Why does the Spanish National Anthem have no lyrics?

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Spanish national anthem

As the European Football Championship progresses, national anthems from across Europe echo through the stadiums. Notably, the Spanish national anthem stands out for its lack of lyrics. But why is this the case?

National anthems typically combine music and lyrics to unify a nation and express its identity. However, Spain is one of the few countries worldwide whose anthem, known as the “Marcha Real” (Royal March), has no official lyrics.

Military origins

The primary reason lies in its military origins. The anthem is a composition initially created to accompany military parades. The Spanish national anthem began as the “Marcha Granadera.” This military march was first mentioned in a military manual from 1761. Initially intended as an honour march, it later gained popularity during public events and became known as the “Royal March.”

Attempts at adding lyrics

Over the years, there have been several attempts to add lyrics to the Spanish national anthem. Efforts in 1870 and during the Second Republic (1931-1939) were unsuccessful. More recently, in 2008, a jury was convened during the Beijing Olympics to select suitable lyrics, but a lack of consensus thwarted this attempt as well. In 2012, singer Joaquín Sabina released a politicised version of the anthem in support of the Ciudadanos party. In 2018, singer Marta Sánchez made another attempt to introduce lyrics, gaining support from centrist and right-wing conservatives, including then-Prime Minister Rajoy. However, left-wing opposition blocked the initiative. This persistent lack of consensus highlights why it is challenging to modify the anthem. Despite the absence of lyrics, the anthem remains popular, raising questions about the necessity of adding words.

Other countries with anthems without lyrics

Spain is not alone in this regard. There are three other countries with national anthems that lack official lyrics: Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and San Marino. Each has its own historical and political reasons for this choice.

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