(CNN Spanish) — The national anthem of Spain only has music, a peculiarity that draws attention since this happens in very few countries in the world. Only four of the planet’s national anthems do not have lyrics: Spanish, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovina and San Marino.
Popularly known as the Royal March, the Spanish national anthem has its origins in the “Granadera March” that accompanied military parades and events attended by the royal family in the 18th century.
According to the Royal Guard of Spain, the first record of the “Grenade March” is in the Book of Ordinance of the Military Toques of the Spanish Infantry of 1761. Here it appears under an unknown author.
King Carlos III declared it a “March of Honor” in 1770 but it was “custom and popular roots” that made this musical composition the Spanish national anthem, without any written provision. After more than 200 years it is still the same music that is heard during all the soccer matches of the Spanish team. But why doesn’t it have lyrics?
Why does the Spanish national anthem have no lyrics?
National anthems are musical compositions that give a country its identity and usually unite those who sing its lyrics. It is a reflection of its history, its customs, its beliefs and its people. Furthermore, it is a symbol that tends to evoke patriotic feelings among the citizens and reminds them of their greatness.
However, Spain’s has never had lyrics and history and the lack of consensus would be the reasons why Spain, along with Bosnia and Herzegovina and San Marino, does not have lyrics in its national anthem. Of course, there have been various attempts but they have not been able to agree and their military origin endures.
The first attempt came in 1870, when General Prim summoned all the country’s poets to a contest to create an official anthem. But the contest was declared “desert” and the jury advised that the “Grenade March” continue as an anthem, as it was and without words.
The second attempt was made in 1908. The Major Musician of the Royal Corps of Alabarderos Guards, Bartolomé Pérez Casas, prepared a readaptation of the hymn that later, with the arrival of democracy in the country (after the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978), it was legally configured and a revised version was approved by Francisco Grau, colonel director of the Music Unit of the Royal Guard, “respecting the harmonization” of Pérez Casas.
This is the version that has been maintained until now, with the exception of some historical periods such as the Second Republic (1931-1939), when the “Himno de Riego” was adopted, which did have lyrics. This remained the official national anthem until the Civil War, when Francisco Franco reestablished the “Grenade March” in his territories.
The most recent attempt to put words to the Spanish national anthem occurred not long ago. It was for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games that the Spanish Olympic Committee proposed to form a jury to select the most suitable letters from among the thousands of proposals that they received at their call.
But the Spanish anthem, which was going to be officially presented by the Olympic athletes and performed by the tenor Plácido Domingo, once again ran out of words due, once again, to the lack of consensus, according to the Spanish media.