King Arthur is a legendary historical figure known for many things but was most famous and best remembered for his great leadership, chivalric order and the Knights of the Round Table. According to medieval stories and legends, he was the son of King Uther and Igraine, who was then married to Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall.
King Uther was desperately smitten by Igraine and while the Duke was out to war, King Uther slipped into Igraine’s bed and committed an adulterous, treacherous act of disguising himself as her husband. It was then that young Arthur was conceived.
The Legend of King Arthur
Several stories abound the existence of this eminent king and most of them mostly agreed on one thing – Arthur is one of the greatest rulers of Britain.
Legends, myths and folklore tell several tales of how this Celtic king became a warrior who killed witches, giants and monsters, and a knight who led a group of courageous men who lived a gallant existence, had heroic adventures and daring exploits, and eventually became a great ruler.
Nevertheless, these tales are mainly folklore and literary artwork, particularly from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) a collection of stories chronicling the lives of the kings of Britons.
Furthermore, King Arthur’s historical existence has been debated by most modern scholars and historians. It also appears that King Arthur was claimed by almost every Kingdom in the 6th century. Several men were named Arthur during this time, some even born to royal families in Britain. However, despite attempts to unveil his real identity, it appears that most of these men were merely named in his honor.
King Arthur and Lancelot
King Arthur and the Round Table
One of the things that Arthur was also known for is the celebrated “round table", which has a story to tell on its own. According to an Arthurian legend called the Vulgate Cycle, the person responsible for the construction of the popular table was Arthur’s father, King Uther Pendragon.
This was created after hearing Merlin’s tales about St. Joseph Arimathea and the Holy Grail. The table was then given as a gift to Leodegrance of Cameliard, Guinevere’s father.
When Arthur married Guinevere, the round table was given to him as a dowry. King Arthur and his knights simply met at the round table. This famous round table was first mentioned in Roman de Brut. It explained that King Arthur established an order to prevent disagreements among the knights over seating precedence, which had been a common cause of bickering among knights, according to some Arthurian literature.
And since it is a circular table, there is no designated head and everyone who sat at the table was treated as an equal.
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
In order to become a Knight of the Round Table, one must be chivalrous enough and has to commit himself to an oath to uphold the rules that were given to him. There were many different stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and each story suggests a different number of knights that comprised the group.
Who were the Knights of the Round Table?
No one knows exactly how many knights there were in the order but one of the most consistent is the Winchester Round Table that has 25 knights and they are the following:
King Arthur and the Knights of the round table
Sir Bors de Ganis
Sir Brunor le Noir
Sir Ector de Maris
Sir La Cote Male Taile
Sir Lancelot du Lac
Sir Le Bel Desconneu
Sir Tristram de Lyones
King Arthur and Guinevere
As to how Arthur met the love of his life is yet another story. Guinevere was the daughter of King Leodegrance, who sought Arthur’s help in a battle against Rience. Some stories say that Arthur saw Guinevere first while they were marching past the castle to meet the King’s enemies and the beautiful princess stood by the wall to watch his father’s allies.
Arthur fell in love with her in an instant and some stories suggest that Arthur’s determination to win the battle against the King’s enemies sprung from his love for the King’s daughter, whom he asked to marry after he had won the war.
On the other hand, King Leodogran had a few hesitations about granting the knight’s request for his daughter’s hand. However, one of the most popular medieval romantic stories is Guinevere’s disastrous love affair with Sir Lancelot, King Arthur’s Chief Knight, which led to King Arthur’s demise.
King Arthur and the famous sword Excalibur
King Arthur and his sword Excalibur
Now, we all know that young Arthur was the one who pulled out the sword from a stone magically enchanted by Merlin, the magician who said that whoever draws the sword out of the stone will become king and contrary to popular belief, the sword in the stone was “Excalibur".
According to French Romancers, Excalibur was Arthur’s second sword, which he acquired through the help of Merlin. It appears that Merlin was afraid Arthur would fail in battle and so he took him to a magical lake, where the Lady in the Lake gave the King an unbreakable sword with a scabbard enchanted to magically protect him in battle.
King Arthur and Camelot
In 12th century French literature, Arthur was said to have reigned in Great Britain and Camelot was the name of the castle in the capital of his Kingdom. Although certain locations in Britain have been associated with it, modern scholars consider Camelot as a fictional location and still debate its existence.
Was King Arthur a Real Person?
It is interesting to note that sometimes, there is a very thin red line between historical facts and fiction. But what’s more interesting are the treasures you will find in these various facets of literature. Now, whether King Arthur is real or not, does not really matter.
Myth or no myth, the life of this great king teaches many lessons – love, faith and courage are a few of them. What is more admirable about King Arthur is his high regard for equality among the Knights of the Round Table and the virtue of chivalry, which may be a dying quality as of late. Equality will probably be a never ending battle. But chivalry should not be dead, even for those who do not believe that King Arthur was a real person.