The anthem dates from the Reformation and the consequent establishment of English as the liturgical language of Great Britain. Although the anthem developed from the Latin motet, the first anthems are markedly different in style from previous and contemporary motets. They are rhythmically square, more harmonically conceived, more syllabic, and in shorter phrases, all features resulting from the greater consideration given to text and pronunciation.
Toward the end of the 16th century a new form, the verse anthem, was introduced by William Byrd and developed by Thomas Tomkins and Orlando Gibbons. This form, in which sections for full chorus alternate with sections for one or more solo voices, was preferred throughout the 17th century, with the full anthem returning to prominence in the subsequent period.
The Baroque anthem reached its high point in the grandiose anthems of Handel, nearly all of which were written for special festive occasions where an unusual display was possible and appropriate.