King Arthur

Account for the development of different ‘King Arthurs’ in Medieval Europe
The first references to King Arthur appear in early Welsh history and tradition. Mostly told in story or song format, these folklore tales were of a brave king who fought for his country, leading crusades to the holy lands and heading into battle. The version of King Arthur that immediately comes to mind today is the heavily romanticised and exaggerated figure who first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s, ‘The History of the Kings of Britain’1. Even though Geoffrey’s Arthur is a chivalrous knight, riding on horseback and saving the lives of fair maidens, this is nowhere near to the truth. If Arthur had been a real figure, it is much more likely that he would have been a Pagan warrior of wealth and violence. A mercenary leader of a war band, Arthur could have been one reason that the Britons re-united after the fall of the Roman Empire.
However, Geoffrey of Monmouth was not the first to turn Arthur into a literary figure. In the early 6th century, a Welsh monk named Gildas records the famous battle of Mount Badon. He does not tell who leads the battle, but it is the oldest known text to contain a figure who could have been Arthur. This is a reliable source, even though it is bias because it aims to show that Britain had abandoned its moral virtues at the time.
The next source to shed a new light on the Arthurian figure is ‘The History of Britain’ by Nennius, c.800. He is believed to have lived near Bangor, North Wales, which sides nicely with the Welsh folklore tales of Arthur. In Nennius’s work, an individual who could be Arthur is described as a war-lord who won many battles against the Anglo-Saxon invaders2. Nennius’s work gives the clearest recollection of Arthur up until Geoffrey of Monmouth’s creation in the early 1100’s. In the ‘History’, Arthur is not referred to as king, but he is said to have fought twelve successful battles. Most of the whereabouts of these battles are...