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Archive for April, 2011

The Marriage of Arthur and Guinevere

On Friday, Prince William, descendant of King Arthur, will marry. In the newlyweds’ honor, I am posting the marriage of Arthur and Guinevere as written in Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. May Prince William and his future bride have a wonderful life together and a far happier end than Arthur and Guinevere.

Then Arthur charged his warrior whom he loved
And honoured most, Sir Lancelot, to ride forth
And bring the Queen;–and watched him from the gates:
And Lancelot past away among the flowers,
(For then was latter April) and returned
Among the flowers, in May, with Guinevere.
To whom arrived, by Dubric the high saint,
Chief of the church in Britain, and before
The stateliest of her altar-shrines, the King
That morn was married, while in stainless white,
The fair beginners of a nobler time,
And glorying in their vows and him, his knights
Stood around him, and rejoicing in his joy.
Far shone the fields of May through open door,
The sacred altar blossomed white with May,
The Sun of May descended on their King,
They gazed on all earth’s beauty in their Queen,
Rolled incense, and there past along the hymns
A voice as of the waters, while the two
Sware at the shrine of Christ a deathless love:
And Arthur said, `Behold, thy doom is mine.
Let chance what will, I love thee to the death!’
To whom the Queen replied with drooping eyes,
`King and my lord, I love thee to the death!’
And holy Dubric spread his hands and spake,
`Reign ye, and live and love, and make the world
Other, and may thy Queen be one with thee,
And all this Order of thy Table Round
Fulfil the boundless purpose of their King!’

So Dubric said; but when they left the shrine
Great Lords from Rome before the portal stood,
In scornful stillness gazing as they past;
Then while they paced a city all on fire
With sun and cloth of gold, the trumpets blew,
And Arthur’s knighthood sang before the King:–

`Blow, trumpet, for the world is white with May;
Blow trumpet, the long night hath rolled away!
Blow through the living world–“Let the King reign.”

`Shall Rome or Heathen rule in Arthur’s realm?
Flash brand and lance, fall battleaxe upon helm,
Fall battleaxe, and flash brand! Let the King reign.

`Strike for the King and live! his knights have heard
That God hath told the King a secret word.
Fall battleaxe, and flash brand! Let the King reign.

`Blow trumpet! he will lift us from the dust.
Blow trumpet! live the strength and die the lust!
Clang battleaxe, and clash brand! Let the King reign.

`Strike for the King and die! and if thou diest,
The King is King, and ever wills the highest.
Clang battleaxe, and clash brand! Let the King reign.

`Blow, for our Sun is mighty in his May!
Blow, for our Sun is mightier day by day!
Clang battleaxe, and clash brand! Let the King reign.

`The King will follow Christ, and we the King
In whom high God hath breathed a secret thing.
Fall battleaxe, and flash brand! Let the King reign.’

________________________

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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At least one attempt in recent years has been made to show that Prince William may be descended from King Arthur (Le Morte D’Arthur). Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, in Royal Highness, a study of the ancestors of the future King of England, Prince William, conveniently states that it is very probable for King Arthur to be among the warrior chieftains of fifth and sixth century Britain from whom the Royal Family is descended (Moncreiffe 12). Finally, as Geoffrey Ashe has pointed out, Prince William’s middle name is Arthur, and should Prince William choose to use his middle name rather than William when he is crowned, he will be the next King Arthur (199).

            Still, no direct or indisputable genealogical line connects the British royal family to King Arthur. One other possibility may exist in the theory that the King Arthur of legend is the historical Riothamus. Riothamus had a son David who then had a son Budic. This Budic lived in Britain as an exile for some time. It is possible that Budic might be an ancestor of the Tudors, and a closer look at Welsh and Breton genealogies could then give us a connection between Riothamus and the British royal family (Ashe 196).

            Of course, if Cerdic is Arthur’s son, as Geoffrey Ashe has also suggested, then the British royalty would also be descended from Arthur because Cerdic was the ancestor of Alfred the Great, and through him, the British royal family. The fact that Debrett’s Peerage, the official heraldic society in Britain, backed Ashe’s book suggests that the British, if not the royal family itself, still wish to make this link between their present day monarch and King Arthur.

            If there is a link between King Arthur and Prince William, it may be years, if ever, before it will be discovered or researched thoroughly enough to be convincing. It also seems unlikely that a tradition of descent that does not seem to have begun until Henry II in the twelfth century is any more than a convenient forgery. If there is a connection, it is probably through the Welsh Tudor family, and it is there that the greatest scrutiny may need to be used.

For more about the British royal family’s many attempts over the last thousand years to claim descent from King Arthur, be sure to read my book King Arthur’s Children available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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As the royal wedding approaches, it’s interesting to dig into the royal family’s claims of descent from King Arthur. Here is some information about those claims from my chapter “Arthur and the English Royal Family” in King Arthur’s Children:

Among those who have tried to claim descent from King Arthur, the most prominent and most determined have been the monarchs of England. As we have already seen, little chance exists that any of King Arthur’s children outlived him, and the only grandchildren he had were murdered by Constantine. These two grandsons could have been old enough to have had children of their own before they died, but this theory is only a surmise since no record, chronicle, or romance states they had heirs. Therefore, it is highly doubtful that King Arthur had any descendants who lived beyond the sixth century. Yet the royal family of England has claimed, at least since the time of the Plantagenets, that they are descended from King Arthur.

