Zadok the Priest

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For the High Priest of Israel, see Zadok.

The four anthems The King Shall Rejoice, My Heart is Inditing, Let thy Hand be Strengthened, and Zadok the Priest were composed by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George II in 1727, and are thus known as the Coronation Anthems. Zadok the Priest has been sung at every British coronation during the anointing of the sovereign since 1727.


Part of the traditional content of British coronations, the texts for all four anthems were picked by Handel—a personal selection from the most accessible account of an earlier coronation, that of James II in 1685.[1] The text is a translation of the traditional antiphon, Unxerunt Salomonem,[2] itself derived from the biblical account of the anointing of Solomon. These words have been used in every English, and later British, coronation since that of King Edgar at Bath Abbey in 973.[3] An earlier setting had been written by Henry Lawes for the coronation of King Charles II.[4]

At the coronation itself on 11 October 1727, the choir of Westminster Abbey sang Zadok the Priest in the wrong part of the service; they had earlier entirely forgotten to sing one anthem and another ended "in confusion".[5]

Full text[edit]

After 1 Kings 1:38–40

Zadok the Priest, and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon King.
And all the people rejoiced, and said:
God save the King! Long live the King!
May the King live for ever,
Amen, Allelujah.


Zadok the Priest is written for SS-AA-T-BB chorus and orchestra (two oboes, two bassoons, three trumpets, timpani, strings, continuo). The music prepares a surprise in its orchestral introduction through the use of static layering of soft string textures followed by a sudden rousing forte tutti entrance, augmented by three trumpets.

The middle section "And all the people rejoic'd, and said" is an imitatory dance in 3/4 time, with the choir singing chordally and a dotted rhythm in the strings.

The final section "God save the King", etc. is a return to common time (4/4), with the "God save the King" section heard chordally, interspersed with the Amens incorporating long semiquaver runs, taken in turn through the six voice parts (SAATBB) with the other parts singing quaver chords accompanying it. The chorus ends with a largo plagal cadence on "Allelujah".

Other uses[edit]

  • The "UEFA Champions League Anthem", which introduces worldwide television coverage of the event and is played during pre-game ceremonies at each match, is based on this composition.
  • It is regularly (sometimes daily) played by request on 'popular classics' radio stations in the United Kingdom such as Classic FM, which aired this song at its launch at 6am on 7 September 1992.
  • Used in royal weddings, including that of Mary Elizabeth Donaldson to Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark.[6]
  • Heard on television coverage of the coronation of Elizabeth II in the film Prick Up Your Ears, coinciding with the first sexual encounter between playwright Joe Orton (played by Gary Oldman) and his lover Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina).
  • Used in the climactic scene in the Australian film Crackerjack to dramatically highlight a lawn bowl as it rolled down the green in slow motion.
  • Used for the scene in which mad-king George III (played by Nigel Hawthorne) is restrained in the 1994 film The Madness of King George; the song's use, along with the staging of the scene involving the King being forced into a chair, gives the scene the appearance of a mock-coronation.
  • Used in a 2015 commercial for DirectTV advertising a partnership with AT&T to watch TV on your mobile phone.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "George Frideric Handel: Coronation Anthems, HWV258-261". Classical Archives. 2015. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  2. ^ Range, Matthias (2012), Music and Ceremonial at British Coronations: From James I to Elizabeth II, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1-107-02344-4 (p. 10)
  3. ^ "Guide to the Coronation Service", Westminster Abbey website (London, U.K.: Dean and Chapter of Westminster), 2009, retrieved 2009-08-20, Meanwhile the choir sings the anthem Zadok the Priest, the words of which (from the first Book of Kings) have been sung at every coronation since King Edgar’s in 973. Since the coronation of George II in 1727 the setting by Handel has always been used. 
  4. ^ Sadie, Julie Anne (1990), Companion to Baroque Music, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-21414-5 (p. 297)
  5. ^ Lambeth Palace Library Research Guide: Sources for the Coronation – George II, MS 1079b (p. 7)
  6. ^ Royal Wedding Frederik & Mary – Zadok the Priest. YouTube. May 14, 2004. Retrieved May 2, 2012. 
  7. ^ "AT&T All in One Plan TV Commercial, 'This Is Big' Featuring Steve Carell". Retrieved 24 October 2015. 

External links[edit]