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Arthur the king of britain
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.

The dux bellorum
The Dux Bellorum

  • The historical Arthur would have been the “Duke of Battle”. He would have led his troops into battle, riding a white war horse.

Merlin the magician
Merlin The Magician

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.


  • According to legend, Aurelius Ambrosius had Merlin bring the Giant’s Ring to Britain from Ireland.

  • Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father, are buried there.

The women of camelot
The Women of Camelot

  • Igraineis the mother of Arthur and the wife of Gorlois, Duke of Tintagel. In most versions she is very virtuous and refuses to sleep with Uther Pendragon despite his persistence. Merlin disguises Uther as Gorlois so that he may travel into Tintagel and sleep with Igraine.

  • Morgan Le Faywas considered the daughter of Igraine and Gorlois- making her the half-sister to Arthur. Usually she is pitted against Arthur as his one major adversary, and she is sometimes the mother of Mordred.

  • Morgauseis Arthur's half-sister and the wife of King Lot. Her sons are Gawain, Agravaine, Gaheris and Gareth by Lot, and often Mordred by Arthur.

  • Guineverewas the legendary queen consort of King Arthur. She was most famous for her love affair with Arthur's chief knight Sir Lancelot. Their betrayal of Arthur leads to the downfall of the kingdom.

  • The Lady of theLake- names include Viviane, Eviene, Viviene, Nimue, and Nina. In Malory she is the woman who gives Arthur Excalibur and later takes it back when it is thrown into the water. In some works she is responsible for raising Lancelot. . She is also Merlin's downfall in Malory, because she enchants him with the magic he taught her.

The sword in the stone
The Sword in the Stone

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.

Excalibur the second sword
Excalibur – The Second Sword

  • After a particularly difficult battle against King Pellinore, Arthur needed a new sword

  • Merlin took him to a lake, where a lady on a barge met the men

  • An arm extended from the lake, holding aloft a magnificent sword

  • This sword and its scabbard play an important part in the legend of Arthur


After putting down a rebellion of several lords, Arthur built Camelot, and a reign of peace followed.

The knights of the round table
The Knights of the Round Table

  • Arthur married Guinevere, and he was given the Round Table as her dowry. Many stories and adventures ensued, and the knights of the Round Table and their quests are the stuff of legends

  • The table had no head or foot, so all were equal

  • It was said to seat 150 knights

  • Its seats included the Siege Perilous, where Galahad sat

We re knights of the round table
We’re Knights of the Round Table…

Sir Thomas Malory describes the Knights' code of chivalry as:

  • To never do outrage nor murder

  • Always to flee treason

  • To by no means be cruel but to give mercy unto him who asks for mercy

  • To always do ladies, gentlewomen and widows succor

  • To never force ladies, gentlewomen or widows

  • Not to take up battles in wrongful quarrels for love or worldly goods

The most famous knights are
The most famous knights are…

  • Sir Agravaine, son of King Lot of Orkney

  • Sir Bedivere (Bedwyr)

  • Sir Bors, King of Gannes (Gaul)

  • Sir Constantine, son of Cador, who became king after Arthur's death

  • Sir Ector, Arthur's foster father and Sir Kay's father

  • Sir Gaheris, nephew of Arthur

  • Sir Galahad (son of Lancelot; his seat was the Siege Perilous)

  • Sir Gareth, also called Beaumains or Goodhands

  • Sir Gawain, nephew of Arthur

  • Sir Kay, Arthur's foster brother, son of Sir Ector

  • Sir Lancelot (Launcelot du Lac, father of Sir Galahad)

  • King Leodegrance, Guinevere's father and keeper of the Round Table

  • Sir Mordred, Arthur's illegitimate son and destroyer of the kingdom

  • Sir Pelleas, husband of the Lady of the Lake

  • King Pellinore, fought and almost killed Arthur; was put to sleep by Merlin

  • Sir Percival , son of Pellinore

  • Sir Tristan, nephew of King Mark; lover of Isolde

The quests and related stories
The Quests and Related Stories

  • Most of the quests of the knights of the round table seem to reflect early Christian values as well as the values of the cultures over which they were superimposed.

  • See if you can spot similarities with other myths we have studied.

  • What is this melding of beliefs called?

Sir gawain and the green knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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.

Tristan and isolde
Tristan and Isolde

  • After defeating the Irish knight Morholt, Tristan went to Ireland to bring back the fair Isolde for his uncle King Mark to marry.

  • Along the way, they accidentally ingested a love potion that caused the pair to fall madly in love.

  • Although Isolde married Mark, she and Tristan were forced by the potion to seek one another out for adultery.

  • Although the typical noble Arthurian character would be shamed from such an act, the love potion that controlled them freed Tristan and Isolde from responsibility.

  • The king's advisors repeatedly attempted to have the pair tried for adultery, but again and again the couple used trickery to preserve their façade of innocence.

  • In Beroul's version, the love potion eventually wore off, and the two lovers were free to make their own choice as to whether they ceased their adulterous lifestyle or continued.

The lady of shalott
The Lady of Shalott

  • Cursed to watch the world in a mirror and weave the things she saw, the Lady of Shalott fell in love with Lancelot after she saw him in her mirror.

  • She left her tower, heading toward Camelot, even though she knew it would kill her.

  • Often she is associated with the Lady Elaine, the mother of Galahad.

The holy grail
The Holy Grail

  • According to Christian belief, the Holy Grail was either the dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper, or the chalice used to hold his blood at the crucifixion. It was said to possess miraculous powers.

  • The connection of Joseph of Arimathea with the Grail legend dates from Robert de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie (late 12th century) in which Joseph received the Grail from an apparition of Jesus and sent it with his followers to Great Britain.

  • The quest for the Holy Grail makes up an important segment of the Arthurian cycle, appearing first in works by Chrétien de Troyes.

The beginning of the end
The Beginning of the End

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.

Lancelot and guinevere
Lancelot andGuinevere

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.

Avalon? 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 Literature Mordred’s death, but Arthur was also mortally wounded.Don'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


King Arthur

Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail / Spamalot