1779-1843
portrait

August 1, 1779, Carroll County, Maryland.

January 11, 1843, Baltimore, Maryland.

Mount Olivet Cemetery, Frederick, Maryland.

Son of John Ross Key, Francis 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 perhaps 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 spar 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 illumed 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.

  1. Before the Lord We Bow
  2. Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee