The Knights of the Round Table were the knights belonging to the highest knightly order in King Arthur’s court. They were named so because they usually sat around a circular table, with the King sitting beside them.
According to some legends, the names of the knights were inscribed on the winchester table so that each knight sat before his name.
Different stories and traditions report different lists of the Knights of the Round Table. Some, like the Winchester Round Table, offer the names of 24 knights while other sources have ranged from 13 to 1600 in reporting the actual number of these knights.
Differences in Historical sources
Different historical sources report different numbers of the Knights of the Round Table. Robert De Boron, for example, wrote in 1195 that King Arthur had 50 knights, and the Round Table had 50 seats with one seat being vacant for the true knight who would seek Holy Grail.
Didot-Percival, writing in 1225, limited the total number of knights to a mere 13 in number. Vuglate’s Merlin reports that King Arthur had a total of 250 knights. Jean D’Ouremeuse wrote in 1350 that the knights were 60 in total number. Yet another 12th century report pegged this number as being as high as 1600.
The Winchester List of Knights
The Winchester Round Table was created, in imitation of King Arthur’s legends, during the reign of Edward I in 13th century. Edward I was an admirer of Arthurian legends and wanted to revive the chivalric styles of the Arthurian stories.
To that end, he had a table made which housed 24 knights and the King. The names of the knights were inscribed on the top of the table, all of them being derived from King Arthur’s stories. The names of the knights written on this table are as follows:
Sir Galahad, son of Sir Lancelot
Sir Lancelot himself
Sir Tristram de Lyones
Sir Lacotemale Taile
Sir Bors de Ganis
Sir Ector de Maris
Sir Brunor le Noir
Sir Lebius Desconneu
The 12-knights List
One of the various versions of King Arthur’s legends written in the Middle Ages pegs the total number of the Knights of the Round Table at 12. Correspondingly, a list of 12 knights is provided, comprising of names which have recurred in nearly all accounts of the legend. The following is this list containing 12 Arthurian knights.
Sir Bors the Younger
Notable Knights of the Round Table
Although different lists provide different lists and numbers of knights, some notable knights figure in most of the Arthurian legends. Notable among these is Sir Lancelot, who was among the earliest to join the knightly order of the King and defended him in many a battle.
Lancelot was noted for his bravery but fell in love with Queen Guinevere and proved fatal to King Arthur. Sir Gawain was another agreed-upon knight of the Round Table, an embodiment of ideal knighthood and chivalry in the Arthurian legends. He was considered a balance between bravery and wisdom.
Sir Percival was another one of King Arthur’s most trusted knights. Sir Lancelot’s son, Sir Galahad, was reported in later Arthurian stories to be a knight who was considered the bravest knight in the world. According to the legends, Galahad was the one who ultimately found the Holy Grail and beheld it. He was an embodiment of piety, chastity and bravery.
Mordred was another very significant knight of the Round Table. According to some legends, King Arthur adopted him as a son, while others cite that he was an illegitimate son of King Arthur. When King Arthur crossed the English Channel to fight the Roman armies, Mordred usurped the throne in his absence and married Queen Guinevere.
Upon hearing of this, King Arthur turned back to attend to his Kingdom. On his way back to his throne, he and Mordred met each other at the Battle of Calmlann. After fierce fighting in which both sides sustained a large number of losses, Mordred was killed but King Arthur also sustained very serious wounds. He was taken away from the battlefield so that his wounds could be tended to but soon afterwards died.
Mordred is thus portrayed as a villain and usurper in Arthurian legends and is the one who ultimately brought to an end to King Arthur’s glorious reign as depicted in the legends.
List of the Knights of the Round Table Summary
The Knights of the Round Table was a knightly order established by the legendary King Arthur. According to the legends associated with him, King Arthur had a circular table made which he seated the knights he valued the most around. The exact number of the Knights of the Round Table is hard to divine since different historical sources provide different figures. One historical source, for instance, pegs this number at 13 while the other puts it at as much as 1600. And then there are a number of other sources offering numbers between these two extremes.
While the total number of the knights is unknown, legends do offer the names of the most prominent knights of the order. These included Sir Lancelot, whose fatal love with Queen Guinevere contributed to King Arthur’s downfall; Sir Lancelot’s son, Galahad, who was considered the bravest knight and who ultimately found the Holy Grail; Sir Gawain, the wise knight who was the most chivalric and was among the top three knights of the Round Table.
Mordred was also a knight of the Round Table, noted not for his bravery but as King Arthur’s adopted sun, he usurped the throne in his absence and finally fought against King Arthur. He died on the battlefield, also causing the death of King Arthur.