They are songs of pride and patriotism, booming out at every international sporting fixture and medal ceremony. But behind the world's national anthems lurk some strange and surprising stories, finds Alex Marshall.
From revolution to risque
Claude Joseph Rouget De Lisle (1760 - 1836) the soldier is performing for the first time 'Le Marseillaise' which he wrote and composed. From a painting by Godfroid Griffins. Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle (centre) wrote the Marseillaise in matter of hours
Thanks to its rousing tune, France's La Marseillaise is one of the world's most recognisable anthems.
After it was written in 1792, the song quickly spread across Europe, inspiring revolutionaries from Greece to Russia. It has even been part of recent uprisings. It was sung at the Tiananmen Square protests in China.
Unfortunately, its composer never managed a similar level of success. Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle wrote La Marseillaise in just a few feverish hours, after being asked for a song to inspire French troops preparing for war against Austria.
But over the next 44 years of his life, he never managed another memorable tune.
At one point, he even turned to writing somewhat bawdy lyrics, presumably because he was so desperate for money.
If you visit his museum in the town of Lons-le-Saunier in eastern France, you can see one of those songs on display. Unsurprisingly, half the words are hidden from view in case children are passing.
Same song, different country
Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and John Terry of England sing the national anthem ahead of the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter final match between England and Italy at The Olympic Stadium on June 24, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine The UK's national anthem - not be to be confused with Liechtenstein's
God Save the Queen, published in 1745, became the first recognised anthem when it was adopted by what was then the Kingdom of Great Britain.