During the Coronation of King Charles, you are likely to hear the word 'Vivat!' shouted by the King's Scholars of Westminster School. But what does this word (and custom) mean? And what is it history?


What does 'Vivat!' mean?

'Vivat' means 'long live' in Latin. So, 'Vivat Rex!' means 'Long live the King!'

Why is 'Vivat!' used during coronations?

The acclamation 'Vivat!' is used in British coronations to hail the new monarch as they process from the quire of Westminster Abbey towards the coronation theatre, fronting the altar.

'Vivat!' is shouted by the King or Queen's Scholars of Westminster School, as tradition dictates that they are the first to acclaim the new monarch sovereign at the coronation ceremony (hence the 'Vivat's other name, the Acclamations).

What is 'Long live the King' in Latin?

At the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the Scholars shouted 'Vivat, Regina! / Vivat, Regina Elizabetha! / Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!' ('Long live the Queen! Long live Queen Elizabeth! Long live, long live, long live!).

This was then incorporated into Hubert Parry's anthem 'I was glad' ('Laetatus sum'), which is traditionally sung as an anthem at a British coronation.

The lyrics will be adapted for King Charles, as 'Vivat, Rex! / Vivat, Rex Carolus! / Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!' ('Long live the King! Long live King Charles! Long live, long live, long live!).

What Psalm does 'I was glad' come from?

Parry's text consists of verses from Psalm 122. Other composers have set these words to music, including Henry Purcell and William Boyce. As such, the anthem 'I was glad' has been sung at every British coronation since that of King Charles I in 1625.

Parry's version was composed for the Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902: it also appeared, in revised form, at the crowing of King George V nine years later. Parry's contribution was to include the 'Vivat' acclamations in the middle of the Psalm.


Will Camilla be given a 'Vivat' too?

At the coronation of a King and Queen, the 'Vivat' for a Queen comes before that of the King. Camilla will become Queen on the day of the Coronation so, yes, we will hear a 'Vivat' for Camilla before that for Charles.


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.