18 August 2010

The Making of King Arthur. Norman v Romano British?

Did anyone see the Making of Arthur programme on BBC? I gave up with it. I can't stand the Medieval version of
Arthur. The cuckolded King; goody-two-shoes Lancelot, who turns out to be disloyal, a traitor and an adulterer?
I never have seen Arthur as a Norman-based "knight in armour". (I do wonder if my dislike of these stories is anything to do with my not very impressed opinion of the Normans?)

I "awoke" to Arthur when reading Mary Stewart's Merlin books. She had an author's note that place Arthur firmly in the post-Roman/pre Saxon era. I did some research - was hooked. YES this was MY Arthur! Which is why I set my Pendragon's Banner Trilogy firmly in the 450-500 bracket. No Norman influence in my story, just the earlier Welsh legends which portray Arthur in a very different light to the Norman version.

I know the Knights of the Round Table are only stories, but I can't relate to them. (and before you all slam me for being a biased old crab - I'm not keen on several things - not keen on Dickens, nor the Ali Baba et al 1001 Nights. (Or is that 1001 knights? :-)

To me Arthur is a Romano British warlord. Was. Is. Always will be.
How do you see him?


  1. EXCELLENT subject for a historical discussion!! The debate over who was the 'Real Arthur' has likely been going on since the Middle Ages. *laughs* And I really do not know where to begin in expressing my own thoughts on the subject. As a young girl, I was enthralled by the stories of knights in shining armour and the great King Arthur and his round table in Camelot. I grew up and figured out that that was only a fairy tale. However, I didn't sink my teeth into researching the facts and origins of those legends until I went to the cinema and watched the 2004 film King Arthur. Now THAT woke me up and ignited a fire in my belly to learn all that I could in regards to Arthur, and yes I know that film is full of historical inaccuracies too. But it showed me a completely different 'Arthur'. I'm still quite the novice on the subject, but after reading numerous texts on the matter, and enjoying quite a few historical novels along the way...I like the idea of the legends growing out of perhaps two or three soldiers/warlords from the Dark Ages. So the Romano-Briton gets my vote for sure. I like Lucius Artorius Castus (140-197) as a good contender...along with Ambrosius Aurelianus (430-500) as well. But there is evidence that could rule out even Aurelianus if the dates for the battle of Camlann are accurate enough. Castus of course was around much earlier...but I believe that his deeds probably fed the early tales of a great warlord or 'King' of the Britons during the Dark Ages that later became the tales of the Knights of Camelot.

    Some figurehead from the Dark Ages sparked the legends; some remarkable acts, battles won that were particularly magnificent feats at the time....or else these legends would never have endured all these centuries. But I have never come across any real evidence that proved that there was a real 'King' Arthur, a Sir Lancelot, and so on....from what I have read, the character of Lancelot was a creation of the French courts and added into the legends to embellish the stories as they saw fit.

    We may never discover the truth of these stories. What makes it particularly difficult is the lack of decent and accurate record keeping during the Dark Ages. So we are left with attempting to piece together vague references in multiple texts written by monks and scholars who rather than researching their facts, made up whatever worked for them in order to bridge the gaps between one period and another in history.

    Helen, your Pendragon's Banner series is certainly my favorite to date version of who Arthur could have been. I also rather liked Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff and Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles. I've read Le Morte (Malory was quite a storyteller) and Steinbeck's Acts of King Arthur & His Noble Knights as well...lovely tales of fantasy. *g* But I will always think of 'Arthur' as a man, a master at warfare, a Briton, an excellent horseman, and being the best at killing his enemies - thus the legend that persists through the centuries.

    Now I want to dig back into the books and learn more!

    Cathy H. (that crazy \0/ graphic designer friend of yours)

  2. I was raised on John Steinbeck and TH White. I always (and you'll have to forgive me, Helen :p) loved Lancelot and the romance the French brought to the myth. I loved the idea of magic and I loved the triangle.

    However, as I've gotten older, I find the "real" stuff a lot more intriguing, and I'm with you in the idea of Arthur as Romano-British and a warlord. Dux Bellorum, as it were. I actually took a trip to Hadrian's Wall about four years ago in order to get closer to the history and to understand Rome's presence in Britain. Touching that thing was like a religious experience for me.

    As Maiden said the 2004 movie really got me interested in the historical side of who Arthur might have been, and your books have definitely fleshed that out for me too. Love them, love Arthur, love Gwen too. And while I still love the old stuff I grew up on (nobody beats Steinbeck's version) and while I still love Lancelot (sorry! *laughs*) I am more a fan of the "real" idea now.

    Maybe someone will get us some more evidence one day.

  3. I have to say that your Arthurian books will always hold a special place in my heart as they are the books that brought us together all those years ago! LOL!!!

    That aside, I have been a fan of Arthur since seeing Richard Harris play him in the musical movie Camelot as a child. *g* but as I matured, I started looking for a more 'real' Arthur and stumbled upon the British made movie Excalibur in 1981 - great movie (I love a flawed and human Arthur) but - there's always a 'but' - there was way too much magic in the story.

    Personally, I believe that if Arthur existed, he would have been the Romano British warlord you portrayed him as in your books, with all the human failings and flaws and without the Lancelot/Guenivere rubbish.

    I just wish there were some historical evidence to support his existance......as they say, behind every great myth is some truth!

  4. Whether "King" Arthur existed beyond the imagination of the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth is questionable. Before Geoffrey there are no historical references to a King Arthur. However, a real-life prince Arthur (559-603), son of Aedan, King of the Scots of Dalriada did exist. This Arthur coincidentally married Gwenhwyfar De Bretagne aka Guinevere of Brittany, daughter of Leo de Grance.
    Whether this is the root of the legend of Arthur is anyone's guess. Arthur was the second son of Aedan Mac Gabran, King of Dalriada (525-604) and Ygerna ferch Amlawdd of Wales. He is said to have died in battle fighting the Saxons, who having defeated the Britons in the latter half of the fifth century, had a still on-going struggle with the Celts in Wales and Scotland. This warlord, "Prince Arthur" could easily have been based in Wales fighting with the support of his mother's family.

  5. I'm also a believer that Arthur was Artorius from the 5th century, but Anne's comments also carry some thought provoking possibilities. In either case, the legend was born from some truth that Geoffrey of Monmouth may have stumbled on by accident, research or both and brought to life in a Medieval sense. However, I'm partial to the 5th century and didn't realize that Hellen's Pendragon series was set in this time. I have a new book to order!


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