Arthur- The King of Britain.
The son of King Uther Pendragon and Igraine of Cornwall, Arthur is one of the most written about figures of legend. His existence has been debated hotly by scholars, some saying he did exist- others that he is merely a mythological character. Most popular theories state that Arthur did exist, but the events of his life may be an amalgamation of several historic figures and legends.
Considered the greatest wizard and prophet of all time, Merlin was Arthur’s chief counselor and strategist.
He seemed to orchestrate all aspects of Arthurian life – from the Sword in the Stone, to Stonehenge, to Camelot itself.
The legend of King Arthur states that after King Uther died, England was left without a king to rule, the isle was divided amongst several lords - all fighting for the title of king. There appeared a sword in a stone which, according to the wizard Merlin, could only be drawn by the true King of England. Arthur accomplished the task and Merlin had him crowned king.
After putting down a rebellion of several lords, Arthur built Camelot, and a reign of peace followed.
Sir Thomas Malory describes the Knights' code of chivalry as:
Sir Gawain accepted a challenge from a mysterious warrior who was completely green, from his clothes and hair to his beard and skin.
The "Green Knight" offered to allow anyone to strike him with his axe if the challenger would take a return blow in a year and a day.
Gawain accepted, and beheaded him in one blow, only to have the Green Knight stand up, pick up his head, and remind Gawain to meet him at the appointed time.
The story of Gawain's struggle to meet the appointment and his adventures along the way demonstrate the spirit of chivalry and loyalty.
As Arthur aged, Camelot went into decline. The evil work of Morgan began to take over the once glorious kingdom; the knights became mean, lost their chivalry, turned to fighting between themselves.
Merlin, in an effort to save Camelot, suggested a grander quest than any of the others he had previously created, and told Arthur to send his knights to quest for the Holy Grail. The Grail, which brought healing and eternal life, would be the key to lifting Arthur's spirits and bringing his health back, and thus also the health of the realm. The knights scattered to the four corners of the earth. Perceval lacked Christian understanding, and Lancelot was not pure of heart, but Galahad, the most innocent of knights, the only man pure enough to sit in the Perilous Seat, vanished along with the grail.
The Grail was never brought to Camelot.
In the end, Arthur was betrayed by Lancelot and Guinevere, the latter being sentenced to death. Lancelot rescued Guinevere, killing several knights in the process, and this prompted Arthur to go to war against his one time best knight.
While he was away, Arthur placed Mordred, his son by his half sister, in charge of the kingdom. Arthur returned from war with Lancelot to quell a rebellion by Mordred.
(Because of a prophecy, Merlin had attempted to get rid of the infant Mordred by placing all noble babies in a boat and setting it adrift.)
Arthur’s last battle on Salisbury Plain resulted in Mordred’s death, but Arthur was also mortally wounded.
Arthur’s remains were supposedly discovered during the 12th Century in Glastonbury (though this too is a subject of debate).
The other theory is that Arthur was taken to Avalon to be healed, and he is waiting there until Britain needs her greatest king again.
Arthur in LiteratureDon't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot!Lerner and Lowe’s Camelot
The Once and Future King
The Idylls of the King
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Le Morte d’Arthur
The Hollow Hills, The Crystal Cave, The Wicked Day (Stewart Trilogy)
The Mists of Avalon
Movies / Plays
The Sword in the Stone
Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail / Spamalot