Many people do not know that New Zealand has two Anthems of equal status; God Defend New Zealand and God Save The Queen. While both can be used as the National Anthem of New Zealand typically God Defend New Zealand is used as the National Anthem while God Save The Queen is used as the Royal Anthem – it forms part of the royal and vice-regal salutes and can be sung or played on any occasion.
The Royal Anthem first became a popular song immediately upon being given its first public performance in 1745. It soon came to be used to greet the Sovereign officially. It is one of the most famous tunes in the world, and as the first true national anthem was widely copied overseas.
The tune God Save The Queen was used as the unofficial national anthem of Switzerland until 1961, and is still the national anthem of Liechtenstein. It was also used by the United States of America 1831-1931 and by Germany 1870-1922. Canada also uses part of the tune as its Vice-regal Salute.
Early in the 20th century there were attempts to include verses with special application to New Zealand, one of which received royal approval from King Edward VII, but was never adopted. Today God Save The Queen is used as the Royal Anthem by the Queen and the Royal Family in Commonwealth countries where Her Majesty is Head of State.
God Defend New Zealand, whose words were written by Thomas Bracken, and tune composed by John Joseph Woods, was first performed in public on Christmas Day 1876. On 17 November 1977, it was officially adopted as a National Anthem, having equal status with God Save The Queen. Today, both anthems may be used at any and all occasions.