“Zadok the Priest” has been used in every British coronation since it was written in 1727.
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With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the English monarchy passes to Prince Charles, who has taken the name King Charles III. Now, the UK will plan its first coronation since 1953. While the date for his coronation is not yet known, it’s pretty easy to guess what the soundtrack for the day will be.
Written by George Frideric Handel for the 1727 coronation of King George II, “Zadok the Priest” has accompanied the crowning of new English monarchs ever since. The piece draws its text from 1 Kings 1:34, in which Zadok, a Jewish priest and the first High Priest of the First Temple, anoints Solomon king.
“There Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet shall anoint him king over Israel, and you shall blow the ram’s horn and cry, ‘Long live King Solomon!’” – USCCB 1 Kings 1:34
The thrilling fanfare is played during the portion of the coronation when the next monarch is anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, just as Solomon was anointed by Zadok. It is not until this hallowing, which alludes to the English monarch’s title as Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, that a monarch may be crowned.
The placement of the hymn in the ceremony can be seen in video of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, featured above. While the chorus rings through the cathedral, the queen can be seen divesting herself of her “crimson robes of state” as well as her jewels, in favor of a simple white linen garment. It is in this humble garb that the English monarch first takes the throne.
While the historical footage of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation is a splendid record, the sound quality is unfortunately low. For a better listen, watch the video below.