Sunday, 5 April 2009

King Arthur

NAME King Arthur WHAT FAMOUS FOR King in ancient times BIRTH b Tintagel late 5th cent AD FAMILY BACKGROUND Arthur's mother was Duchess Igraine of Cornwall and his father Uther Pendragon, a legendary king of sub Roman Britain. However at some stage an enchanter and magician called Merlin took Arthur from his biological parents and brought him to the estate of one of his barons, Sir Ector. Merlin did not reveal the boy's true identity, and Ector took him on and raised him as his own son. Before I go any further I'd better warn you that Arthur's life is too shrouded in legend for any of these or other details to be certain. His historical existence is debated and disputed by modern historians so I'll leave it up to you how much you believe. CHILDHOOD Arthur was not informed of his royal ancestry by Sir Ector and was kept in obscurity until he pulled the mighty, magic sword Excalibur from a block of stone. This act could not be performed by anyone except by "the true king," which proved he was the rightful heir to Uther Pendragon's throne. According to Tennyson: "They found a naked child upon the sand Of dark Tintagil by the Cornish sea And that was Arthur; and they foster'd him Till he by miracle was approven king." EDUCATION Arthur was tutored by Merlin, who was an old Celtic magician. CAREER RECORD Well, the Excalibur story was a critical part of Arthur's CV so I'll start with that. According to Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur , in a churchyard at the "greatest church in London", there was a huge stone with a sword embedded in an anvil. On it was written the legend "Whoso pulleth out this sword from this stone and anvil is right and wise king born of all England". So Arthur, who was sixteen at the time, pulled it free, he became king and the sword became Excalibur. He made it sound so easy. Confusingly there is an alternative version that Excalibur was given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake sometime after he began to reign. His actual CV would read as follows: 519-552 This period is blank in the history of Britain. It is assumed that Arthur made his reputation then. In other words, nothing is known about the career of King Arthur. APPEARANCE No one knows what Arthur looked like as it was always so misty in his reign. FASHION Arthur would have worn ornate iron helmet, metal breastplate, chain mail shirt and leather leggings. Lots of armour looked all right on the knight. CHARACTER Arthur was chivalrous, a wise and valiant leader. He liked good conversation round a round table. Basically he was a good knight. RELATIONSHIPS Arthur's beautiful wife Guinevere, the daughter of his ally Leondegrance, fell in love with one of Arthur's most trusted knights, Sir Lancelot and their relationship brought about the last great battle and Arthur's death. Guinevere retired to a nunnery at Amesbury where she died. His fellowship of Round Table was also destroyed by Guinevere's love for Lancelot. MONEY AND FAME In the Middle Ages Arthurian legends were known throughout Western Europe as far as Italy. In 1963 Tommy Steele was booked to star in a musical based on the legend that the first sixpenny coins were minted in King Arthur's reign. It was to be titled Arthur Sixpence. However after some script rewrites it was transformed into an adaption of HG Wells' novel Kipps, with the title of Half a Sixpence. If you believe that, you're going to believe everything else on this King Arthur Trivia Biography! NATURE King Arthur had a favorite hound called Cavall. PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY The members of the Order of the Knights of the Round Table at King Arthur's court were drawn from the finest English knights. The order consisted of 150 Christians from every race who vowed to oppose the progress of paganism, be loyal to the British throne, protect the defenceless and show mercy to the fallen. Its chief mission was to seek after the Holy Grail. (The chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper). The round table was round to avoid arguments over who sits at the top of the table amongst the knights. The table is now in Castle Hall, Winchester. SCANDAL Whether Arthur was just a rumour or reality has not been historically proven. Milton claims that Arthur never existed- he said of him "As to Arthur, more renowned in songs and romances than in true stories, who he was and whether ever any such reigned in Britain hath been doubted heretofore and may again with good reason." In the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Arthur explains that he is king because he got Excalibur from the lady of the lake. A peasant union leader replies "strange women in ponds is no basis for a system of government." MILITARY RECORD Britain's leading warrior of the dark ages began his martial career about 500 on becoming king when he declared war on the invading Saxons. The war lasted 20 years and the final battle at Mount Badon (approx. 