King Arthur was a legendary king of the Bretons at the time when Anglo-Saxons were expanding their power in Britain. Although Arthur is mentioned in a number of historical accounts, most of them are dated centuries after he purportedly lived. During the medieval period and later, King Arthur and his Round Table became associated with the mores of knightly chivalry.
The legend of Arthur also spawned a rich body of medieval literature, forming the bulk of the Matter of Britain. The Arthurian legends lost popularity after the Renaissance but underwent another revival in the 19th century.
King Arthur and the Legend
According to the historical legends, King Arthur was a Breton ruler over Britain, Ireland, Norway and other regions. He established a court at Camelot where he founded the Knights of the Round Table. The knights comprised of a number of other legendary figures such as Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot.
Arthur’s rule was marked by a number of extraordinary victories over the incoming Anglo-Saxons. These victories, according to the legend surrounding Arthur, helped stem the tide of the immigrants and continued the Breton rule in Britain for another few years. The Arthurian legend is divided into a number of notable episodes. These include the tales about Arthur’s sword Excalibur, the affair of his wife queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot and his battle with his adopted son Mordred.
King Arthur in History
Most of the material related to King Arthur is based on legends and folklore. A number of historical sources mention him but most of them were written after the 10th century, nearly half a millennia after the purported kingdom of Arthur during the 5th and 6th centuries. Among the notable historical sources that mention him is the Historia Regum Britanniae by Geoffery of Monmouth and Annales Cambriae.
King Arthur and the Round Table
The most popular and well-known part of the Arthurian legends is related to the Round Table. The Round Table was a large table in Arthur’s court according to the legends. He instituted an Order of the Knights of Round Table and in time, the Order came to include a number of legendary knights who excelled in deeds of chivalry. The Round Table legends culminate when one of the brave and pious knights of the Order was successful in finding the Holy Grail.
King Arthur’s Death
The legends about King Arthur bring together a number of notable figures to culminate the Arthurian story. According to them, Queen Guinevere fell for Sir Lancelot and began an affair with him. Arthur eventually became aware of it and condemned the queen to death.
Lancelot then rescued the queen and escaped upon which King Arthur decided to make war on him. However, his adopted son Mordred usurped the throne in his absence. Arthur then came back and fought his final battle against Mordred. He was able to slay Mordred but also died of his wounds after the battle. Both Lancelot and Queen Guinevere joined monasteries following Arthur’s death.