The Legend of King Arthur - Who was King Arthur?
A name that is always associated with the Medieval Kings of the Middle Ages is the legendary King Arthur. But if we look at the Medieval Kings Timeline the name of King Arthur does not appear. The timeline is accurate but our knowledge about a ruler of Britain called King Arthur is not. During Medieval times there were documented records about all of the Kings of England from William the Conqueror in 1066 to the end of the Middle Ages in 1485 and the beginning of the Renaissance period. So where does King Arthur fit in? Who was King Arthur? We associate King Arthur with the Knights of the Round Table, with their Code of Chivalry and Courtly Love and with a place called Camelot and a magician called Merlin. If King Arthur was not a king in Medieval Times did King Arthur rule England during the Dark Ages ( 410 AD - 1066 AD )? The name of King Arthur does not appear in records detailing the Dark Ages Kings of England either! It is therefore not possible to provide an accurate biography of the life and history of King Arthur - we can only create a biography from his legend. But the Dark Ages got its name due to the fact that documented records of the era were scarce. Was there a great man who lived in the Dark Ages who gave rise to Legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table?
The History of King Arthur - The One, True King of the Britons
Legend of King Arthur is not based on real historical evidence, nor can it be verified with hard and fast facts. Legend of King Arthur was based on the books written by the clerics of the Medieval era or the Middles Ages. The stories found in many Welsh legends and Celtic Myths about King Arthur and the Arthurian Legend provide the Welsh people with a claim to the sovereignty of the whole kingdom of Britain. King Arthur is referred to as "the one, true King of the Britons".
How did theLegend of King Arthur Start?
The main source of information about King Arthur and the Arthurian Legend was written by a Welsh cleric called Geoffrey of Monmouth. Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a fictional book called Historia Regum Britanniae - the History of the King's of Britain in 1136. Other stories about King Arthur and the Arthurian Legend were written in the 'Black Book of Caernarvon' (Welsh: Llyfr du Caerfyrddin). This book was written, in Welsh, in 1250 and contained stories and poems relating to the heroes of Britain in the Dark Ages including those connected with the Legend of King Arthur and Merlin. Other books called Historia Brittonum by Nennius, the Annales Cambriae, the Chronicon Anglicanum and the Welsh Mabinogion also make references to the Arthurian Legend and King Arthur. Fiction was slowly being perceived as fact...
The Romantic Legend of King Arthur
The romantic legend of King Arthur was fuelled by the Troubadours, jongleurs and Minstrels of the Medieval era. The stories of the valiant King Arthur, great knights, Camelot, chivalrous deeds, great battles and fair ladies were spread from court to court all over Europe by the troubadours. The image of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table took on the the clothes and fashion of the Medieval era. Jousting in tournaments were also incorporated. Fiction was again turning into fact. And we now have an answer as to why we associate King Arthur with the Medieval Kings.
Making a Legend of King Arthur - The One, True King of the Britons
The Kings of England during the Medieval times turned these myths and legends to their advantage and Fiction was turned into Fact for political purposes. The Arthurian legend and Legend of King Arthur had highly significant influence on the actual history of England and Wales. These legends and myths about King Arthur "the one, true King of the Britons" were used by Kings of England, especially the Tudors, to authenticate their claims to the both the Welsh and English thrones! King Edward I (Longshanks) used these Arthurian legends and myths about King Arthur when he conquered Wales. Connections between Caernarvon, Arthurian Legend, Merlin, Prophecies and even Stonehenge were made in an attempt to give King Edward a 'legitimate claim' to the Welsh throne. The Tudor Kings of England used the same ploy! These Kings of England used the stories from Arthurian Legend and Legend of King Arthur to give them credibility. It was convenient for them to turn the stories and myths about King Arthur and the Arthurian Legend into hard facts!
Merging History with Legend of King Arthur
The Arthurian stories and the Legend of King Arthur was clearly used by Medieval politicians to strengthen the claims of Medieval Kings to both the English and Welsh thrones. The Legend of King Arthur had a huge influence on the course of actual English and Welsh history. It is easy to see how much influence, advantage and credibility could be gained by these later Kings to connect their lineage to King Arthur "the one, true King of the Britons", his realm of Camelot and the prophecies of Merlin the Wizard. The connections with these Arthurian legends and myths provided the Medieval people with:
- Ancient Prophecies from the Arthurian legends about King Arthur (arrangements were made by the King of era to be seen to fulfil such ancient prophecies)
- The people of England liked connections to the old Religions and life before the Romans and then the Normans conquered England - The magicians, the wizards and the Druids.
- The connection to King Arthur - A King whose rule was based on Honour, Honesty, Loyalty, Chivalry and Valour
- The 'one, true King of the Britons' prophecy increased the credibility of English kings, especially in Wales
- A romantic story of love, fair ladies, brave knights and triumphant battles - good publicity for any king of the Medieval period
- The King Arthur legend also provided a link to Christianity, the crusades and the search for the Holy Grail
- Any 'proof' of their lineage to ancient Kings, like King Arthur, gave Medieval Kings justification for their sovereignty