Land am Strome”) was composed by none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, just nineteen days before his death. Below is a list of the 10 oldest national anthems in the world.

10. Der er et yndigt land (Denmark – 1835)

Denmark actually has two national anthems. The civil national anthem is “Der er et yndigt land” (“There is a lovely country”). The music for “Der er et yndigt land” dates from 1835, composed by Hans Ernst Krøyer. Later, two more versions of the melody of the Danish national anthem would appear, written by Thomas Laub and Carl Nielsen. However, the version by Ernst Krøyer is the most used in Denmark.

The lyrics of the Danish national hymn were written 16 years earlier, in 1819 by Adam Oehlenschläger. However, when the Danish royal family is present, the royal anthem “Kong Christian stod ved højen mast” is played. This royal song is much older: it was first sung in 1780.

9. De Brabançonne (Belgium – 1830)

“O beloved Belgium, oh holy land of our fathers…”: these are the opening words of the Belgian national anthem Brabançonne (at least, the Dutch-language version of it).

The original text of the Brabançonne comes from Louis Alexandre Dechet (also known as Jenneval), an actor at the Brussels Mint Theater. This theater was the center of the uprising against the Dutch ruler William I in August 1830, an uprising that eventually led to Belgian independence. Dechet wrote the text of the Brabançonne in 1830 together with Constantin Rodenbach. The accompanying melody is by François van Campenhout.

Over the years, the text of the Belgian national anthem has been modified several times. Since Belgium is officially trilingual, there is a Dutch, French, and German version.

8. Himno Nacional de Chile (Chile – 1828)

The current national anthem of Chile dates from 1828. Previously, however, there was another Chilean national anthem, written in 1819 by Bernardo de Vera and composed by Manuel Robles. In 1828, a new version appeared, with a new melody by the Spanish composer Ramón Carnicer. The original text by Bernardo de Vera from 1819 was retained for the time being.

In 1847, the Chilean government asked the poet Eusebio Lillo to write a new text because the original words of Bernardo de Vera were too strongly opposed to Spain.

7. Hino Nacional Brasileiro (Brazil – 1831)

Pedro I became the first emperor of Brazil upon its independence in 1822. He wrote a national anthem himself, in which he greatly celebrated Brazilian independence. Upon Pedro I’s abdication in 1831, his anthem quickly became less popular. The composer and musician Francisco Manuel da Silva from Rio de Janeiro took the opportunity to compose a new national anthem, which was publicly performed for the first time in 1831. The current text of the Brazilian national anthem, however, comes from Joaquim Osório Duque Estrada (1870-1927). This version has been in use since 1922.

6. Himno Nacional del Perú (Peru – 1821)

The national anthem of Peru is the result of a competition held by the country’s first president, José de San Martín, after Peru’s independence in 1821.

Various composers and writers participated in the competition. From seven entries, the president chose the song “Somos libres, seámoslo siempre” (“We are free, may we always be so”) as the national hymn. The text was written by José de La Torre, and the music was composed by José Bernardo Alcedo.

5. Himno Nacional Argentino (Argentina – 1813)

The national anthem of Argentina dates from 1813. Over the years, the Argentine national hymn has had several names. Initially, it was referred to as the Marcha Patriótica (Patriotic March), then as the Canción Patriótica Nacional (National Patriotic Song). From 1847, Argentinians officially called their anthem Himno Nacional Argentino (National Anthem of Argentina).

The “lyrics” of the Argentine national anthem were written by the politician Vicente López y Planes. The Spanish composer and musician Blas Parera was responsible for the music. On May 11, 1813, the song was officially recognized as the national anthem of Argentina.

4. La Marseillaise (France – 1795)

“Let’s go, children of the fatherland, the day of glory has arrived!”: this is what the French passionately sing on their national holiday, at sports events, and at various festivities.

The official name of the French national anthem is “La Marseillaise”. This name comes from troops from Marseille, who sang the song as they were heading to Paris.

La Marseillaise was written in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, in response to France’s declaration of war against Austria. The text of La Marseillaise called on the French to fight for their fatherland’s freedom. On July 14, 1795, the song was adopted as the official national anthem of the French Republic.

3. La Marcha Real (Spain – 1761)

The Spanish national anthem was first mentioned in a document from 1761. The song was titled Marcha Granadera (Grenadier’s March). Later, the song would be named Marcha Real (Royal March). The composer is not mentioned in the document from 1761, but it may have been Manuel de Espinosa de los Monteros. Interestingly, there is no official text for the Spanish national anthem. Over the years, various text proposals have been submitted, but none have found favor with the Spanish people. The last time this happened was in 2007, when a text for the anthem written by Paulino Cubero was selected by a jury but ultimately rejected.

2. God save the Queen (United Kingdom – 1745)

The song “God save the Queen” is not only the national anthem of the United Kingdom but also the royal anthem of Canada, Australia, Gibraltar, Jamaica, and other former colonies of the United Kingdom. (This is then called the Royal anthem, often there is also a national anthem)

“God save the Queen” is based on a French folk song “Grand Dieu sauve le Roi”, which was written in 1686 for the French Sun King Louis XIV by Jean-Baptiste Lully. It is not entirely clear who wrote the English-language version of the song. Many historians claim that the German composer Händel translated the French folk song into English in 1714, although there is no certainty about this. According to tradition, “God save the Queen” (then: God save the King) was first sung in 1745 in honor of King George II.

1. Wilhelmus (Netherlands – 1574)

“William of Nassau am I, of Germanic blood, to the fatherland faithful I’ll remain until death.” These are the opening lines of the Dutch national hymn that countless Dutch people sing at national commemorations, on King’s Day, at football matches of the national team, and on many other occasions.

The Wilhelmus is the oldest known national anthem in the world. The origins of the Wilhelmus even date back to the year 1568. The melody comes from a French taunt song that was sung during the siege of Chartres by the Huguenots in 1568. This melody was noted down in 1574.

It is not entirely clear who wrote the text of the Wilhelmus. Traditionally, the text is attributed to Philip of Marnix, lord of Saint-Aldegonde, although there is no historical proof for this. Philip of Marnix, lord of Saint-Aldegonde, was a diplomat from the Southern Netherlands and an advisor to William of Orange.

In any case, the Wilhelmus is a song of the Geuzen: it was sung in protest against the Spanish domination of the Netherlands in the 16th century.

The original text of the Wilhelmus has been adapted over the centuries to the circumstances and the spirit of the times. It was not until 1932, during the preparations for the 35th anniversary of the accession to the throne of Queen Wilhelmina, that the Wilhelmus was proclaimed the national anthem of the Netherlands.

Harper is a history enthusiast with a penchant for the peculiar. Raised in a small American town, she brings a unique blend of insightful research and playful storytelling to Top10HQ. Harper specializes in uncovering the lesser-known, often bizarre tales of the past, making history accessible and engaging for all. J

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