The Three Kings

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The Three Kings
The Adoration of the Magi (Matthias Stom) - Nationalmuseum - 18796.jpg
The Adoration of the Magi by Matthias Stom
Native name Die Könige
Genre Christmas
Melody Peter Cornelius

"The Three Kings",[1] or "Three Kings From Persian Lands Afar", is a Christmas carol by the German composer Peter Cornelius. He set "Die Könige" for a vocal soloist, accompanied by the 16th-century Epiphany hymn "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" ("How Brightly Shines the Morning Star"); in the original Cornelius setting, the accompaniment was played on a piano but the English organist Ivor Atkins later arranged the accompaniment for choir. The German words have been translated into English by H.N. Bate.[2] The carol describes the visit of the Biblical Magi to the Infant Jesus during the Nativity and is also used as an Epiphany anthem.[3]


Cornelius wrote the German hymn "Die Könige" in 1856 as part of Weihnachtslieder, op 8, for a solo voice and piano; he rewrote it in 1870 for soloist and chorus.[4] The hymn was originally translated in 1916 by W. G. Rothery.[5] The more commonly used translation, including references to the Magi being from Persian lands, was made in 1928 by H.N. Bate[6] for the "Oxford Book of Carols".[7] The original piano accompaniment used by Cornelius for "Die Könige", the 16th-century "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" ("How Brightly Shines the Morning Star") by Philipp Nicolai, was transcribed for choir by the organist at Worcester Cathedral, Ivor Atkins, in 1957.[3][8][9]

Other publications[edit]

"The Three Kings" was included in a Nick Hern Books adapted publication of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.[10] In 2016, the carol was included by the head of chapel music at Winchester College, Malcolm Archer,[11] in the 2016 publication of the Carols Ancient and Modern" hymnal.[12]


  1. ^ "The Three Kings". The Royal Free Music Society Archive. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 
  2. ^ "Three Kings". 2015-12-03. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 
  3. ^ a b "Carols from King's - Carols from King's programme information". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 
  4. ^ Shrock, Dennis (2009). Choral Repertoire. Oxford University Press. p. 469. ISBN 0199716625. 
  5. ^ "The Three Kings". Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 
  6. ^ "Three Kings From Persian Lands Afar". Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 
  7. ^ Williamson, John (2005). Words and Music. Liverpool University Press. p. 119. ISBN 0853236194. 
  8. ^ "Christmas Night: Carols of the Nativity" (PDF). Collegium Records. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 
  9. ^ "The Three Kings - Peter Cornelius, Atkins". Oxford University Press. 1957-07-25. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 
  10. ^ Dickens, Charles (2007). Karen Louise Hebden, ed. A Christmas Carol (Nick Hern ed.). Nick Hern Books. p. 27. ISBN 1854599879. 
  11. ^ "Who has put it together?". Hymns Ancient and Modern. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 
  12. ^ "What’s included in Carols Ancient and Modern?". Hymns Ancient and Modern. Retrieved 2017-01-01. 

External links[edit]