London scholars to be first commoners to hail King Charles at Coronation
A group of central London schoolchildren are rehearsing for a “small yet significant” part of the ceremony rooted in hundreds of years of history.
The 48 King’s Scholars from Westminster School will follow in the footsteps of previous pupils going back to at least the 17th century.
The children, 40 boys and eight girls who all attend the fee-paying school next to Westminster Abbey, will be the first commoners to hail the new King and Queen by proclaiming “Vivat Rex” and “Vivat Regina” — Latin for God Save the King and God Save the Queen — during the traditional performance of Hubert Parry’s work I Was Glad.
Tim Garrard, the school’s director of music, explained the Scholars were chosen not for their singing but for their academic ability, having passed an examination known as The Challenge.
He described the performance as “a musical shout”, adding: “We have a very small yet significant role in that the King’s Scholars get to proclaim the Vivat acclamations and they have been part of coronations for centuries.
“It’s a very short bit of text but an extraordinarily important moment within the service and I think the Scholars are very, very excited at the prospect of being involved and witnessing a moment in history.”
The school’s archivist, Elizabeth Wells, said its strong connection with the monarchy dates back to 1540 when Henry VIII refounded the school and established the Scholars who take their title from the reigning monarch.
She said: “They’ve taken part in the coronation since at least 1685, that was the coronation of James II, but we think it is likely to have been a longer standing affair. The reason we have such a good account for the 1685 coronation is that James II paid for somebody to produce a book detailing everything, partly because he was such an unpopular king and he was trying to shore up his reign.”
Mr Garrard said the Scholars were aware of the historic weight of the occasion. He said: “It’s such an exciting role and such an honour to do it. The Scholars are so charged with excitement that preparation has been no problem at all, it’s just a case of learning the little bit of chant and making sure we are really good at annunciating it.”