Friday 7 July 2023

Here's a Health unto His Majesty

                       Here’s a Health unto His Majesty


This is an English patriotic song dating from the reign of King Charles II (1630-1685, reign 1660-1685)

 It has been used as the regimental march of the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) since 1948. (Do they parade with stethoscopes at the slope and let fly the stretchers?)

The song gained popularity again when King George V became dangerously ill in 1928. Sometimes it was sung in theatres before the traditional rendering of the National Anthem.

The National Anthem was sung, or at least played, in cinemas until at least 1960 and by television companies at close of broadcasting until the 1980s. The BBC continues to play the anthem at the ‘close down’ of its home service before handing over to the World Service, which broadcasts from 01:00 until 05:20.

Where did the custom of raising a toast originate? Like so many traditions it started in ancient Greece. Sacrificing to the gods, believers would pour out a little wine from a cup in honour, then drink the rest.

 It became known as a toast because pieces of spiced toast were put into cups of wine or ale to make the drink more agreeable. The spices complemented the taste of the alcohol and sometimes helped to disguise its bad smell. The toast would also soak up some of the sediment. Shakespeare in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ has Falstaff demand, ‘Go, fetch me a quart of sack; put a toast in’t.’

When good wishes had been expressed for the guest or guests, the cups would be clinked together and the contents drunk. The toast would be discarded, sometimes thrown to a waiting dog.

‘Toast’ sometimes refers to the person who is being honoured. One source suggests that a beautiful young woman was using the public baths when an admirer filled his cup from the water and drank it in her honour. Distasteful as this sounds, and it may be apocryphal, it gave rise to women and later any person being referred to as ‘toasts’, from which arose the expression, ‘the toast of the town.’ 

There are many different types of toast. Perhaps the most familiar is the toast at wedding celebrations when glasses are raised to the bride and groom to wish them well. Other celebrations can be toasted – birthdays, graduations, birth of babies, new homes or sometimes just the pleasure of being together with friends.

The loyal toast is raised to the monarch or the head of state of a country as a mark of respect. For the monarch it is simply, ‘The Queen’ or ‘The King’, as appropriate.

The well-known Royal Naval toast, ‘To our wives and sweethearts’, to which the traditional response is, ‘May they never meet’, has been abandoned in favour of ‘Our families’ because there are now so many women serving in the Navy.

There are many pleasing toasts. Two of my favourites are, “May we be who our dogs think we are’ and ‘May good fortune precede you, love walk with you, and good friends follow you.’

                        Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 

Cheers, dears!        


  1. The song sounds like something one would hear in a Monty Python movie.

  2. God Bless the Queen was our national anthem until the late seventies. I think the national anthem was still played in cinemas to nearly the late 1960s. I can certainly remember it, along with after the last dance at dances. I think when our national anthem changed to Advance Australia Fair in the late seventies?, it ceased to played by the ABC at the closing of television each night. Not long after the ABC began broadcasting overnight anyway.

    A toast to your post.

  3. If I fall asleep with the radio on then the National Anthem is sure to wake me up at 1am - although I don't leap out of bed to stand to attention!

    1. I haven't leapt out of bed for years . . . ;-)

  4. That's a jollier song than our National Anthem. Gail vaguely remembers singing it at school.
    From Scotland, Slàinte!

    1. It is - and easer to sing, too - just add a few fa la las!

  5. When Miriam and a I have a glass of wine before dinner we always toast someone or something, generally wildlife but sometimes people, even events. So, having seen a particularly attractive Baltimore Oriole, for example, the toast might be to orioles everywhere, a friend recently helped us with computer issues, so for a couple of nights the toast was to Paul….and so on. I am sure you get the idea. We have not so far added toast to our plonk and have no dog to toss it to anyway.

  6. Hi Janice - your posts are so informative ... so fascinating - thanks for all the research. Cheers to you - Hilary

  7. Just passing ..Again...
    I'm very much a 'sayings' person...
    I think my favourite toast would be...
    "May You Always Have Love To Share,
    Wealth To Spare, And Friends That Care".

    My favourite saying would be...
    "Every Day Above Ground Is A Good Day".

  8. I wonder exactly who your dogs DO think you are.... xxx Mr T This cat of Havant wishes to 'take wine with' the cats of your household... (In other words: I toast them, we toast together).

    1. The cats of my household graciously accept and reciprocate.

  9. How fascinating ... I didn't know the song, however.
    I do think they used to play the National Anthem in cinemas here in Belgium back in the day ... xxx

  10. It used to be a real scrum to get out of the cinema before the anthem started so that we wouldn't have to stand until the end. We couldn't possibly walk out while it was playing, for some reason.

  11. I have never heard this song, we didn't have the BBC1/2 channels yet that came later. Anyway it is not my cup of tea. I have never been a patriotic how could I, living since my 14 years Belgium, being married to an Italian and now having a Dutch grandson ! I don't know if a European anthem exists !

  12. 'Ode to joy' is the European anthem - I'm so sad we left the EU.


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