The Winchester Round Table is a tabletop that was discovered in the Winchester Castle. The design of the table is in accordance with the legendary Round Table of King Arthur’s knights. The Winchester table has the image of the King at one side and the names of the knights inscribed along the circumferences of the table’s top surface. According to historical researchers, the table was originally constructed sometime in the 13th century on the order of Edward I.
The Original Round Table
The original Round Table was used by King Arthur in his court, according to Arthurian legends. There are many stories regarding the origins of the table. Some stories cite a quarrel between King Arthur’s barons over the order of precedence. Accordingly, a carpenter proposed a solution and constructed a huge round tablet for the King which could seat up to 1600 men.
Another version of the legend says that King Arthur himself had the table constructed because of the frequent quarrels of his barons. The construction of the table resolved the quarrels related to the order of precedence and levelled all disparities between the King’s knights. According to Arthurian knights, the King regularly sat down with his knights around this Round Table.
The Order of the Round Table
The original Round Table at King Arthur’s court eventually became one of the most notable knight orders of the King. Any knight who sat on the Round Table became the Knight of the Round Table, a distinction which meant that he was among the most distinguished and esteemed knights in the King’s realm. It was for these Knights of the Round Table that many codes of chivalry existed which the knights were required to closely adhere.
Winchester Round Table Origins
The Winchester Round Table was constructed a lot later than the legendary age of King Arthur. Edward I, in the 13th century, took a lot of interest in Arthurian legends and aimed to revive certain chivalric aspects of the Arthurian age. To this end, he attended many Round Table tournaments and hosted at least one himself.
Historical researchers believe that the Winchester Round Table was originally constructed for one of these tournaments. It has also been proposed that the table was actually constructed to mark the occasion of the marriage of his daughter. The table is dated back to sometime between 1250 and 1280.
Winchester Round Table Construction
The construction of the Winchester Round Table is such that it has a total of twelve legs and seats, making room for a total of 25 people. Of these, one seat is meant for the King and the rest of the 24 seats are reserved for specific knights. The names of the knights are inscribed along the circumference of the table so that each knight has a specific position assigned to him. The table itself is 18 feet across and 3 inches thick, weighing 1.25 tons. It is currently installed at the Great Hall at Winchester.
Names on the Winchester Round Table
On the Winchester Round Table are inscribed the name of King Arthur and of 24 of his more notable knights. These names include Sir Galahad who was a son of Sir Lancelot, Sir Lancelot himself, Sir Gawain, Sir Percivale, Sir Lionell, Sir Tristram de Lyones, Sir Gareth, Sir Bedivere, Sir Bleoberis, Sir Lacotemale Taile, Sir Lucan, Sir Palomedes, Sir Lamorak, Sir Bors de Ganis, Sir Safer, Sir Pelleas, Sir Kay, Sir Ector de Maris, Sir Dagonet, Sir Degore, Sir Brunor le Noir, Sir Lebius Desconneu, Sir Alymere and Sir Mordred. Among these, Sir Mordred was also the adopted son of King Arthur who, in the legends, ultimately rose against the King and was defeated by him.
Repainting of the Winchester Round Table
The original table underwent significant neglect after the time of Edward I until it was again tended to in the 16th century. It was the reign of Henry VIII who received the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1522. The table was repainted so that it now had a Tudor rose at the centre and Henry himself depicted in the place of the King’s name. The act was meant to impress the Roman Emperor with the Tudor grandeur. It helped salvage the table so that it survived over time.
Damage at the hands of Cromwellian Troops
In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell rose up against the English throne and was successful in thwarting its authority. Cromwell’s troops were pitted against the Royalist troops all over the country. In the ensuing battles, the Winchester Castle also became one of the sites of fighting. The Royalists initially had the control of the castle but after fighting, the control was gained by Cromwellian troops in 1645. During this time, the table was used by Cromwellian troops as a target practice who would try to hit the spot at the centre of the table, using it as a bull’s eye.
Restoration and Modern Research
Following the damage during the Cromwellian era, the table remained in a dilapidated state until it was restored a second time in 1789. This time, the bullet holes in the table were filled and it was repainted all over again. In the 19th and 20th centuries, interest in the Round Table and legends of King Arthur led to extensive researches conducted on the table. More recent researches have refuted the claims that the table is dated back to the legendary King Arthur, rather pegging the actual date of construction in the 13th century.
Winchester Round Table Summary
Winchester Round Table is a table made in the imitation of the legendary Round Table of King Arthur’s knights. The Winchester table was originally constructed in the reign of Edward I during the 13th century when Edward I attempted to revive many aspects of Arthurian legends. It was later repainted during the time of Henry VIII when he hosted the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The Winchester table itself is 18 feet across and has seats for the King and his 24 knights. The names of the knights are inscribed along the circumference of the table and all of them are derived from legendary narratives of King Arthur.