Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser

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Autograph score of the original version

Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser (English: God Save Emperor Francis) is an anthem to Francis II, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and later of Austria. The lyrics were by Lorenz Leopold Haschka (1749–1827), and the melody by Joseph Haydn. It is sometimes called the "Kaiserhymne" (Emperor's Hymn). Haydn's tune has since been widely employed in other contexts: in works of classical music, in Christian hymns, in alma maters, and as the tune of the Deutschlandlied, the national anthem of Germany.

Words and music

The sound file given below (played on a piano) uses the harmony Haydn employed for the string quartet version of his song, which he prepared later in 1797.

Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser

The English translation of the above verse is:

God save Francis the Emperor, our good Emperor Francis!
Long live Francis the Emperor in the brightest splendor of bliss!
May laurel branches bloom for him, wherever he goes, as a wreath of honor.
God save Francis the Emperor, our good Emperor Francis!


The song was written when Austria was seriously threatened by France and patriotic sentiments ran high. The story of the song's genesis was narrated in 1847 by Anton Schmid, who was Custodian of the Austrian National Library in Vienna:[1]

In England, Haydn came to know the favourite British national anthem, 'God Save the King', and he envied the British nation for a song through which it could, at festive occasions, show in full measure its respect, love, and devotion to its ruler.
When the Father of Harmony returned to his beloved Kaiserstadt,[2] he related these impressions to that real friend, connoisseur, supporter and encourager of many a great and good one of Art and Science, Freiherr van Swieten, Prefect of the I. R. Court Library, who at the time was at the head of the Concert Spirituel (supported by high aristocracy) and likewise Haydn's particular patron.[3] Haydn wished that Austria, too, could have a similar national anthem, wherein it could display a similar respect and love for its Sovereign. Also, such a song could be used in the fight then taking place with those forcing the Rhine; it could be used in a noble way to inflame the heart of the Austrians to new heights of devotion to the princes and fatherland, and to incite to combat, and to increase, the mob of volunteer soldiers who had been collected by a general proclamation.
Freiherr van Swieten hastily took counsel with His Excellency, the then President of Lower Austria Franz Count von Saurau ... and so there came into being a song which, apart from being one of Haydn's greatest creations, has won the crown of immortality.
It is also true that this high-principled Count used the most opportune moment to introduce a Volksgesang,[4] and thus he called to life those beautiful thoughts which will delight connoisseurs and amateurs here and abroad.
He immediately ordered the poet Lorenz Haschka to draft the poetry and then requested our Haydn to set it to music.
In January 1797, this double task was resolved, and the first performance of the Song was ordered for the birthday of the Monarch.

Saurau himself later wrote:

I had a text fashioned by the worthy poet Haschka; and to have it set to music, I turned to our immortal compatriot Haydn, who, I felt, was the only man capable of creating something that could be placed at the side of ... "God Save the King".[citation needed]

"Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" was first performed on the Emperor's birthday, February 12, 1797. It proved popular, and came to serve unofficially as Austria's first national anthem.


As elsewhere in Haydn's music, it has been conjectured that Haydn took part of his material from folksongs he knew. This hypothesis has never achieved unanimous agreement, the alternative being that Haydn's original tune was adapted by the people in various versions as folk songs. For discussion, see Haydn and folk music.

One claimed folk source of "Gott erhalte" is a Croatian song, known in Međimurje and northern regions of Croatia under the name "Stal se jesem". The version below was collected by a field worker in the Croatian-speaking Austrian village of Schandorf.

Irrespective of the original source, Haydn's own compositional efforts went through multiple drafts, discussed by Rosemary Hughes in her biography of the composer.[5] Hughes reproduces the draft fragment given below (i.e., the fifth through eighth lines of the song) and writes, "His sketches, preserved in the Vienna National Library,[6] show the self-denial and economy with which he struggled to achieve [the song's] seemingly inevitable climax, pruning the earlier and more obviously interesting version of the fifth and sixth lines, which would have anticipated, and so lessened, its overwhelming effect."


The original version of the song (see autograph score, above) included a single line for voice with a rather crude piano accompaniment, with no dynamic indications and what Jones calls "an unevenness of keyboard sonority."[7] This version was printed in many copies (two different printers were assigned to the work) and sent to theaters and opera houses across the Austrian territories with instructions for performance.[7] The Vienna premiere took place in the Burgtheater on 12 February 1797, the day the song was officially released. The Emperor was present, attending a performance of Dittersdorf's opera Doktor und Apotheker and Joseph Weigl's ballet Alonzo und Cora. The occasion celebrated his 29th birthday.[7]

Autograph sketch of "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser". Click on image to enlarge.

