Hymn #145: Once in Royal David's City

Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) wrote this text in 1848 as part of a series of hymns based on the Apostles' Creed.  This one taught children the meaning of the phrase "born of the virgin Mary."  The hymn is now a standard at the Festival of Carols at King's College, England.


Cecil Frances Alexander established a school for the deaf with her sister before marrying William Alexander, a minister of the Anglican Church, who rose to be archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland.  Her most important volume was Hymns for Little Children (1848).

Henry John Gauntlett (1805-1876) composed the tune IRBY in 1849 for this text.  It was originally scored for solo voice and piano and published in Christmas Carols (1849).  The composer later rearranged it as a hymn for inclusion in the Appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern (1868).


Henry J. Gauntlett is believed to have written more than ten thousand hymn tunes, but only a few of them survive to this day - IRBY and HOUGHTON being the best known.  Gauntlett began working as a church organist at age nine but entered the law profession at the insistence of his father.