What were the Queen's favourite hymns?
Religion played a key role in Queen Elizabeth II's public and private life. We take a closer look at five of her most cherished hymns
Which hymns were most beloved by Queen Elizabeth II? Here is a selection of religious songs that she is known to have loved – or that featured at prominent moments during her reign.
Which hymns did the Queen love the most during her lifetime?
Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven
The Queen loved this Christian hymn, written by Anglican clergyman Henry Francis Lyte. First published in 1834, Lyte’s hymn draws on Psalm 103, which is believed to have been written during the life of the Hebrew King David.
Lyte first published the hymn in his collection The Spirit of the Psalms, which he used with his congregation in Brixham, south Devon.
The music with which the lyrics are most frequently heard today, however, was written in 1868 by John Goss. Appropriately, there was a Royal connection: Goss was a boy chorister of the Chapel Royal, the establishment that ministers to the spiritual needs of the monarch and Royal Family.
The hymn is already a familiar staple from state ceremonies, having been played during Queen Elizabeth’s wedding to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1947. More recently, soprano Alexandra Stevenson performed ''Praise, My Soul the King of Heaven' during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee earlier in 2022.
The Lord’s My Shepherd
To mark the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations back in 2016, BBC Radio 2 produced a show entitled Our Queen: 90 Musical Years. As part of this, the Queen listed her ten favourite pieces of music.
Two hymns featured in this list. One was 'Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven' mentioned above: the other was 'The Lord’s My Shepherd'.
The words of this beautiful hymn are believed to have been written by the 17th-century Puritan politician and author Francis Rous, based on Psalm 23. It is most commonly sung, meanwhile, to the tune of 'CRIMOND', by Scottish hymnist Jessie Seymour Irvine.
All People that on Earth do Dwell
We don’t know whether this was a favourite of the Queen’s – but it was sung at her Coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1953, so it’s bound to have some strong resonances.
The words to 'All People that on Earth do Dwell' are an arrangement of Psalm 100 (also known as ‘The Old Hundredth’), by Elizabethan churchman William Kethe.
For the Coronation, no less a composer than Ralph Vaughan Williams set Kethe’s translation to music – for all four vocal parts, plus organ, orchestra and congregation.
I Vow to Thee My Country
This rousing and emotional piece was also performed at the Queen’s Coronation in 1953. The music, famously, is from the Jupiter section of Gustav Holst’s orchestral suite, The Planets. The words to 'I Vow to Thee My Country', meanwhile, originate in a poem by the Edwardian diplomat Sir Cecil Spring Rice.
Lead us, Heavenly Father
This traditional Christian hymn asks for guidance and protection from God. Sung during the Queen's 90th Birthday Service of Thanksgiving, it is another strong candidate for one of her favourite hymns.
The words to Lead Us, Heavenly Father were composed by Victorian architect and surveyor James Edmeston. He sounds like a remarkable fellow: on top of the busy day job, Edmeston found the time to compose some 2000 hymns – one every Sunday.
The hymn has been set to music in several different arrangements, including one by the 19th century German musicologist Friedrich Filitz.
Pic: Getty Images
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.