Having given Arthur (King) his fayre due, it now only right and proper that we give mention to some of those who assisted him in making his time a Memorable Era.
(It should be pointed out that as we have already dealt with Uther Pendragon, Mordred and Guinevere these will not be mentioned, unless in conjunction with any other character, or if necessary to pad out the seminar)
We can safely conjecture he was not an incorrigible old guy with a long white beard and given to tottering about Camelot in a dressing gown and floppy pointed cap, as in those days any such behaviour was likely to have you carted off to some remote place and told be a hermit. He, naturally has several possible origins. Possibly his true name might have been Myrddin Emrys, this is lyrically and classically welsh, but was changed to Merlin by sympathetic and polite biographers as Myrddin sounds like a norman-french word Merde which naturally the coarse Normans would have had great fun with. (look it up for yourself, this is a Family-friendly seminar).
Merlin must have been a memorable figure as there was a lot of tittle-tattle about his paternal side being demonic, and even if his mother was in consequence very pious and religious, folk will talk. This sort of gossip also led to him being associated in a relationship with the Lady of the Lake, and also a huntress named Niviane who being Irish was allowed to be a warrior and may (or may not) have killed him.
Despite all this sort of talk Merlin’s reputation remains as a wise councillor of Arthur and a practitioner of more than producing rabbits out of hats.
Morgan La Fey
Most accounts are fairly content with this lady being a daughter of Arthur’s mother Lady Igraine and her husband; this makes Morgan (La Fey) half-sister of Arthur and obviously the pair would have had ‘issues’. Some claim she might have been a Irish goddess or possibly a Welsh water-sprite, while most (male) writers betwixt 11th & 19th Century reckon her to be a scheming, temptress with a side-line in magics of the unpleasant sort; in short the actual Morgan (daughter of Igraine and Glorius-btw) was not going to be given an even break or any credit for whatever natural talents she might have had.
With writers’ hooks well and truly into her she is recorded as having affairs or seductions with most knights, lords, kings and princes within lip-pursing, shoulder-rolling, hip-swivelling, bust heaving range. Her alleged body count would probably impress the criminal classes of today, and it should come as no surprise that Metal Bands are attracted to her.
Although she is implicated in Arthur’s death, it was also recorded that she might have got him across to Avalon, so she probably just suffered the usual bad press that assertive and talented women have had since Eve.
It is only fayre that it should be mentioned this man was not possessed of poor pronunciation or education; this was merely the way names were spelt in those days. To his credit he took care of Arthur in the lad’s early days and later served upon the Round Table, being wise, noble etc.
The Holy Grail
Although not a person, per se, was an object of great power and veneration; thus the cause of many knights going about the place trying to find it. This was very beneficial to the whole tenor of the age as it stopped knights fighting each other or having trysts (a chivalrous version of shenanigans) with other knights’, lords’, princes’ etc wives. Over the ages it has become associated with the Holy Chalice of the Last Supper and thus a source of annoyance to the more inflexibly secular folk of these times. Thus overall The Holy Grail has been of much benefit.
The Lady of the Lake
There may have been more than one of her. Naturally some writers would have her being a scheming temptress as any woman who hands Arthur his Excalibur sword in their eyes is obviously a woman who needs taking down a peg or too. These idle words have not stopped her however being associated with good works, kindly acts and a most proper demeanour, even when in an aquatic state. She may well have fallen in love with Merlin and he with her, which surely would have led to very enchanting evenings by the lakeside. In accounts dealing with Arthur’s death, she is on hand to care for his body, or dying body on Avalon; which is obviously a precursor of Britain’s National Health Service.
Being noble, fair, courageous and a warrior knight it is only right that he is seen as Arthur’s great friend and most loyal follower, and of course thus having an affair with Guinevere. Since he was also the ‘natural’ father of Galahad, the man had a track record in this sort of thing (though there are indications he was of French blood and probably thought this sort of thing was expected of him; though he was not above the usual excuse of claiming he had been subject to an enchantment). Having partaken of many quests and battles; he then betrayed Arthur (see Queen G), but was very sorry afterwards and took up the priesthood. In the accounts in which Guinevere is not killed she dies an abbess and Lancelot arranges for her to buried with Arthur (having made sure he was dead). Thus Lancelot is a noble but flawed man, and a source of some comfort and inspiration to those of us who forget our beloved’s birthdays.
The ‘natural’ son of Lancelot (see above), who taking after his father became noble, just, brave, but above all took on a great quest to be the one who found the Holy Grail. When he did so, he nobly died and so avoided being a great braggart at parties. He thus has the reputation of being the most gallant of knights, and quite rightly the subject of some of the most romantic poetry that can be read in front of children.
Actually he might have been more gallant and worthy than Galahad but for the Holy Grail. He was certainly unusual in that young maids trusted him, and their mother’s too. He was possibly a nephew of Arthur and maybe a brother of Mordred, so probably felt he had to carve out an identity all of his own. He is most famous for an association with The Green Knight, who was either quite young or of rather sickly disposition. At one feast this viridian fellow turned up and challenged Gawain who was being insufferably nice. He said Gawain could take a sword swing at him, if only in a year’s time he came back and did exactly likewise to Gawain. Gawain not wishing to seem impolite did so, but his aim was a little off that day and he lopped the fellow’s head off. Imagine everyone’s surprise when the knight without any effort picked up the head and pre-dated the film Terminator with his statement. After a fairly miserable year for Gawain the fellow turned up and Gawain nobly knelt to receive the blow at which point the knight burst into laughter and said it was all but a jest to test Gawain. It is not recorded if Gawain saw the funny side.
He signed up for knighthood despite his mother’s best efforts to hide him in a wood. He possibly found the Holy Grail first, but let Galahad take the credit as he had already healed the Fisher King of a most unfortunate wound (if you are a male you’ll understand). Thus proving himself a good sort he then married his childhood sweetheart and got to be a king. He is thus a good example and would be worthwhile teaching about at school, except for all the predictable sniggering when discussing The Fisher King.
He was neither a lout nor a fellow given to being tiresome at parties with long rambling tales about how he achieved the best polish on his saddle. He was actually son of Sir Bors’ The Elder (and single-minded), fought nobly at Arthur’s side and was set of being a life-long virgin until or so he claims he was tricked by the daughter of King Brandegoris into sleeping with her by way of a magic ring- these guys might have been noble in battle and suchwhich but they would not admit to the urge to take their trousers down!! He was also a good and loyal friend of Lancelot, which might explain a lot.
Being one of the first of Arthur’s knights, he was also something of a marshall, which meant something quite different in those days, and he was not expected to clean up unruly towns. He was also very loyal to Arthur, and although only one -handed must have been adept with a sword as he was one of seven left alive after the Battle of Camlann. He was charged with throwing Excalibur back into the lake or into the lake if you’re into the Stone Theory. He first thought it a rotten idea as there were Saxons about, but Arthur insisted and not wishing to upset a dying king as you never know where that might lead did so. After that he wisely became a hermit, possibly making sure the bodies of Arthur and Guinevere were not disturbed by Saxon tourists.
Although there are many other worthy names, we must now leave the interesting world of the Romance and Legend and return to that of The Early Middle Ages, when it must be assumed Arthur has passed from this realm and large numbers of Saxons, Angles, Jutes and a few Franks are taking advantage of the situation. Which we will discuss in the next seminar.