By Daniel Mersey
King Arthur, essentially the most well known of British kings and one whose identify is synonymous with braveness, chivalry and romanticism. Arthur, King of the Britons, Arthur the medieval legend, Arthur the Celtic warlord, Arthur of the Pre-Raphaelites and Arthur of the movies...would the genuine King Arthur please rise up? Daniel Mersey explores the various faces, myths and theories surrounding this well-known king.
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Extra info for Arthur, King of Britons: From Celtic hero to cinema icon
It may be that more information, perhaps a now forgotten lament, did exist about Camlann, but without it we can say little more – it is not even possible to judge where the battle really took place, if indeed it ever did take place. However, if Arthur did once live and breathe, his death must have occurred at some point, and it may well be that the great warrior’s career was ended in a bloody, hacking finale at a place known as Camlann in 539 or 515. Whether Arthur’s campaigns – fictional or real – were as significant as tradition suggests, and whether they were concentrated in one geographical area or across the country, he was not the only warlord making inroads in the late fifth and early sixth centuries.
To demonstrate this, one only has to consider Britain’s 1986 Public Order Act, Section 1 of which defines a ‘riot’ as consisting of twelve or more people: that number’s handbags on the football pitch to you or I, but a riot by law. The Laws of Ine should be viewed similarly. 53 ARTHUR: KING OF THE BRITONS So if we discard the numbers given in the Laws of Ine, what other historical information can be used? Poetry and chronicle entries cannot be fully trusted. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle suggests that British casualties in battle against the victorious Saxons often numbered in the thousands (the Chronicle rarely lists Saxon defeats); however, propaganda was not an invention of modern mankind, so it is possible that these figures were exaggerated.
The Saxon Wars We will never really know if Vortigern, made famous for his incompetence in later Welsh folklore and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s vastly influential History, was really just one man or whether the name was a title given to the centralised ruler of Britain in the early postRoman years. What we do know is that Vortigern (or the Vortigerns, if a title it were) was blamed as the catalyst of the downfall of his nation. How true the story is we cannot be sure, but within the story told by Geoffrey of Monmouth, some historical facts probably do shine through.
Arthur, King of Britons: From Celtic hero to cinema icon by Daniel Mersey