Any history of these Isles worthy of its name, should always include references to Arthur (King). There are many tales, possible histories, analytical reviews, researched theories, local folk lores and popular legends. To attempt to assimilate all of these is a monumental and oft confusing task. Happily, in these days of scientific method, modern rational approaches, exercises of logic and of course fashionable scepticism, we can be certain of the following.
Arthur may (or may not) have existed as a person (or composite of persons).
Arthur was probably a person of natural British Blood, or a Romano-Britain, or a Roman or of some other race, or a composite of all of these.
Arthur was (or was not) active between 300 & 600 AD.
Arthur was a king (or not); depending on how you define kingship.
Arthur was active somewhere in land between John ‘O Groats to Lands’ End and the bits in between. And maybe (or maybe not) Ireland.
It can therefore be argued when applying logic that Arthur’s histories can be encapsulated as a case of Post hoc ergo propter hoc (But only if you have nothing better to do with your time and like to avoid debate by sprinkling Latin about the place) …..
Thus said, it is therefore necessary to consider Arthur from the viewpoint point of being a Romantic and (of course) Tragic tale and thus in keeping with the best spirits of legends. And so with (or without) reference to other sources this is how I see the Circumstance of Arthur (King)
For sake of brevity it is assumed that Arthur’s father was one Uther Pendragon; which if you read it(badly) half in welsh (or not) could come out Uther Dragon’s Head, which may have been a compliment or not. As he was quite famous and a warrior king, it was only natural that Arthur would follow in his footsteps, even if Arthur was but the result of an illicit liaison at Tintagel in Cornwall; being a coastal place a not uncommon occurrence.
Arthur also followed in the family tradition of fighting Saxons, which was only fayre (sic- addendum; ipso facto etc) on account of them starting it. According to the bards of Hollywood & TV Arthur would have been victorious by cleverly utilising the following factors;
All Britons had dark hair; all Saxons fair hair and wore big horned helmets, so in the heat of battle it was easy for Britons to know who were their foes. As the Saxons were brutish they would not appreciate this subtlety.
The Britons still used roman cavalry tactics and could ride down as many Saxons as they liked, particularly those who adorned themselves with animal pelts and heads.
Under Arthur’s guidance The Britons invented an armour which would not be seen on the other battlefields of Europe until at least the late 13th century
Arthur was a king and had knights (pure and noble) whereas the Saxons were but warlords and just had followers (brutal and ignorant) and so were thus were both at a tactical and social disadvantage.
Arthur also had the Sword Excalibur which some claim he drew from a Stone, while others prefer the far more esoteric and romantic gifting by the Lady of The Lake; some who try to put the two versions together are just pushing it. This was an inspirational sword and its scabbard helped him heal from wounds. So what with Carnwennan (his dagger) and Rhongomyniad (his spear) he was fairly multi-culturally unstoppable.
And so Arthur ruled a large part of the Isles and possibly Norway and Iceland from a very peripatetic castle Camelot. His administration although quite sparse was very effective and everyone in the realm was content unless the Saxons turned up. Arthur was assisted by a number of knights which might have led to a clash of egos had he (or Uther Pendragon) not invented a round table, so no one could sit at the top, or if they tried they got very dizzy. As there were approximately fifty knights we must assume this is not a piece of furniture which could fit in even a large dining room.
Naturally Arthur married, to one Guinevere who since she was being written about by men in the 11th to 19th centuries spends her time either being captured and rescued; scheming against Arthur who she didn’t want in the first place, or being noble and virtuous (and avoiding Lancelot), or noble and not so virtuous (by not avoiding Lancelot). Detailed research casts doubt on her running about in skimpy leather clothing shooting arrows at Saxons. She died, either tragically, nobly or violently in several places including Germany and was probably glad of the rest.
In addition to defeating Saxons and ruling wisely Arthur and his knights were associated with going on quests; these were often of a religiously Christian sort and thus at the times were thought were noble. In these enlightened 21st Century times some folk become very outraged at such a concept and do their best to prove these were not only false tales but also a conspiracy by later ecclesiastical agencies. As there’s not a lot these unhappy souls can do about it, it is best they adopt a stoic or other classically inclined philosophical outlook on the matter. (Or write a badly researched polemic)
As Arthur had attracted many enemies, mostly Saxons or relatives (y’know what families are like) as well as loyal followers it was only right and proper that he should be betrayed and taken down by treacherous means. There have been many stirring tales, poems and operas over his eventual death; this is likely to be (or not) the most (or least) definitive account.
Arthur was away on a quest or trying find Guinevere OR ask Lancelot some fairly hard questions concerning Guinevere. While he gone one Mordred who had been nursing grudges and trying out suitable styles of grim looking armor, claimed he was Arthur’s son (illegitimate) and that he should have the throne, Camelot, Round Table and the services of Merlin to cure him of his sore grudges. Upon hearing this Arthur dashed back to his realm to contest Mordred’ s claim and possibly avoid any difficult questions from Guinevere. Arthur and Mordred met at Camlann. It took some time getting together as no one was sure if it was in Cornwall, North Wales or Cumbria. One rather timorous knight was scared by a snake, screamed and waved his sword. As there were lots of knights around rather vexed after such a long rabbling journey a battle at once ensued. All might have gone well but Arthur’s half-sister Morgana Le Fey stole his scabbard (possibly claiming it on account of some unsettled business over their father’s Will- families again!). Although Arthur slew(ed) Mordred, he was fatally wounded and being scabbardless this time was fated to die. As all of Mordred army and all but seven of Arthur’s army died The Battle of Camlann is not considered to have much to offer at today’s Military colleges.
All that remained was for Excalibur to be thrown back into (or if you prefer the Stone theory) into the Lake (see Lady of), where it remains to this day, not it is hoped embedded in the said Lady. Arthur still dying was then rowed off to the (mystical) Isle of Avalon, possibly by Morgana, who might have been hoping for some favourable last words. There he was either buried or remains recovering and awaiting a call to return at these Isles’ worst crisis. Counterpointing these Isles recent history and a lack of Arthur if this is true it is a sobering thought indeed.
Arthur has become so tremendously famous that he is entitled to an entire era all of his own and thus in the last seminar of the subject of legends we shall discuss other characters in the Arthurian era.