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Posts Tagged ‘Arthur’s heir’

Queen Elizabeth II

What does one post on a blog about the Arthurian legend to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II?

After much thought, I recalled The Faerie Queene (1596), Edmund Spenser’s great poem in which Gloriana, the Faerie Queene was modeled on Queen Elizabeth I. Not surprisingly this fantastic poem, one of the greatest in the English language, was turned into an opera called Gloriana by Benjamin Britten to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and the lead barge in yesterday’s Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant was named The Gloriana.

In The Faerie Queene, the Redcrosse Knight meets Prince Arthur before he becomes the great King of England. Arthur tells of his vision of The Faerie Queene, Gloriana, and his love for her in Book 1, Canto 9:

XIII
For-wearied with my sports, I did alight
From loftie steed, and downe to sleepe me layd; 110
The verdant gras my couch did goodly dight,
And pillow was my helmet faire displayd:
Whiles every sence[*] the humour sweet embayd,
And slombring soft my hart did steale away,
Me seemed, by my side a royall Mayd 115
Her daintie limbes full softly down did lay:
So faire a creature yet saw never sunny day.

XIV

Prince Arthur’s Vision of Gloriana – painting by Henry Fuseli

Most goodly glee and lovely blandishment
She to me made, and bad me love her deare;
For dearely sure her love was to me bent, 120
As when just time expired should appeare.
But whether dreames delude, or true it were,
Was never hart so ravisht with delight,
Ne living man like words did ever heare,
As she to me delivered all that night; 125
And at her parting said, She Queene of Faeries hight.

XV

When I awoke, and found her place devoyd,
And nought but pressed gras, where she had lyen,
I sorrowed all so much as earst I joyd,
And washed all her place with watry eyen. 130
From that day forth I lov’d that face divine;
From that day forth I cast in carefull mind
To seeke her out with labour, and long tyne,
And never vowd to rest till her I find,
Nine monethes I seeke in vain, yet ni’ll that vow unbind. 135

As Arthur’s heir, what would Prince Arthur have thought of Queen Elizabeth II? No one can say for sure, but she like her namesake, Elizabeth I, may be compared to Gloriana, a glorious queen who has long served her people and continues to be a model to us of someone willing to do her duty to her people and country in the face of all odds, and for that, we can truly say she has had a long and glorious reign!

Congratulations, Your Majesty, on Sixty Glorious Years!

Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant – June 3, 2012

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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

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