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Archive for August, 2011

Recently, I received a comment on one of my previous posts Is the British Royal Family Descended from King Arthur? where the respondent said, “So please take haste in removing such a travesty from the eyes that would believe.” In other words, he feared my readers would believe that King Arthur was real and the royal family descended from King Arthur. Obviously, I didn’t remove the post. The theories that the British Royal Family might be descended from King Arthur are so old that I doubt my post will make any difference; when generations of scholars and hopeful royals have tried to prove such a connection, I’m certainly not going to be able to find the missing evidence.

But the idea of Arthurian genealogy and a link to the British royal family is more important than just a matter of whether it is true or not. What really matters is that people want to believe in King Arthur and claim a connection to him. Back in the Middle Ages, the English royalty wanted to make such a claim to legitimize somehow their right to rule. Of course, if King Arthur did live, scholars are pretty certain he was more likely a warrior chief of some sort and not the ruler over all of Britain.

The Irish have a saying, “We are all the sons and daughters of kings.” The British and all people might as well have the same saying because it’s true. Anyone interested in genealogy knows that it is not difficult to find a link between oneself and a royal family. Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but usually if you can go back far enough and the records exist, then you can find that link. I have found such links. I am twice over descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, son to King Edward III (r. 1327-1377). Edward III was one of those Arthurian enthusiasts who reputedly had the Round Table at Winchester built to support his claim to being Arthur’s descendant. And once you find you are related to one royal, you are pretty much related to all of them since all the royal houses intermarried with one another.

The Round Table at Winchester Castle

The Round Table at Winchester Castle

Whether being related to royals is something to be proud of is another thing–many people start working on their family trees in the hopes to find royalty in their background, but the truth is most of those old kings and queens acted like monsters, constantly fighting one another, usurping thrones from their parents, brothers, sisters, burning people at the stake, spurning one wife or husband for another, basically acting like spoiled children – trust me, a royal lineage is not something to be wildly proud of.

Furthermore, DNA and mathematical calculations make it clear that today, anyone of European descent can claim to be descended from anyone who lived in Europe prior to the year 1200 AD who had children. That means everyone who is of European descent is descended from King Arthur, as well as people we know are historical including Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, El Cid, Clovis, King of the Franks, and a host of others. And our African and Asian brothers are close to the same category. If an African went to Europe around the year 1200 and intermarried with a white person and they had children, then we are all descended from that African as well, which means we are probably descended from all the ancients of the African world from the Pharoahs of Egypt and onward. In my own family tree, I have found Maharajahs of India, Chinese and Byzantine emperors and kings from every house in Europe.

Cardinal Beaufort Tomb Winchester Cathedral

Tomb of my ancestor Cardinal Beaufort, son of John of Gaunt - I am descended from his illegitimate daughter Lady Jane Beaufort, whose mother was the Archbishop of Canterbury's niece. Not only did Cardinal Beaufort have a child out of wedlock, but he also was responsible for burning Joan of Arc at the stake - obviously a member of the royal family whose descendant I am proud to be.

How is this possible? Do the math. You have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great grandparents, and so on. Each generation back the number of your ancestors double: 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16384, 32768 – do you think you’d ever be able to document all 32,768 ancestors who make up your 13-greats grandparents? That generation would have probably lived in the 1500s–the time of Henry VIII, the Spanish Inquisition, Michelangelo – think how many people you might be descended from and just another half dozen back and you have over 1,000,000 ancestors, which would be about 1400 A.D. and another six generations back to about the mid-1200s and you have 64 million ancestors – there weren’t even that many people living in Europe at that time, which means most of the Europeans alive at that time are your ancestors numerous times over. For example, I know of at least 28 different ways I am descended from King Alfred the Great of England (reigned 871-899 A.D.) through various of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

If this is the case, then if King Arthur lived, of course he is the British Royal Family’s ancestor – and he is also your ancestor.

But more importantly, not only are you descended from royalty, but you are descended from thousands of ancient peoples from every culture and nation, and that means, racism is ridiculous because race does not really exist. You have ancestors from England, Italy, Finland, Russia, Hungary, Spain, Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, Ethiopia, and in some cases, maybe even from the ancient peoples of North and South American, Oceania, Australia.

What does this mean? It means we are all closely connected. It means the human story in all its aspects is our story. It means we are all the sons and daughters of kings and queens and farmers and goatherders and merchants and traders and slaves and peasants and dukes and knights and millers and barons and mariners and princesses. It means we should get along because we are all human and all not that far from being the same.

King Arthur’s Camelot was that bright shining moment we can aspire to. We have so many ancestors that we can never learn about them all, never remember all their names, so let us hang onto King Arthur and try to live by the ideals that Camelot inspires. To believe in such a glorious ancestry may have a tad of a fictional element to it, but it is also to aspire to a world where we are all a community–to see a person as a human, not a Jew, not a Christian, not a Muslim, not white or black, not British or Indian or Libyan but human–a brother or a sister–a family member.

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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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After several posts on Camelot, which I have to admit is pretty much a flop and I can see why it was cancelled after its first season, it’s time for me to admit that I love Merlin. It is probably my favorite show on television right now, and I suspect it is the best Arthurian television series ever made.

When I first heard about Merlin in 2009 before it began to premiere, I was excited but skeptical, and the first few episodes did not convince me to like the show, but I kept watching.

