The Triumph of Medieval Propaganda

Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his History of the Kings of Britain back in the 12th century. It was at the behest of Robert of Gloucester, his patron, that he claims to have transcribed/copied/invented his history, placing King Arthur at the center of a national–and by that I mean English–origin myth. The idea was to justify the conquest of Britain by the Normans as a mirror to what King Arthur had done in the 5th century, including crossing the English Channel from Normandy to  Britain. Children’s author Phillip Womack (author of The Other Book and The Liberators) said in the Times Online:  “As inhabitants of these islands, we don’t have many myths that bring us together, but King Arthur is one.  I think that we will always seek him as a saviour, whatever situation we’re in, because that’s human nature. The Read more…

Geoffrey of Monmouth

Geoffrey of Monmouth was born sometime around 1100, probably in Monmouth in southeast Wales. “His father was named Arthur. Geoffrey was appointed archdeacon of Llandsaff in 1140 and was consecrated bishop of St. Asaph in 1152. He died c. 1155. Geoffrey is one of the most significant authors in the development of the Arthurian legends. It was Geoffrey who, in his Historia Regum Britanniae (completed in 1138) located Arthur in the line of British kings. Such an action not only asserted the historicity of Arthur but also gave him an authoritative history which included many events familiar from later romance. Geoffrey also introduced the character of Merlin as we know him into the legends. Geoffrey’s Merlin, a combination of the young and prophetic Ambrosius in Nennius’s history and the prophet Myrddin who figures in several Welsh poems, first appears in Read more…

All about King Arthur

King Arthur:  Was he real?  Was he even a king?  Someone reached my blog the other day by typing in “King Arthur wasn’t Welsh”.  What?  Clearly that person needed to be pointed in the proper direction and I’m glad my blog was here to do it. I have written extensively about King Arthur in many places on this blog, and with that poor lost soul in mind, I realized that it might be of some benefit to put these posts all in the same place.  To find out about the origins of King Arthur, see: Geoffrey of Monmouth Historical Sources for King Arthur Possible King Arthur (s) Was King Arthur Real? Who Was Guinevere? Lancelot Morgan/Morgana/Morgan le Fey The British (Welsh/Cymry) High Council For information on the places associated with King Arthur: The Holy Grail and Dinas Bran King Arthur’s Round Read more…

Tintagel Castle

Was Arthur conceived at Tintagel Castle?  That Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed he was is reason enough to doubt the veracity of the legend, but that’s not to say that the castle doesn’t have a fascinating history. Geoffrey writes:  “They then went their way toward Tintagel, and at dusk hour arrived, swiftly unmade the doors, and the three were admitted. For what other than Gorlois if Gorlois himself were there? So the king lay that night with Igrene, for as he had beguiled her by the false likeness he had taken upon him, so he beguiled her also by the feigned discourse wherewith he had issued forth of the besieged city for naught save to see the safety of her dear self and the castle wherein she lay, in such a sort that she believed him every word, and had no Read more…

The Fictional King Arthur (rant!)

Yes, I have some issues with King Arthur as a fictional character. Please pardon the rant! King Arthur, as usually written, comes off as either as a flat character, someone whom the author employs as a backdrop to explore the personalities of other characters (Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot), or as unheroic and human, tripped up in the end by the overwhelming burden of his imperfections. Arthur is either a pawn, buffeted by the winds of fate, or so flawed, one has to ask how he was remembered as a hero in the first place. One recent example of this is Starz’s aborted Camelot series, at least the bit I watched, where it is inexplicable that Merlin would come to him as the hero (in a totally deserted castle) and expect anything good to happen. A second is the odd King Arthur: Read more…

Historical Sources for King Arthur

Whether or not King Arthur was a real person is an either/or query.  He either lived or he didn’t.  Many scholars, researchers, and Arthurophile’s have strong opinions on this topic, both for and against.  Because of the paucity of written records, much of the academic work has come down on the side of ‘didn’t—or at least if Arthur was a real person, his name was not ‘Arthur’ and he possibly wasn’t even a king. I, however, look at the poetry and tales from the early Middle Ages, and choose to believe he did actually exist. Medieval people certainly thought he did, and throughout the Middle Ages, an entire body of work developed around his story, much of it mythologized. Historically speaking, however, there are genuine near contemporaneous references to him that predate the kinds of stories we read about now, with the Round Read more…

Update on King Arthur’s ’round table’ in Chester

Yes–slacking off today.  But I did find this interesting piece on King Arthur’s round table by Keith Fitzpatrick-Mathews.  It is a much more lengthy rebuttal than mine (http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=1186), but makes many of the same points (also see, http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?tag=king-arthur).  Fitzpatrick-Mathews also takes to task Christopher Gildow’s article entitled “Top Ten Clues to the Real King Arthur”.  What’s particularly great is the exchange between the two in the comments at the end.   Worth a read for anyone who thinks King Arthur might have really existed. http://badarchaeology.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/king-arthur’s-round-table-discovered-in-chester/

King Arthur’s Round Table

. . . has not been found, despite recent news to the contrary. This article states with the very generalized ‘historians believe’ that King Arthur’s round table is actually the ampitheatre in the City of Chester.  When the Romans abandoned Britain, they left their forts and roads behind.  Many archaeologists believe that in the ensuing chaos, the Britons no longer used the ampitheatres for their original purpose, if they used them at all.  As I said in this post of the Romans, “within a generation or two, little trace of them, except for their roads and ruined forts–and their religion, Christianity–remained.  Everything had fallen into disrepair.  The ‘Saxons’ descended from the east, the Scots from the North, and the Irish from the West, driving the original Britons west, into what is now Wales.” The Chester ampitheatre was discovered in the Read more…

Guest Post: Anna Elliott, author of “Twilight of Avalon”

Why I love Arthurian Stories In the Spring of 2007, I woke up from a very vivid dream of telling my mother that I was going to write a book about the daughter of Modred, son of Arthur and the great villain of the Arthurian cycle of tales.  I’d been writing historical fiction and sending books around to agents and editors, always coming close to being published but never actually getting a book sold.  I was four months pregnant with my first baby at the time, and had been starting to think that as much as I loved writing, maybe a professional career wasn’t going to happen for me–or at least not for some time.             Something about this dream, though, just wouldn’t let me go.  I had been an English major in college with a focus on Medieval literature Read more…