522) near Bath, where Arthur carried a Christian cross on his shoulders, was so emphatic that the Saxon confederation was completely crushed. Dryden celebrated Arthur's feats at Mount Badon thus: "They sung how he himself at Badon bore, that day When at the glorious goal his British sceptre lay Two dais together how the battle strong he stood; Pendragon's worthe son, who waded there in blood Three hundred Saxons slew with his owne valiant hand." The picture is of Badon Hill, as you can see calling it a mountain was maybe going a bit far. It is said that after seeing off the Saxon invaders Arthur conquered Gaul, Denmark, North Germany and Scandinavia. He was then called home to defend his country against his nephew Mordred. In the final Battle of Camlan both Arthur and his traitorous nephew fell. Some European historians substantiate this . As I mentioned earlier, Arthur had a sword called Excalibur which he either pulled from a rock, or was given by the Lady of the Lake. Later he threw the sword back into the lake. HOMES King Arthur had several residences, but his favorite was Camelot. The site of Camelot was either the modern Caerleon on the southern border of Wales, near Newport or the great Iron Age hill fort at South Cadbury in Somerset. Its meant to be Cadbury Castle, but you'd have to be a fruit and nut case to refer to the ancient fort as a proper castle. Actually many places in the west of England and Wales lay claim to being the site of Arthur's castle but no one has come up with any living proof. However to quote the wise words of Lerner and Loewe in their musical Camelot: "Don't let it be forgot That once there was a spot For one brief shining moment That was known as Camelot." HEALTH AND PHYSICAL FITNESS After being wounded at the Battle of Camlan, Arthur was mysteriously carried away to the island of Avalon to be healed of his wound. DEATH King Arthur was busy conquering all on continental Europe, when he was called home as his nephew Mordred had rebelled and seized the kingdom. In the final battle of Camlan at Slaughter Bridge, one mile north of Camelford in South West England both Arthur and Mordred fell pierced by each other's spears. On his deathbed he commanded that his trusty sword Excalibur be returned to the Lady of the Lake. A 10th century chronicle records the death of Arthur as being in 537. After his death he was taken to Avalon (thought to be Glastonbury.) In Celtic mythology Avalon was the place of rest and reward for departed heroes. He was allegedly buried in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey. On Arthur's tombstone according to Sir Thomas Malory was written "Hic Jacet Arthras rex Quondam Rexque futurus". (Here lies Arthur, the once and future king.) The implication being he may come again to reign. His grave was opened by command of Henry II in 1150. APPEARANCES IN MEDIA 1. The first allusion to Arthur is found in the Welsh poem Y Gododdin (about 600). He was first specifically mentioned in Historia Britonium by the Welsh monk Nennius, a historical work that was first written sometime shortly after AD 833. Or maybe it was all just a Dark Age wind up. The fully developed legend appears in the 12th century Historia Regum Brittaniae by the English chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth. Its popularity led to a stream of medieval Arthurian romances, culminating in Le Morte d'Arthur, a collection of Arthurian legends gathered together by Sir Thomas Malory in a single work in the late 15th century. Later King Arthur was used by Edmund Spenser as the "Perfect Knight" in his epic Elizabethan allegory The Faerie Queen(1590-99), Tennyson wrote a series of 12 narrative poems, Idylls of the King about Arthur between 1856 and 1885 and Mark Twain penned his early time travel novel, A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court in 1889. 2. The original theatrical musical version of Camelot 1960 by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, which was all about Arthur's court. 3.A number of films have been made about the life and times of King Arthur including: (a) Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) where Arthur and his page Pasty look for that elusive Holy Grail.

(b)Camelot (1960). The film version of the 1960 musical with Richard Harris as the king. (c) The Sword in the Stone (1963). A Disney cartoon version based on the 1938 novel of the same name by T.H. White. (d) Excalibur (1981) a modern version of Malory's Morte d'Arthur with Nigel Terry as Arthur. (e) First Knight (1995) with Sean Connery as King Arthur and that authentic Brit Richard Gere portraying a maverick Sir Lancelot. (f) King Arthur (2004) The 2nd century AD Roman military commander Lucius Artorius Castus is identified as King Arthur in this movie. Artorius is moved forwards 300 years to become a contemporary of the Saxons. 4 In a famous Carling Black label advert, the Lady of the Lake becomes one of a team of synchronised swimmers. 5. In 1691 Henry Purcell wrote a five act opera King Arthur based on his battles with The Saxons. The dramatist John Dryden penned the words.. 6. Rick Wakeman did a progressive rock concept album The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which was released in 1975. He also produced a musical spectacular on ice complete with a 45 piece orchestra and a 48 piece choir. ACHIEVEMENTS A cult figure of the Middle Ages, King Arthur not only protected England from the invading Saxons and possibly conquered parts of Northern Europe, but also invented chivalry. Shame he probably didn't exist.

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