I had several initial reservations about the program, including:

  • A talking dragon: Seriously! I was expecting cheesiness to result, but instead the show slowly built up the relationship between Merlin and the dragon until the dragon came to play a pivotal role and by the end of the second season was intriguing because of its past and its connection to the old religion.
  • An African American playing Guinevere: No offense intended, but what is she doing in Camelot? And what is Guinevere doing as a servant? And yet, the actress playing her grows on you until you think she’s quite cute and you root for her and Arthur as they fall in love.
  • Merlin himself: Colin Morgan looks like a clutsy boy in the beginning. Where is Merlin’s long beard and robe? Shouldn’t he be older than Arthur? Why do we need a slapstick cheese Merlin instead of a great wizard to awe us? And yet, Colin Morgan is a phenomenal actor–the more I watch him, the more he impresses me.
  • Morgana: For the first several episodes I wondered why she was even in the show. Her role seemed to be pointless and she was tossed in just because she was in the legend. But boy was I wrong. She is an integral part of the program and one of the most intriguing characters, and the actress playing her does a better job even than Eva Green does playing her counterpart on Camelot–although better writing has something to do with that.

I was wrong on all of these points. By the sixth episode or so, I knew I would keep watching. By the second season I was a fan, and now having watched the third season, I am hooked and eagerly awaiting the fourth season and thrilled to know that a fifth season is planned. I’ll go so far as to say that Merlin is my favorite show in a decade–since The Lost World was cancelled.

Merlin succeeds by steady and careful pacing and plotting. Yes, there are some borderline cheesy episodes, such as the troll who farts and marries Uther, and slapstick moments where Arthur throws things at Merlin, but overall, this series succeeds by slowly developing the characters, revealing new things about them, and aligning itself closely yet distantly enough to the Arthurian legend to keep the magic alive without having to worry about historical accuracy because of its fantasy kingdom setting. Camelot is the capital of a kingdom named Albion surrounded by several other countries–they are pseudo-historical, but there is no mention of Britain or France or a time period to make us expect the show is actually historical. At the same time, all the great Arthurian characters are here: Arthur, Uther, Merlin, Morgana, Guinevere, Mordred, Lancelot, Gawain, Percival, often with new twists and development.

In future posts, I’ll analyze some of the splendid ways Merlin plays with the Arthurian legend, but for now, it’s sufficient for me to say: Two Thumbs Up!

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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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Of all the Arthurian works I have come across, one of the strangest is Rutland Boughton’s Choral Oratorio entitled “King Arthur had Three Sons.”

Those familiar with Welsh legends might assume these sons are Gwydre, Amr, and Llacheu, but Boughton wasn’t that interested in studying the Arthurian legend–yet. Instead, he adapted one of the silliest rhymes about King Arthur ever published for this work first sung about 1905. What was he thinking? Did he foresee himself as the prophet of modern Arthurian fiction where Arthur would have a prolific number of children? He was the first creator in the twentieth century of new children for Arthur, but I don’t think he had the foresight to see where the legend might go. Rather, we’ll put this one down for a fluke, with an understanding that the lyrics were actually based on an old folk song. But, here is the text so my readers can decide how worthwhile this piece of obscure Arthuriana may be (note: Old Nick is an old term for the Devil):

King Arthur had three sons

That he had

He had three sons of yore,

And he kicked ’em out of the door

Because they could not sing

Because they could not sing

Because they could not sing

That he did

He had three sons of yore,

And he kicked ’em out o’ door

Because they could not sing

The first he was a miller

That he was, that he was,

The second he was a weaver

That he was, that he was,

And the third, he was a little tailor boy,

And he was mighty clever

And he was mighty clever

And he was mighty clever

That he was

And he was mighty clever

And he was mighty clever

And he was mighty clever,

That he was

The miller stole some grist for his mill

And the weaver stole some loom

And the little tailor boy

He stole some corduroy

To keep those three rogues warm

To keep those three rogues warm

That he did

And the little tailor boy

He stole some corduroy

To keep those three rogues warm.

Oh the miller he was drowned in his dam

And the weaver he was killed at his loom

And old Nick he cut his stick with the little tailor boy

With the broad-cloth under his arm

With the broad-cloth under his arm

That he did

With the broad-cloth under his arm

And old Nick he cut his stick with the little tailor boy

With the broad-cloth under his arm

That he did.

However, as whacky as this song may be, Rutland Boughton was a great fan of Celtic and Arthurian literature and he would go on to compose an Arthurian cycle of operas as well as establishing a great musical festival at Glastonbury. Honestly, I would love to see these operas performed.

Today, I doubt most Arthurian enthusiasts or even scholars know his name, but Boughton definitely had King Arthur in his heart, and I suspect he deserves more attention than he has received. For more about Rutland Boughton, visit wikipedia or the Rutland Boughton Music Trust

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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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  1. King Arthur had children other than just Mordred.
  2. Arthur traditionally had three children in Welsh tradition, including Amr, whose story resembles Mordred’s, while Mordred (Medraut) is not Arthur’s child in Welsh legend.
  3. The Scots believe Mordred was the good guy at the Battle of Camlann.
  4. King Arthur’s descendants may include the Scottish Clan Campbell.
  5. Mordred had two sons of his own who tried to take over the kingdom after his death.
  6. Both Arthur and Mordred may have had daughters. Ever hear of Tortolina?
  7. Constantine, inheritor of Arthur’s throne, may have been the true villain, not Mordred.
  8. The British Royal Family claims to be descended from King Arthur in numerous and suspicious ways.
  9. Modern novelists have invented many new fictional children for King Arthur.
  10. If King Arthur really lived, DNA and mathematical calculations reveal that YOU are his likely descendant.

Find out the Fact from the Fiction and Far More in:

King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition

by

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D.

 Available at:

www.ChildrenofArthur.com

www.Amazon.com

www.BarnesandNoble.com

________________________

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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