Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2011

The British Royal family has long tried to claim descent from King Arthur, particularly through the Plantagenets, but any possible claim might more likely be through the Tudors because of their Welsh origins.

While the Tudor family’s connection to King Arthur remains unconfirmed, the Tudors certainly took full advantage of the possibility, beginning with the first royal Tudor, Henry VII.

After King Henry V died in 1422, his widow, Catherine of France, fell in love with the Welsh prince, Owen Tudor, who claimed Arthurian descent. Their son Edmund Tudor would marry Margaret Beaufort, a member of the English royal family (of the Plantagenet line and a descendant of King Edward III). Through this marriage the future King Henry VII was born. Henry VII, as a member of the House of Lancaster, had the Red Rose of Lancaster as his symbol. To strengthen his claim of an Arthurian descent, he had the Red Rose of Lancaster painted in the center of the Round Table at Winchester. King Henry VII also named his eldest son Arthur, but the prince died before he could become King Arthur, and so his brother instead succeeded to the throne as King Henry VIII.

Round Table Henry VIII King Arthur

Henry VIII had King Arthur's image (with Henry's face) painted on the Round Table at Winchester

Henry VIII continued the belief in a descent from King Arthur through his Tudor ancestors by having a figure of King Arthur painted on the Round Table, with Henry VIII’s own face painted as that of Arthur (Le Morte D’Arthur). A family resemblance between the ancient and present king was the purpose, and since no one can say what King Arthur looked like, no one could deny that Henry VIII did not resemble his supposed ancestor of a thousand years before.

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603)

Queen Elizabeth I continued the Arthurian tradition in the family. Brinkley declares that “the Arthurian ancestry of Elizabeth was given especial emphasis at the time of her coronation” . When Elizabeth visited Kenilworth in 1575, an Arthurian costume party and masque were held. Upon the queen’s arrival, she was met by a woman dressed as Morgan le Fay, who greeted the queen as Arthur’s heir. During the revels, a set of trumpeters signified that the men of Arthur’s day were superior to modern men. Elizabeth talked with the Lady of the Lake, and her presence allowed her to free the Lady of the Lake from the persecutions of Bruce sans Pitee. A song was also sung of Rience’s demand for Arthur’s beard. It is clear that these events of Kenilworth were based upon Malory’s writings (Merriman 201), and the masque in Chapter 37 of Sir Walter Scott’s Kenilworth borrows and fictionalizes from this historical event.

For more about the British royal family’s claims to being King Arthur’s descendants and how they tried to promote the idea, despite a lack of proof, see King Arthur’s Children at www.ChildrenofArthur.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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974) is a cult classic. As a lover of Arthurian lore, however, I found its slapstick and cheesy humor rather off-putting when I first saw this film back in 1994, and I waited that long to watch it because I didn’t like “stupid” humor. I only watched it then because I was in graduate school and took a course in the Arthurian legend and we watched it as our end of semester class party. I was about the only one in the class who thought it stupid while everyone else thought it funny.

2001 Special Edition Release Post for Monty Python and the Holy Grail

2001 Special Edition Release Post for Monty Python and the Holy Grail

And then I watched it again this past week. Either my sense of humor has gotten better (or worse), or watching it on a larger screen as a restored version did the trick (a special edition re-release came out in 2001), but I found the film very funny. A big problem with all Arthurian films, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail is definitely such a film, is that we have preconceived notions about what the Arthurian legend should be before we watch the film, and consequently, we may fail to appreciate what the film is actually trying to do. Case in point, the first time I saw the musical film Camelot (1967), I thought it was kind of boring – when were they going to get to the quest for the Holy Grail? Well, they never do because the Arthurian legend has too much in it for any one film, even for a three hour film like Camelot, and that film focused on the love triangle between Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot and Arthur’s belief that Camelot’s ideal should be not “might is right but might for right.” Consequently, it took a second viewing for me to come to appreciate Camelot. And anyone who knows me well knows that for the last twenty-five years, I have claimed it as my favorite movie and I have worn out records, cassette tapes, and then CDs listening to the soundtrack–thank God for iTunes.