During the reigns of the Saxon kings in England, from the sixth century until 1066, there is no monarch known to have claimed descent from Arthur. It was not until after the Norman invasion that this idea became popular, and even then it seems to have been the result of the popularity of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain, which appeared around 1136. Geoffrey ended his chronicle with King Cadwallader, whom he states probably died around 689 (289). Cadwallader has numerous descendants living today, but he is not a descendant of King Arthur; neither is he from any records I have been able to locate an ancestor to the present royal family of Britain (although DNA research suggests the odds are that he is). Geoffrey leaves unaccounted for over four hundred years, from the time his book ends until the 1100s, except for making prophecies of what will happen. However, none of these prophecies hint that Arthur’s descendants will reign over England. Since Geoffrey gives King Arthur no descendants, it is inconceivable how the Plantagenets could have claimed an Arthurian lineage.

The popularity of Geoffrey’s book gave rebirth to the tales of King Arthur and made the conquered Anglo-Saxon peoples believe King Arthur would return to rescue them, a belief that might seem strange since the Anglo-Saxons had originally been Arthur’s enemies; however, by the twelfth century, Celtic blood had so intermixed with Anglo-Saxon blood that nearly anyone in England could claim to have ancestors whom Arthur had been king over.

The belief that King Arthur would return might have made King Henry II fearful that the conquered people would become restless, and so as we have already seen, he may have staged the finding of Arthur’s body at Glastonbury. To keep the conquered under control, the royal family decided it needed to prove its members were the rightful heirs to the throne of all Britain because of their descent from King Arthur or at least his family.

Arthur's most likely Faked Grave at Glastonbury Abbey

King Henry II’s ancestors included the Counts of Anjou; his descent from William the Conqueror was through his mother, whereas it was his father who was Count of Anjou. However, William the Conqueror’s great-grandparents included a daughter of the House of Anjou, and a Duke of Brittany, both of whom could possibly have claimed an ancestry from Arthurian times. William the Conqueror’s paternal lineage from the Dukes of Normandy went back to a Scandinavian and Viking ancestry that settled in Normandy in the 800s. The House of Anjou can trace its descent back to Tertulle, Count of Anjou (born about 821), and his wife Petronilla, Countess of Anjou (born about 825), who was a granddaughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne (Ancestral File). However, the House of Anjou would have to trace its ancestors back another three hundred years if it were to claim descent from King Arthur, and it is probably no longer possible to make genealogical connections for these families that stretch so far back in time.

Despite these loose claims, the Plantagenet and Tudor dynasties would make many more attempts to link themselves to King Arthur, and even today, both Prince Charles and Prince William have middle names that include Arthur….

________________________

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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Tonight Camelot, the newest version of the age old Arthurian legend, premieres on Starz. The show’s website tells viewers: “Forget everything you think you know…this is the story of Camelot that has never been told before.”

Hmm, really? I’m skeptical. It looks like a few changes to the story have been made, but it is basically the same story we’ve always been told. Here are a few differences based on the information appearing online about the show and its characters.

Arthur as usual is the son to Igraine and Uther. Uther has recently died and Arthur will now be king with Merlin’s assistance. Typical.

However, while Morgan is usually Igraine’s daughter by Gorlois, in this version she is Arthur’s daughter. Still, she is Arthur’s half-sister. According to the show preview and the website, she wants the throne for herself and plans to use Arthur’s knight Leontes and Guinevere’s love against him. Morgan is typically Arthur’s adversary, although depictions of her have been softened in more modern novels like The Mists of Avalon that justify her behavior.

Leontes is apparently a character whose name is completely made up. I do not recall such a name anywhere in Arthurian legend; nor could I find it anywhere when I searched. For whatever reason, the show’s creators chose to give his character an unusual name, but he seems to be the standard Lancelot character.

In the show, Guinevere and Leontes are engaged but she feels attraction for Arthur. That relationship is a bit of a twist because usually Guinevere is married or at least betrothed to Arthur when she meets and falls in love with Lancelot. This time, it looks like Lancelot/Leontes may end up being cheated on.

From the other descriptions of the characters, nothing appears too unordinary from most versions of the legend.

Fans of the BBC/SyFy Merlin appear to be up in arms about the program; discussion boards online accuse the new show of stealing from Merlin. While Camelot may be trying to capitalize on some of Merlin’s popularity, it can’t be accused of plagiarism since the legends of King Arthur have been told again and again. Online are numerous complaints from viewers that the show is designed to be full of sex scenes and is obviously for adult audiences only, while Merlin could basically be family viewing. The program is obviously geared more toward the viewing audience that enjoyed The Tudors and more historical adult fare than Merlin’s more fantasy loving audience.

Will Camelot offer anything new in the way of interpretation to the Arthurian legend? It’s possible since it will be one of the longer treatments of the legend as a television series scheduled for ten episodes its first season, and of course, with the possibility of more seasons. It certainly doesn’t look like a musical despite its similar name to the Broadway classic.

We can only wait and see whether the King Arthur we know will emerge, or a new version of the legend will be told. I imagine we’ll see a little of both.

Visit Starz for more information. The series premieres tonight, April 1, 2011, at 10 p.m.

________________________

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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