How ‘Pomp & Circumstance’ Became the Standard Graduation Song Throughout the United States

Vox story editor Phil Edwards explains the circuitous route by which Sir Edward Elgar‘s “Pomp and Circumstance March“, a song that celebrated the expanding global British Empire, became the standard instrumental theme of graduations everywhere within the United States since 1905.

Part of Edward Elgar’s infamous military marches, the tune was composed in the midst of the Boer War, a conflict that expanded the British empire in search of diamonds and gold. When the song was used for Edward VII’s coronation, it was lent words that, even today, promote the British empire. That’s why the version with lyrics is known as “Land of Hope and Glory.” The famous song was used when Elgar received an honorary degree at Yale and, quite simply, people liked how it sounded.