But back to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I love musicals–Camelot is my favorite–and so consequently I had to listen to the Broadway Cast Recording soundtrack to Spamalot–I have yet to see the play–but I love the music. And the musical is a vast improvement on the film. Nevertheless, I decided to watch the film again, and knowing this time what to expect, sheer humor and no real closeness to the Arthurian legend, I was able to enjoy the film a great deal, to laugh out loud in numerous places. I love the cow being catapulted, and who doesn’t love the killer rabbit! And a few things, like the mention of Joseph of Arimathea, attest to some knowledge in the film of the real legend. Furthermore, I loved the sets, the castles, and some of the songs in Spamalot, such as “Brave Sir Robin,” originated in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Finally, I remember first watching this film and thinking it had that dull, gray ’70s look that most films of that period had, but the special edition version has made Monty Python and the Holy Grail visually beautiful. I was stunned by the colors, and in some scenes, I could forget for a minute that I was watching a comedy, and think instead that I was looking at some of N.C. Wyeth’s beautiful illustrations or even some Pre-Raphaelite paintings. The only other Arthurian film that I have found so visually stunning was the NBC TV series Merlin (1998).

All in all, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a film I can appreciate for what it tries to do–make fun of the Arthurian legend in a way that is funny and not solely demeaning. It is well worth watching and deserves its status as one of the best known and most popular films about the Arthurian legend. I do find the ending of the film very disappointing, and it is far inferior to Spamalot, but overall, it’s a film worth watching and enjoying more than once. I mean, it has even inspired people to wear pajamas with killer rabbits on them, and when a film influences pajama fashions, it has to have something of value!

________________________

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

Read Full Post »

Bernard Cornwell creates significant children for King Arthur in his trilogy “The Warlord Chronicles,” consisting of The Winter King (1996), Enemy of God (1997), and Excalibur (1997). Cornwell seeks to make his novels historical, not only providing them with a setting in a grim dark age Britain, but also attempting to incorporate the Welsh traditions by recreating Arthur’s sons Amhar, Loholt (a version of Llacheu) and Gwydre. The Mordred in the novels is Arthur’s nephew, but he is important for he is the King of Dumnonia. Mordred’s father was Arthur’s deceased half-brother, also named Mordred. Arthur and the elder Mordred were both Uther’s sons, but because Arthur was illegitimate, the throne has passed through the elder Mordred’s line to his son. The younger Mordred is in his infancy when the trilogy opens, making Arthur one of the council who govern the British kingdom of Dumnonia for Mordred.

The Winter King Bernard Cornwell Warlord Chronicles

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

While these novels adopt Arthur’s children from Welsh tradition, Cornwell allows the children’s personalities to deviate from the characteristics attributed to them in Welsh legend. At the opening of The Winter King, Arthur has two bastard twin sons, Amhar and Loholt, by his mistress Ailleann. Arthur is a neglectful father, and throughout the novel the children are scarcely mentioned, appearing only on pages 108, 163, and 182. When they are mentioned, they are dismissed simply as brats.

