King’s Scholars have been admitted to Westminster School for the first time since 1951.
For the past seven decades, the scholars have been known as Queen’s scholars, following a tradition of changing their name between King and Queen to reflect the current monarch.
At a service on Friday 30 September, the school’s 12 new scholars joined the Westminster Abbey community by presenting their credentials to the Dean of Westminster.
They are the latest in a long line of pupils to participate in a ceremony first recorded in 1542, receiving gowns as they were individually admitted, in Latin, in front of the whole school community and family members.
The eight fifth form boys — who won their places through taking the school’s famous Challenge examinations — and four sixth form girls, join College House, the original school house that dates back to Queen Elizabeth I.
The new pupils had been Queen’s Scholars for just five days, before the accession of King Charles III, at which moment they and the other 36 scholars all became King’s Scholars.
King’s Scholars play a unique role in the life of Westminster School, being part of Elizabeth I’s Royal Foundation of the College of St Peter, which encompasses both Westminster School and Westminster Abbey.
They attend certain Abbey services and have other ceremonial duties to perform in connection with the Abbey and the Crown. Notably, they have historically had a role in the monarch’s coronation. The monarch retains the position of Visitor at the school, and Westminster has a long history of royal visits and patronage.
Following the return of the title King’s Scholars, Sylvie, Captain of the King’s Scholars, said: “To be called King’s Scholars sounded a little peculiar to all of us at first, I think. We were so accustomed to being the Queen’s Scholars. It has obviously been 70 years since there were King’s Scholars at Westminster, and it’s nice to think there are female King’s Scholars now for the first time. As Captain, it is unusual to be Captain of both the King’s Scholars and Queen’s Scholars during the same year. It is an extraordinary experience.”
She added: “It has been surprising to me how much you do appreciate the history of being a Scholar at Westminster. There are the traditions, such as wearing gowns and attending weekly Compline in Abbey by candlelight, and there is the general feeling of being part of something.
“Life in College as a boarder, though, is very similar to in other Houses. Plenty of time is spent in the common room and the kitchen; and it is great to live in the heart of the school. The sense of longevity of being a King’s Scholar and feeling connected to the Abbey and the history of our role is unlike any other in the school.”
Scholar Ingrid added: “It is very exciting to be a King’s Scholar and be part of this school legacy. It is something very profound to become a King’s Scholar, especially in light of the recent events. It feels like being part of something bigger than any of us.”