|The Right Honourable
Sir Cecil Spring-Rice
GCMG GCVO PC
|British Ambassador to the United States|
|Preceded by||James Bryce|
|Succeeded by||The Earl of Reading|
|Born||27 February 1859
London, United Kingdom
|Died||14 February 1918
|Spouse(s)||Florence Caroline Lascelles|
|Relations||Thomas Spring Rice, 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon, grandfather|
|Children||Mary and Anthony Spring Rice|
|Alma mater||Balliol College, Oxford|
Early life and family
Spring-Rice was the son of Hon. Thomas William Spring Rice, second son of the prominent Whig politician and former cabinet minister Thomas Spring Rice, 1st Baron Monteagle of Brandon. His father died when he was eleven, and Spring-Rice was brought up at his mother's house on Ullswater. Spring-Rice was often ill as a child and later suffered from Graves' disease. He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, under the direction of Benjamin Jowett. Although brought up as an Englishman, Spring-Rice's Irishness persisted, and he later wrote of the conflict he sometimes felt between his Rice (Irish) and Spring (English) roots.
- Mary Elizabeth Spring Rice (1906–1994), married Sir Oswald Raynor Arthur in 1935.
- Anthony Theodore Brandon Spring Rice (1908–1954), died unmarried.
Spring-Rice's brother, Gerald, was killed whilst serving as an officer on the Western Front in 1916.
Spring-Rice began his career as a clerk in the Foreign Office in 1882, but made the unusual move to the diplomatic service, where he remained for the rest of his life, starting with his first posting to Washington in 1887. During the 1890s, he was posted to the Far East. Spring-Rice was instrumental in laying the foundations of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, which he saw as vital if Russian expansion in the region was to be challenged. Spring-Rice went on to become the British Chargé d'Affaires in Tehran (1900), Commissioner of Public Debt in Cairo (1901) and Chargé d'Affaires in St. Petersburg (1903). He later served in Persia (1906) and Sweden (1908) before his appointment as ambassador to the United States in 1912. Within two years of Spring-Rice's posting to Washington, the First World War had broken out in Europe and his principle concern became working towards ending American neutrality. This was achieved with the USA's entry into the conflict in 1917. In February 1918 he was abruptly recalled to London in a one-line telegram, and died in Ottawa shortly thereafter, where he is buried in Beechwood Cemetery.
In The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris described Spring-Rice as "a born diplomat [who] invariably picked out and cultivated the most important person in any place". He was well respected in London's diplomatic circles. Further, "he was one of [President] Theodore Roosevelt's most ardent and loyal admirers" and acted as Roosevelt's best man in Roosevelt's wedding to Edith Carrow. Spring-Rice memorably remarked about Roosevelt: "You must always remember that the president is about six". The two men continued to write to each other until Spring-Rice's death and their close relationship undoubtedly added to the Ambassador's diplomatic clout in the USA.
However, Spring-Rice's success in turning these earlier close links to the US administration to a relationship of use to his government is debatable. By the end of his appointment, Spring-Rice had earned the enmity of his government after becoming paranoid – seeing German spies everywhere – and also because of his immense dislike of any British visitors to Washington that were not under the control of his embassy. Even so, after his death the British government recognised Spring-Rice's extraordinary contribution to the war effort. His untiring attempts to get the United States to join the Allies were evident. In a speech in the House of Commons in 1919, Lord Robert Cecil said:
"No ambassador has ever had to discharge duties of greater delicacy or of more far reaching importance than fell to his lot. Nor has any ambassador ever fulfilled his task with more unwearied vigilance, conspicuous ability and ultimate success."
Spring-Rice was invested as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George and a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. In 1906 he was made a Grand Cordon of Order of the Medjidie. He was also made a Privy Councillor in 1913. In his will he left money to Balliol College to found the Cecil Spring-Rice Memorial Fund which funds the learning of languages by students who intend to join the diplomatic service. Memorials to Spring-Rice exist on Ullswater and in Ottawa.
Spring-Rice was a poet throughout his adult life. In 1918 he rewrote the words of his most notable poem, Urbs Dei (The City of God) or The Two Fatherlands to become the text for the hymn I Vow to Thee My Country. This hymn was first performed in 1925, after Spring-Rice's death, and has since become a widely recognised British anthem. He was a close friend of Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol, a British journalist and later diplomat, with whom he corresponded for many years. Spring-Rice's letters and poems were collected together by his daughter, Lady Arthur, and many are now held by The National Archives.
|British Ambassador to the United States
The Earl of Reading
- Burton, David Henry (1990). Cecil Spring Rice: A Diplomat's Life. Page 22: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. ISBN 978-0-8386-3395-3.
- Morris, Edmund (2001). The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Kindle Edition). 7271 of 20280 (Page 357): Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-307-77782-9.
- Morris, Edmund (2001). The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Kindle Edition). 7265 of 20280 (Page 356): Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-307-77782-9.
- Morris, Edmund (2001). The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Kindle Edition). 366 of 20280: Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-307-77782-9.