Cecil Frances Alexander was born in Dublin, the third child of Major John Humphries, land agent to the 4th Earl of Wicklow. She began writing verse at an early age and in later life, in addition to poetry, wrote numerous hymns, the best known of which are All Things Bright and Beautiful, There is a Greenhill Far Away, and the Christmas carol, Once in Royal David’s City. In 1846 she had Verses for Holy Seasons published, The Lord of the Forest and his Vassals in 1847, and Verses for Little Children the following year.
In 1850 she married the Oxford-educated Anglican clergyman William Alexander, six years her junior, and himself a poet. He became the Bishop of Derry in 1867 and the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland in 1896. The couple had four children, two of each sex.
Throughout her life, she was involved in charitable works, including the Derry Home for Fallen Women, visiting the sick, and making donations to the Derry and Raphoe Diocesan Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in Strabane, County Tyrone, where she and her husband lived between 1860 and 1867. She died at the Bishop’s Palace in Derry in 1895. A collection of her poems edited by her husband was published the following year. Although not as well known as her hymns, her poems reflect her compassionate nature and her sympathy for the less fortunate. Of note are The Beggar Boy, The Fieldmouse, The Distance, and The Burial of Moses, which Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the then poet laureate, said he would have been proud to have written himself.