Wenceslas (Vyacheslav) the Good reigned as duke in Bohemia from 922 to 929. He was the son of Duke Vratislav and received a good Christian education, supervised by his grandmother, Ludmila. After Vratislav’s death around 920, Wenceslas’ mother, Drahomira, became regent, but her violent actions so estranged the people that Wencelas took over the government himself in 922. A man of great piety, he worked for the religious and cultural improvement of his people and sought to bring them into closer connection with Western Europe, entertaining friendly relations with Germany. This policy, and the dissatisfaction of the pagan elements of the populace, probably led to his being martyred by his brother, Boleslav, around 929. He was soon venerated as a martyr, and Boleslav himself had Wenceslas’ relics translated to the Church of Saint Vitus in Prague. His feast day of September 28 has been observed in Bohemia, whose patron he became, since 985.
John Mason Neale’s carol, “Good King Wenceslas”, is not based on any known incident in the life of the saint, but is probably intended as a pious illustration of the virtue of charity, Saint Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day) being a traditional day for giving to the poor.
Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr Wenceslas was faithful even to death: Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.