You may have read in the news that archaeologists have discovered what appears to be a Dark Age, possibly 5th or 6th Century, Royal Court at Tintagel Castle. If you missed it, then you can check out this post from The Independent.
I have not seen such excitement from Tintagel since they discovered the Artognou Stone in 1998. Tintagel keeps on surprising us.
However, it seems to me that we are so desperate to connect Tintagel with King Arthur that we will do almost anything to make him fit there ~ regardless of the truth. Let's face it, Arthur is a tourist attraction, he always has been. So I can understand the excitement that English Heritage must be feeling with this discovery. However, let us be very careful not to get carried away.
Geoffrey of Monmouth was the first to make the link between Tintagel and Arthur, in his factually correct book The History of the Kings of Briton. If Monmouth story is to be believed, Tintagel was the place where Arthur was conceived and then born, which makes this castle a pretty special place. Tintagel is the beginning of Arthur’s story.
I do find the whole situation slightly bemusing. I think it is amazing what the archaeologists have discovered, and it has proven my theory that Tintagel was a pinnacle stronghold in Cornwall's Dark Age history.
I am fascinated with the history of Cornwall, and I have been for a very long time. I like to think of it as the forgotten Scotland. The Roman's dealt with their Scottish problem by building a great big wall, but they didn't have to do that with Cornwall, because Cornwall, was willing to trade. The Roman's wanted Cornwall's tin, and she was a mind to sell it to them. Apart from a few Milecastles, there is very little evidence of Roman occupation. Likewise, when the Saxon's invaded and Cerdic of Wessex started his reign of terror as he conquered one kingdom after another, Cornwell stayed strong. And not just for a couple of years but for hundreds of years. I am not surprised the archaeologists have found more evidence that Cornwall was a wealthy trading nation. But does that mean they have found the birthplace of King Arthur? I'm sorry, I'm not convinced.
Monmouth's work cannot and must not be relied on as factual evidence. Dare I say, he made half of it up. It would be nice to think that Arthur was born at Tintagel, just like it would be nice to think that Arthur is buried at Glastonbury Abbey. Recent archaeological evidence has shed light on the Glastonbury Legend. Arthur was not buried at Glastonbury, but those monks sure knew how to bring in the pilgrims, just the same way as English Heritage is doing now with Tintagel. Don't get me wrong; I am not bashing English Heritage. English Heritage does a fantastic job at preserving well, England’s heritage, and for them, Tintagle and the Arthurian Legend is a little gem. The draw to Tintagel is King Arthur. King Arthur is Tintagel. I am pleased that they have found evidence of Dark Age occupation, but I will never be convinced that this was the birthplace of Arthur.