Cecil Spring Rice (1859-1918) had a career in the British diplomatic service. For the last six years of his life up to just before his death he was the British Ambassador to the United States of America. He is remembered for his poem ‘I Vow to Thee, My Country’ which is sung as a hymn to the tune THAXTED, written by Gustav Holst. The original poem was called Urbs Dei (‘The City of God’) and was written during a posting to the British Embassy in Stockholm. During his time as Ambassador to the USA he revised the poem into the version we know today. Spring Rice’s poem has three verses, but the second verse is now omitted in current usage. The well-known tune to which the text is sung is taken from ‘Jupiter’ a movement of Gustav Holst’s suite The Planets. Although not written specifically for this text, Holst’s music was later adapted to fit Spring Rice’s words.
The hymn is a sung at Remembrance Services, weddings, funerals, and is used by some schools as their school hymn. The stirring words, matched with an equally stirring melody, make it a powerful and emotional hymn to sing. It was sung at the Royal Wedding of 1981, and at the funeral service of Princess Diana in 1997.