Who doesn’t love a rousing round of ‘Good King Wenceslas’? And who could forget Hugh Grant singing it in Love Actually?
If you were thinking this carol was Victorian, you would be correct. While the tune itself dates from the fourteenth century (The New Oxford Book of Carols, p. 353), it wasn’t until the 1850s that the Rev. John Mason Neale wrote the words. It first appeared in print in 1853 in Carols for Christmas-tide. Dedicated (by Permission) to The Lord Bishop of Oxford. Set to ancient Melodies, and harmonized for Voices and Pianoforte, by the Rev. T. Helmore … The Words, principally in Imitation of the Original, by the Rev. J. M. Neale (London, Novello, Ewer and Co.).
Also included in this book of carols are ‘Christ was born on Christmas Day’ (‘Resonet in laudibus’) and ‘Good Christian men, rejoice’ (‘In dulci jubilo’).