Enemy of God Bernard Cornwell Warlord Chronicles

Enemy of God by Bernard Cornwell

Enemy of God seeks to expand the role of Arthur’s bastard children as well as providing Arthur with a legitimate son, Gwydre, by Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere. In Welsh tradition, Amhar and Gwydre’s mother is never named, while Llacheu is sometimes the son of Guinevere, so it is strange that Cornwell picks Gwydre rather than Loholt as Guinevere’s son. Gwydre is significantly younger than his half-brothers who are already adults when he is born. Amhar and Loholt have now matured into wicked young men who hate their neglectful father. They become the followers of the cowardly, yet handsome, Lancelot, the exiled prince of Benoic. Lancelot eventually becomes King of the Belgic lands in Britain. Guinevere, who is hungry for power, wishes Arthur to declare himself King of Dumnonia, then unite and rule over all Britain. Arthur, however, refuses to usurp the throne from his nephew, Mordred. Seeing Arthur will never rule Britain, Guinevere turns her attention to Lancelot, becoming his lover and political supporter. Eventually, Arthur and Lancelot go to war, and Arthur’s twin sons, Amhar and Loholt, side with Lancelot. Amhar and Loholt claim to be great druids who have combined ancient druidic lore with the knowledge derived from other religions such as Christianity and the Cult of Isis which have come into Britain. Merlin, however, scoffs at their claims to be druids, for the greatest magical feat the twins perform are simple tricks like pulling eggs from people’s ears. During the conflict between Arthur and Lancelot, Guinevere and Gwydre become hostages in Lancelot’s castle. Arthur, wishing to regain his wife and son, attacks Lancelot’s strongholds, first defeating one held by Loholt. When Arthur asks the defeated Loholt how he could raise a hand against his own father, Loholt replies, “You were never a father to us” (387). Arthur then requests that Loholt place his right hand upon a stone. Loholt thinks he is about to take an oath of loyalty to his father, but instead, Arthur cuts off Loholt’s hand (388), then sends Loholt to Lancelot as a warning of the approach of Arthur’s army. By the novel’s end, Arthur has defeated Lancelot’s armies and rescued Guinevere and his son, Gwydre.

Excalibur Bernard Cornwell Warlord

Excalibur by Bernard Cornwell

In the final novel of the series, Excalibur, Arthur’s three children continue to have prominent roles. The novel begins with Arthur preparing to battle the Saxons. Derfel, the narrator, travels to the court of the Saxons to bargain with them. Here, he discovers Lancelot has allied himself with the Saxons, and Lancelot’s supporters, Arthur’s two sons, Amhar and Loholt, are also present. When peace cannot be made, the Britons and Saxons battle, culminating in Arthur’s victory at Mynydd Badon. Amhar and Loholt survive the battle while Lancelot is killed. Arthur’s villainous twin sons then disappear from the novel for several pages. Meanwhile, Merlin has attempted to save Briton from the Saxons by having the Old Gods return to Britain. In order to bring about the old religion’s return, he must sacrifice the son of a ruler and throw the body into the Cauldron of Clyddno Eiddyn, one of the Treasures of Britain which is said to bring to life anyone who is sacrificed and thrown into it. Among Merlin’s intended victims is Arthur’s son, Gwydre, but Arthur rescues Gwydre before such an atrocity can be committed. As Gwydre grows up, he becomes Mordred’s rival for the throne, for Mordred and his wife, Argante, have been unable to conceive a child. Gwydre marries Derfel’s daughter, Morwenna, and has two children by her, a son Arthur-Bach (meaning Arthur the Little) and a daughter, Seren (298-9). Mordred, meanwhile, plots against Gwydre, by going to France and then spreading rumors that he is dying. Mordred suspects that Arthur and Derfel will now try to win the throne for Gwydre, and when they do so, he can accuse them of treason. Unaware of Mordred’s plan, Derfel travels south to proclaim Gwydre’s claim to the throne. Unfortunately, Derfel is captured by Mordred’s forces and taken prisoner. Here he discovers that Arthur’s twin sons have resurfaced as Mordred’s followers. Derfel manages to escape during the night when everyone is asleep, but before he leaves the castle, he runs a blade through Amhar’s neck, killing him (342). Mordred’s forces now attack Arthur. Arthur does not want war, so he tries to leave Britain for Gaul, but Mordred’s troops quickly attack Arthur, resulting in the Battle of Camlann. Loholt is killed in battle, and Arthur slays Mordred. Arthur and Mordred’s forces are both destroyed, but as the battle ends, a neighboring king, Meurig, appears with an army to claim the right to rule Dumnonia. Arthur, Gweniver, Gwydre and Morwenna, and their children manage to escape on a fishing boat and head to France. The novel ends with Derfel watching the boat depart, and stating that no one has seen Arthur since (433).

With the end of Cornwell’s trilogy, one receives the sense that Gwydre’s chance of gaining the throne is now hopeless. Arthur’s family, however, may live on in Gaul, where Gwydre’s children will marry and multiply, thus continuing Arthur’s bloodline.

The above passage is from King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. For more information, visit http://www.ChildrenofArthur.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

Read Full Post »