August 6, 2020 7 min read
Have you ever heard the name of King Arthur, and wondered about one of the most legendary figures in English history? Did King Arthur really exist? Where did he come from? Who were the legendary Knights of the Round Table? What is Excalibur? If you have ever wanted to know more about the legendary King Arthur, read on…
Generally, the most widely accepted theory about King Arthur was given by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his 12th century book, Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain). According to Geoffrey, King Uther Pendragon of post-Roman Britain, secretly fathered a child with Lady Igrayne, wife of the Duke of Cornwall. The young child was sent away by the King to hide his true identity as the rightful heir to Britain. After the death of King Uther, it was necessary to find the real successor to the King. Merlin the Magician, the legendary wizard, used his magic to cast a sword in stone, and proclaimed that only a person of royal lineage or ‘the true king' would be able to pull the sword out. Although many would-be kings tried their hand, none succeeded to pull the magical sword out, and claim their stake to the throne. Until one day, as the legend continues, a young boy of about 15 managed to pull the sword out and proved himself to be the 'Divine Ruler’ and the new King of Britain. Presenting, King Arthur!
In almost all his legends, King Arthur is associated with the mythical sword, The Excalibur, which is often considered as a symbol of his divine kingdom and power. Some believe that The Excalibur was the same sword that Arthur pulled out of the stone to claim his right to the throne of Britain. However, the more popular belief is that Arthur received The Excalibur from the enchanted Lady of the Lake, after he broke his original sword, known as Caliburn, in a battle. A very powerful weapon, the name Excalibur means ‘cut-steel’, and it was supposedly made by an Avalonian elf and forged in dragon-fire. Even the scabbard (the sword cover) of the Excalibur was supposedly magical in nature, as it prevented the wearer from losing blood in battle, almost ensuring that the possessor of Excalibur emerged victorious. At some point of time, the scabbard went missing, and sometime after that Arthur was defeated in battle by Mordred, Arthur’s own nephew. Fearing that after his death the powerful sword would fall into the wrong hands, King Arthur gave the Excalibur to his knight, Sir Bedivere ordering him to return the sword to the Lady of the Lake.
The Knights of the Round Table were some of the most powerful warriors in Britain, who served as Barons under King Arthur. They were called by this name because Arthur had a special round table made, where his best Knights could sit alongside him, without making anybody feel superior. Everybody who was at the Round Table was considered trustworthy and an equal. But to considered worthy of a seat at the Round Table was not an easy task! A knight had to prove himself on many counts to be admitted to the esteemed brotherhood. A Knight had to swear by a Code of Chivalry and promise never to assault or murder anybody unless it was to protect God and country, never commit treason, always be merciful and helpful to the deserving ones and never harm women. Only those who consistently upheld this Code were considered worthy to be a Knight at the Round Table. One of the most famous Knights was Sir Lancelot, who was one of Arthur’s most trusted Knights, and the only one who was known to have defeated Arthur in a jousting match.
What’s a King without a Queen and a castle, right? Well, King Arthur’s wife was Queen Guinevere and together they ruled Britain from their castle known as Camelot. King Arthur was famous for the feasts he organised at Camelot for all his powerful Knights of the Round Table. Guinevere is often considered as he “first lady of the island”, but the tragic truth is that despite being married to Arthur, she is best remembered for being the true love of Arthur’s closest friend and Knight, Sir Lancelot. In fact, their love affair is what indirectly lead to Arthur’s death and the fall of Camelot and the disbanding of The Knights of the Round Table.
The question whether King Arthur was a real historical person, or a mythological figure has been fought over by historians, academics and writers since medieval times. And the debate is not likely to end anytime soon. Like so many things from the Middle Ages, King Arthur’s story is wrapped up in so many layers of facts, half-truths, myths and folklore, that it becomes impossible to tell what is true and what is not. But one thing is certain. King Arthur’s legends will remain in the hearts of people as one of the most inspirational figures in history and mythology for generations to come.
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