John Mason Neale was a priest of the Church of England who produced an extraordinary volume of work in his short life, including many of the best translations of Latin hymns in common use.
The tune was written to be sung to repeated ‘Alleluias’ at the end of Henry Purcell’s anthem ‘O God, Thou are my God’. It was adapted as a hymn tune in 1842 by Ernest Hawkins, a Canon of Westminster Abbey where Purcell had been organist. It did not become popular however until it was sung at Princess Margaret’s wedding in the Abbey in 1960, where it made a thrilling sound in that great space and endeared itself to many.
from notes by Alan Luff © 2004