Not long after, Haydn later wrote three additional versions of his song:

  • He first wrote a version for orchestra, called "much more refined" by Jones.[7]
  • During 1797, Haydn was working on a commission for six string quartets from Count Joseph Erdödy. He conceived the idea of composing a slow movement for one of the quartets consisting of the Emperor's hymn as theme, followed by four variations, each involving the melody played by one member of the quartet. The finished quartet, now often called the "Emperor" quartet, was published as the third of the Opus 76 quartets, dedicated to Count Erdödy.[7] It is perhaps Haydn's most famous work in this genre.
  • The last version Haydn wrote was a piano reduction of the quartet movement,[7] published by Artaria in 1799.[8] The publisher printed it with the original cruder piano version of the theme, though a modern edition corrects this error.[9]

Haydn's own view of the song

Joseph Haydn seems to have been particularly fond of his creation. During his frail and sickly old age (1802–1809), the composer often would struggle to the piano to play his song, often with great feeling, as a form of consolation; and as his servant Johann Elssler narrated, it was the last music Haydn ever played:

The Kayser Lied was still played three times a day, though, but on May 26th [1809] at half-past midday the Song was played for the last time and that 3 times over, with such expression and taste, well! that our good Papa was astonished about it himself and said he hadn't played the Song like that for a long time and was very pleased about it and felt well altogether till evening at 5 o'clock then our good Papa began to lament that he didn't feel well...[10]

Elssler goes on to narrate the composer's final decline and death, which occurred on May 31.

Later uses of the tune in classical music

Later composers in the Western classical canon have repeatedly quoted or otherwise employed Haydn's tune, as is demonstrated by the following chronological list.

Use in national anthems, alma maters, and hymns


After the death of Francis in 1835, the tune was given new lyrics that praised his successor, Ferdinand: "Segen Öst'reichs hohem Sohne / Unserm Kaiser Ferdinand!" ("Blessings to Austria's high son / Our Emperor Ferdinand!"). After Ferdinand's abdication in 1848, the original lyrics were used again because his successor (Francis Joseph) was also named Francis. However, in 1854, yet again new lyrics were selected: "Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze / Unsern Kaiser, unser Land!" ("God preserve, God protect / Our Emperor, our country!").

There were versions of the hymn in several languages of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (e.g., Czech, Croatian, Slovene, Hungarian, Polish, Italian).

At the end of the First World War in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was abolished and divided into multiple states, one of them being the residual state of Austria, which was a republic and had no emperor. The tune ceased to be used for official purposes. When the last Emperor, Charles I, died in 1922, monarchists created an original stanza for his son Otto von Habsburg. Since the emperor was in fact never restored, this version never attained official standing.

The hymn was revived in 1929 with completely new lyrics, known as Sei gesegnet ohne Ende, which remained the national anthem of Austria until the Anschluss. The first stanza of the hymn's 1854 version was sung in 1989 during the funeral of Empress Zita of Austria[11] and again in 2011 during the funeral of her son Otto von Habsburg[12] as a tribute to the family.


Long after Haydn's death, his melody was used as the tune of Hoffmann von Fallersleben's Das Lied der Deutschen (1841). The third stanza of the poem ("Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit"), sung to the melody, is currently the national anthem of Germany.


In the ordinary nomenclature of hymn tunes, the melody of "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" is classified as 87.87D trochaic metre. When employed in a hymn it is sometimes known as Austria. It has been paired with various lyrics.

University hymns

Various American schools, colleges, and universities use Haydn's music as the tune for their university or school hymns. Here is a partial list.

Full text

Original version (1797)

German English translation

Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz!
Lange lebe Franz, der Kaiser,
In des Glückes hellstem Glanz!
Ihm erblühen Lorbeerreiser,
Wo er geht, zum Ehrenkranz!
|: Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Laß von seiner Fahne Spitzen
Strahlen Sieg und Fruchtbarkeit!
Laß in seinem Rate Sitzen
Weisheit, Klugheit, Redlichkeit;
Und mit Seiner Hoheit Blitzen
Schalten nur Gerechtigkeit!
|: Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Ströme deiner Gaben Fülle
Über ihn, sein Haus und Reich!
Brich der Bosheit Macht, enthülle
Jeden Schelm- und Bubenstreich!
Dein Gesetz sei stets sein Wille,
Dieser uns Gesetzen gleich.
|: Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

Froh erleb' er seiner Lande,
Seiner Völker höchsten Flor!
Seh' sie, Eins durch Bruderbande,
Ragen allen andern vor!
Und vernehm' noch an dem Rande
Später Gruft der Enkel Chor.
|: Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! :|

God keep Francis the emperor,
Our good Emperor Francis!
Long live Francis the emperor,
In the brightest splendour of happiness!
May sprigs of laurel bloom for him
As a garland of honour, wherever he goes.
God keep Francis the emperor,
Our good Emperor Francis!

