King Arthur

Tales Of King Arthur
Since the romanticizing of the Arthurian legends by Geoffery of
Monmouth, the historian, during the twelfth century, the legendary ‘king
of England’ has been the source of inspiration for kings, poets, artists
and dreamers alike. The most famous work is probably Sir Thomas Malory’s
Le Morte d’Arthur, completed around 1470, and published in many abridged
and complete versions. Malory’s work contains in one the legend that had
been continually added to over the years by many different writers who
introduced such elements as Sir Galahad, and the ill-fated love affair
between Lancelot and Guinevere. Geoffery of Monmouth had been the first
to put the legends surrounding Arthur into literary form in his History
of the Kings of Britain. He described Arthur’s genealogy as the son of
Uther Pendragon and Igerna, or Igraine, wife of the Duke of Cornwall,
and brought in Merlin the magician, who disguised Arthur as the Duke in
order to romance Igerna at Tintagel Castle while the real Duke was away.
Geoffery also introduced Arthur’s famed court (placed at
Caerleon-on-Usk) and his final battle and defeat at the hands of Modred,
his treacherous nephew.
Artos Of The Celts
It is almost certain that Arthur did exist, although it is unlikely he
was a king. He is more likely to have been a warrior and Celtic cavalry
leader. The Saxon invaders, who were unmounted, would have been at a
considerable disadvantage against the speed with which the Celtic
company were able to move around the country, which would make possible
the dozen victories up and down the country that have been attributed to
the shadowy figure of Arthur. Around the fifth century, a resistance
movement against Britain’s invaders, including Saxons and Angles from
the continent, Picts from the North, and Irish from the West, was being
led which maintained a British hold on the South and West. Around this
time, a man named Artos was beginning to be written of as a powerful
soldier who united the leaders of the small British kingdoms against the
invading armies. It seems likely that he was a noble Celt. The first
mention of his victory in battle was written down around 600 AD, in a
set of church annals called the Annales Cambriae. He must have been a
glimmer of hope to the Britons, and it is not surprising that he might
have been thought of as a king.

Guinevere And The Court At Camelot
In the earliest tales of Arthur, there is no mention of his queen,
Guinevere; she was introduced by later writers, possibly to illustrate
how the dream world of Camelot fell from grace. When Guinevere first
appears in early Welsh stories, she is the daughter of a giant, but
later she becomes the daughter of King Leodegrance of the West Country.
In her original Welsh form of Gwenhwyfar, she was an folk figure before
being connected to Arthur, and may originally have been a lesser
Geoffery located Camelot at the very real Roman town of Caerleon in
South Wales; Malory placed it at Winchester, which was the headquarters
of the kings of Wessex and remained a royal seat after the Norman
invasion. Other stories place it near Arthur’s supposed birthplace at
Tintagel. Cadbury Castle in Somerset has been named as another possible
location of Camelot, which has been revealed during excavations to have
been occupied during the time of Arthur and to have been the
headquarters of a leader, if not a king. The real Arthur may have been
buried at Glastonbury Abbey, which lays around twelve miles north-west
of the castle. It is said to have been a secret burial, so the news of
his death would not raise Saxon morale; the mystery may have given rise
to the rumors that he still lived on. In 1190, the monks of Glastonbury
Abbey reported that they had dug up a coffin made from a hollow log, and
a lead cross inscribed with the name of Arthur, or Artos. Within were a
man’s bones, and a woman’s skeleton and mass of yellow hair found in the
same grave were said to belong to his queen, Guinevere.

The Knights Of The Round Table


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