THE LEGEND OF KING ARTHUR
Sorry to disappoint, but Arthur almost certainly wasn’t a real figure, king or otherwise. Contemporary accounts have no mention of him, and lots of the legend we know today were added in the Middle Ages, or even later today. What little we had to go on was gleaned from various sources, including the Annales Cambriae, the Historia Brittonum, and the writings of Gildas. Arthur’s name also occurs in early poetic sources such as Y Gododdin. None are considered reliable on this.
According to legend, King Arthur led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries AD. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s fanciful and imaginative 12th-century Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) had Arthur establishing an empire over Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Gaul. Many elements and incidents that are now an integral part of the Arthurian story appear in Geoffrey’s Historia, including Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon, the wizard Merlin, Arthur’s wife Guinevere, the sword Excalibur, Arthur’s conception at Tintagel, his final battle against Mordred at Camlann, and final rest in Avalon.
Whatever the truth of the matter, the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is now firmly entrenched in modern culture, both classic and popular. The new movie due next year is just one of many to have appeared previously, and there have been countless television series and books either based on, or inspired by the legend. Forever associated with Britain, Arthur and Excalibur have become symbols of this islands history, setting an idealised standard impossible to attain.