From the tips of his flag
May victory and fruitfulness shine!
In his council
May knowledge, wisdom and honesty sit!
And with his Highness's lightning
May justice but prevail!
God keep Francis the emperor,
Our good Emperor Francis!

May the abundance of thy gifts
Pour over him, his house and Empire!
Break the power of wickedness, and reveal
Every trick of rogues and knaves!
May thy Law always be his Will,
And may this be like laws to us.
God keep Francis the emperor,
Our good Emperor Francis!

May he gladly experience the highest bloom
Of his land and of his peoples!
May he see them, united by the bonds of brothers,
Loom over all others!
And may he hear at the edge
Of his late tomb his grandchildren's chorus.
God keep Francis the emperor,
Our good Emperor Francis!

During Haydn's lifetime, his friend the musicologist Charles Burney, made an English translation of the first verse which is more felicitous if less literal than the one given above:

God preserve the Emp'ror Francis
Sov'reign ever good and great;
Save, o save him from mischances
In Prosperity and State!
May his Laurels ever blooming
Be by Patriot Virtue fed;
May his worth the world illumine
And bring back the Sheep misled!
God preserve our Emp'ror Francis!
Sov'reign ever good and great.

Burney's penultimate couplet about sheep has no counterpart in the original German and appears to be Burney's own contribution.

For translations into several of the languages that were spoken in the Austrian Empire, see Translations of Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser.

1826 version

German English translation

Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz,
Hoch als Herrscher, hoch als Weiser,
Steht er in des Ruhmes Glanz;
Liebe windet Lorbeerreiser
Ihm zum ewig grünen Kranz.
Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz!

Über blühende Gefilde
Reicht sein Zepter weit und breit;
Säulen seines Throns sind milde,
Biedersinn und Redlichkeit,
Und von seinem Wappenschilde
Strahlet die Gerechtigkeit.
Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz!

Sich mit Tugenden zu schmücken,
Achtet er der Sorgen werth,
Nicht um Völker zu erdrücken
Flammt in seiner Hand das Schwert:
Sie zu segnen, zu beglücken,
Ist der Preis, den er begehrt,
Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz!

Er zerbrach der Knechtschaft Bande,
Hob zur Freiheit uns empor!
Früh' erleb' er deutscher Lande,
Deutscher Völker höchsten Flor,
Und vernehme noch am Rande
Später Gruft der Enkel Chor:
Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser,
Unsern guten Kaiser Franz! 

God Save Emperor Francis,
Our good Emperor Francis,
A ruler high, a high sage,
Stands he in Fame's radiance;
A laurel wreath woven with love
May it be ever green for him.
God keep Francis the Emperor,
Our good Emperor Francis!

Over flourishing fields
Extends his scepter far and wide;
The supporters of his throne are gentleness,
Rectitude and probity,
And from his heraldic shield
Justice shines.
God keep Francis the Emperor,
Our good Emperor Francis!

With virtues adorned,
He heeds all worthy concerns
Not to repress peoples
Flaming sword in his hand:
To bless you, to delight you
Is the prize he desires,
God keep Francis the Emperor,
Our good Emperor Francis!

He shattered the fetters of bondage
Lifted us aloft to freedom!
Of his land and of his German peoples,
German peoples, the greatest flowers,
And may he hear at the edge
Of his future tomb his grandchildren's chorus.
God keep Francis the Emperor,
Our good Emperor Francis!

1854 version

Source: [2]:

German English translation

Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze
Unsern Kaiser, unser Land!
Mächtig durch des Glaubens Stütze,
Führt er uns mit weiser Hand!
Laßt uns seiner Väter Krone
Schirmen wider jeden Feind!
|: Innig bleibt mit Habsburgs Throne
   Österreichs Geschick vereint! :|

Fromm und bieder, wahr und offen
Laßt für Recht und Pflicht uns stehn;
Laßt, wenns gilt, mit frohem Hoffen
Mutvoll in den Kampf uns gehn
Eingedenk der Lorbeerreiser
Die das Heer so oft sich wand
|: Gut und Blut für unsern Kaiser,
   Gut und Blut fürs Vaterland! :|

Was der Bürger Fleiß geschaffen
Schütze treu des Kaisers Kraft;
Mit des Geistes heitren Waffen
Siege Kunst und Wissenschaft!
Segen sei dem Land beschieden
Und sein Ruhm dem Segen gleich;
|: Gottes Sonne strahl' in Frieden
   Auf ein glücklich Österreich! :|

