King Wenceslas was in fact very good and also very real.
Wenceslaus I became the Duke of Bohemia in 921 A.D. and was by all accounts a very generous ruler, regularly giving alms to the poor, the widowed, and orphans.
When he was assassinated in 935 (possibly by his brother, the appropriately named Boleslav the Cruel), the Catholic Church almost immediately made him a saint.
Nearly 900 years later, in 1853, English hymn writer John Mason Neale used the melody from the 14th century springtime song "Tempus Adest Floridum" ("The Time is Near for Flowering") to tell the story of Wenceslaus.
Its lyrics find the good king braving deep snow to give alms to the poor--a tale firmly rooted in the life of the real "Good King Wenceslas."
Click on the player below to hear every entry in the series "The Forgotten History of Our Favorite Christmas Carols."