Ambrose Li

God Save the Queen

In Canada, God Save the Queen has been translated into French twice. I found them both about two years ago; one is a “gist” translation that doesn’t fit the music at all so can’t be sung (no matter how hard you try, short of rewriting parts of the translation to make it work‍[Note 1]); the other, while singable what should I say? —, is a little “interesting”.

This is how the “interesting” version begins:

Dieu pro‧tè‧ge la reine
De sa main sou‧ve‧raine!
Vi‧ve la reine!‍[Note 2]

The question is: What does this actually mean?

No, seriously. Protect the Queen from what? From her own sovereign hand?

It starts with “Dieu” and the line after the quoted part starts with a subjunctive; the entire song is in the form of a prayer. So “Dieu” here is vocative (although not followed by a comma), as confirmed by the next word, “protège”, which is not third-person indicative but second-person (familiar) imperative, normal for a Christian prayer. The first line is “God, [I ask you to] protect the Queen”.

The odd word out in the second line is “sa” (his or her, depending on context). DeepL claims that this is “his”,‍[Note 3] but since prayers are directed to God, third-person is unexpected; even if it really is “his” (meaning God), the correct word really should be “your” (or “ta”, i.e. the person being addressed, namely God). This “sa” word makes little sense whether it’s meant to refer to God or to the Queen; it looks like an error, made by someone who’s not familiar with how prayers look.

I’m really not happy with this state of things. How much effort has our government put into translating our royal anthem into our second official language? Not a lot, it seems.

Who can blame Quebec? We don’t even try.


  1. Yes, I tried; but I’m pretty sure my French writing skills are a joke.
  2. “Découvrir le Canada - Les symboles canadiens -” (Gouvernement du Canada, 2017).
  3. It also claims “de” here means “with”, not “from”.