Laßt uns fest zusammenhalten,
In der Eintracht liegt die Macht;
Mit vereinter Kräfte Walten
Wird das Schwere leicht vollbracht,
Laßt uns Eins durch Brüderbande
Gleichem Ziel entgegengehn
|: Heil dem Kaiser, Heil dem Lande,
   Österreich wird ewig stehn! :|

An des Kaisers Seite waltet,
Ihm verwandt durch Stamm und Sinn,
Reich an Reiz, der nie veraltet,
Uns're holde Kaiserin.
Was als Glück zu höchst gepriesen
Ström' auf sie der Himmel aus:
|: Heil Franz Josef, Heil Elisen,
   Segen Habsburgs ganzem Haus! :|

Heil auch Öst'reichs Kaisersohne,
Froher Zukunft Unterpfand,
Seiner Eltern Freud' und Wonne,
Rudolf tönt's im ganzen Land,
Unsern Kronprinz Gott behüte,
Segne und beglücke ihn,
|: Von der ersten Jugendblüthe
   Bis in fernste Zeiten hin. :|

God save, God protect
Our Emperor, Our Country!
Powerful through the support of the Faith,
He leads us with a wise hand!
Let the Crown of his Fathers
shield us against any foe!
|: Austria's Destiny remains
   intimately united with the Habsburg throne! :|

Pious and honest, true and open
Let us stand for the right and duty;
Let, if and only if, with joyful hope
Go courageously in the fight to us
Mindful of the bay sprigs
The army is often the case, the wall
|: Blood and Treasure for Our Emperor,
   Blood and Treasure for Our Country! :|

What the citizens diligently created
may the emperor's power protect;
With the cheery spirit weapons
Victory Arts and Science!
Blessed is the land allotted
And his fame the same blessing;
|: God's bright sun in peace
   On a happy Austria! :|

Let us stand together firmly,
In the unity is power;
With the combined forces rule
If the severity accomplished easily,
Let us band of brothers through one
Go towards the same goal
|: Hail to the Emperor, healing the land,
   Austria will stand forever! :|

At the Emperor's side prevails,
He related by common sense and,
Rich in charm that never outdated,
Our gracious empress.
What luck to be praised as highly
Stream from the sky on them:
|: Hail Franz Josef, Hail Elise,
   Blessing to the entire House of Habsburg! :|

Hail Emperor´s Son,
Joyful future pledge,
His parents' joy and gladness;
Rudolf's drowned out in the country,
Crown God forbid our people,
Bless him and gladden,
|: From the first Youth bloom
   Up to the remotest times. :|

1922 version

After the last Emperor, Charles I, died in 1922, monarchists created an original stanza for his son Otto von Habsburg. Since Austria had deposed its emperor in 1918 and become a republic, this version never had official standing.

German English translation

In Verbannung, fern den Landen
Weilst Du, Hoffnung Österreichs.
Otto, treu in festen Banden
Steh'n zu Dir wir felsengleich.
Dir, mein Kaiser, sei beschieden
Alter Ruhm und neues Glück!
|: Bring den Völkern endlich Frieden,
   Kehr zur Heimat bald zurück! :|

In exile, far from the lands
You are staying, Austria's hope.
Otto, faithful in tight ties
We stand by you like rock.
To you, my Emperor, let there be granted
Old glory and new luck!
|: Bring the peoples peace at last,
   Return to the homeland soon! :|


  1. Quotation from Robbins Landon and Jones, 1988, p. 301.
  2. German: 'city of the emperor'.
  3. "Concert Spirituel" normally denotes an important orchestra of Paris in Haydn's time; see Concert Spirituel. Here, however, it is more likely that Schmid was using the term to refer to the Gesellschaft der Associierten, a concert-sponsoring society of noblemen that Swieten had organized in Vienna. Swieten was not active in Paris.
  4. German: "people's song"
  5. Hughes 1970, p. 124.
  6. To view an image of the sketch version, visit [1].
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Jones (2009:120)
  8. Gerlach 1996, iv)
  9. Gerlach 1996, v. Gerlach's edition of the work includes a facsimile of the original piano version.)
  10. Robbins Landon and Jones 1999, p. 314.
  13. Retrieved Oct 2015.

See also

Audio versions

RCA Recording of Haydn's Emperor Quartet by Felicia Blumenthal/Helmut Klothauer & Vienna Sym Orch.


  • Gerlach, Sonja (1996) Haydn: Variationen über die Hymne 'Gott erhalte'; authentische Fassung für Klavier". Munich: G. Henle.
  • Hughes, Rosemary (1970) Haydn. London: Dent.
  • Jones, David Wyn (2009) Oxford Composer Companions: Haydn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Robbins Landon, H. C. and David Wyn Jones (1988) Haydn: His Life and Music, Thames and Hudson.

External links