Born: Au­gust 1, 1779, Car­roll Coun­ty, Ma­ry­land.

Died: Jan­u­a­ry 11, 1843, at the home of his daugh­ter Eliz­a­beth How­ard in Bal­ti­more, Ma­ry­land.

Buried: Orig­in­al­ly in Old Saint Paul’s Ce­me­te­ry, Bal­ti­more, Ma­ry­land. Lat­er re­in­terred at Mount Ol­iv­et Ce­me­te­ry, Fred­er­ick, Ma­ry­land.


Francis was the son of John Ross Key and Anne Phe­be Penn Dag­wor­thy Charl­ton, hus­band of Ma­ry (Pol­ly) Tay­loe Lloyd, and bro­ther-in-law of Chief Jus­tice of the Unit­ed States Ro­ger B. Ta­ney.

He at­tend­ed St. John’s Col­lege, An­na­po­lis, Mar­y­land. He served as Dis­trict At­tor­ney of Wash­ing­ton, DC, was a ves­try­man of St. John’s Church and Christ Church in George­town, and taught Epis­co­pa­li­an Sun­day School.

He al­so helped or­gan­ize the Do­mes­tic and For­eign Mis­sion­a­ry So­ci­e­ty in 1820, and in 1823 served on the com­mit­tee pre­par­ing the new Pro­test­ant Epis­co­pal hym­nal.


Key is prob­ab­ly best re­mem­bered as the au­thor of the Am­er­i­can na­tion­al an­them, The Star Span­gled Ban­ner.


Here are the four vers­es Key wrote dur­ing the 1814 siege of Fort Mc­Hen­ry, Ma­ry­land, with a fifth by Ol­iv­er Wen­dell Holmes.

The Defence of Fort McHenry

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O! say does that star spangled banner still wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines in the stream.
’Tis the star spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band which so vauntingly swore,
’Mid the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, shall leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.
And the star spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever when freeman shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land,
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, In God is our trust.
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

When our land is illumèd with liberty’s smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile
The flag of her stars and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained who our birthright have gained,
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.