King Arthur

It is not really known whether King Arthur actually existed or but he is one of the most famous Kings in Britain! In a BBC poll to find the 100 Greatest Britons Arthur came in at number 51. The legends, folklore and myths surrounding Arthur stretch all over the country - generally, people believe that Arthur became King to prevent the Saxons from invading Britain once the Romans had left.

Although stories of King Arthur appeared all over the country it was really Geoffrey of Monmouth’s work (History of the Kings of Britain) in the early 1100s that brought him to the public eye. It was here that the myths of King Arthur, courtly love and chivalry were really born.

Arthur was considered to be the illegitimate son of the king Uther Pendragon although he was brought up in secrecy and did not know his heritage. When Uther died the sorcerer Merlin set a sword into a large stone and the nobility of the nation was told that whoever could draw the sword from the stone was the rightful heir to the throne of Britain. This sword is not generally believed to be the most famous sword of King Arthur (Excalibur) which was later given to him by the Lady of the Lake.

Legends say that Arthur drew the sword from the stone when he was 15 and was crowned King Arthur. He then set about protecting Britain from invasion and built it an empire. Married to Guinevere, who had brought the Round Table to the court as part of her dowry, King Arthur established a court that espoused chivalry, courtly love and honour.

There are various versions of what happens next. One version believes that during the quest for the Holy Grail King Arthur discovered that one of his most noble knights, Lancelot, had fallen in love with Guinevere (and vice versa). Arthur sentenced Guinevere to death and banished Lancelot who returned to rescue her. Arthur went after both of them, leaving Mordred (who may have either been his nephew or his illegitimate son) to rule the kingdom in his absence. At this point Mordred started a rebellion and King Arthur had to return.

Other experts believe that King Arthur left Mordred in charge when he went to fight the Romans. Mordred again is held to have rebelled and to have taken Guinevere prisoner/killed her. So, King Arthur returned to seek revenge.

In all versions it is thought that the subsequent Battle of Salisbury Plain which took place at this point saw Mordred killed and King Arthur mortally wounded. Although the scabbard of his famous sword Excalibur was supposed to protect the wearer from mortal injury this had earlier been stolen by his half-sister Morgan le Fay so Arthur died.

The body of King Arthur was placed in a barge which sailed off - as rumour has it - to Avalon where King Arthur will lie until Britain really needs him when he is supposed to rise again.