Once in Royal David's City is a Christmas carol originally written as a poem by Cecil Frances Alexander. The carol was first published in 1848 in Miss Cecil Humphreys' hymnbook Hymns for little Children. A year later, the English organist Henry John Gauntlett discovered the poem and set it to music. Cecil Humphreys, meanwhile, married the Anglican clergyman William Alexander in 1848 and upon her husband's consecration became a bishop's wife in 1867. She is also remembered for her hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful.
Since 1919, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at the King's College Chapel Cambridge has begun its Christmas Eve service, with Dr Arthur Henry Mann's arrangement of "Once in Royal David's City" as the Processional hymn. Mann was organist at King's between 1876 and 1929. In his arrangement, the first verse is sung by a boy chorister of the Choir of King's Chapel as a solo. The second verse is sung by the choir, and the congregation joins in the third verse. Excluding the first verse, the hymn is accompanied by the organ. This carol was the first recording that the King's College Choir under Boris Ord made for EMI in 1948. Among others who have recorded it are Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Chieftains, Daniel O'Donnell, The Seekers, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Petula Clark, Jethro Tull, Sinéad O'Connor and Sufjan Stevens, St. Paul's Choir School and most recently by the Irish group Celtic Woman in their album Voices of Angels.
- Free typeset sheet music from Cantorion.org