In the search for Arthur there is one Welsh cleric that we simply cannot ignore. Geoffrey Monmouth. If you have been reading my blogs, you will have seen his name come up several times. Today, I want to look at the best-seller of the medieval period, Geoffrey Monmouth The History of the Kings of Britain.
Geoffrey stated that his work was based on a lost manuscript that only he alone had been able to examine. The lost manuscript remains lost. Whether it actually ever existed in the first place is doubtful.
A great deal of what we now think we know about Arthur comes from the ideas set down in Geoffrey's texts. He makes Arthur Pendragon, son of Uther Pendragon, into a hero. There is a wise prophet called Merlin who advises the young Arthur. Arthur becomes a king so great that he can stand up to the Romans and beat them. In fact he is so great, he is almost invincible. Arthur and his knights, according to the texts, spends most of their time riding up and down the country fighting in noble battles. He is, with out a doubt, according to Geoffrey, the greatest King that Britain has ever had.
But like all good stories of Kings, there always seems to be a hornet in the nest. Modred, his own nephew, and who was at one time trusted to look after Britain while Arthur went on a quest to save some poor young unfortunate girl who had been taken captive by a Spanish giant, betrays him.
They fight...Arthur wins....they fight again...Arthur wins, but this time he is fatally wounded.
'And even the renowned King Arthur himself was mortally wounded; and being carried thence to the isle of Avallon to be cured of his wounds, he gave up the crown of Britain to his kinsman Constantine, the son of Cador, duke of Cornwall, in the five hundred and forty-second year of our Lord's incarnation.'
So there we are. We have the principle players. We also have Avalon. The legend grows.
But, Geoffrey published his work at politically sensitive time. The Welsh revolts of the 1130's had claimed that "Arthur would rise again..." I am sure King Henry, had something to say about that.
"It is hardly surprising, then, that in this climate, given Arthur's rapidly growing status as folk hero, tourist draw and political rallying cry, the establishment should try and dig him up, to hit at least two birds with one stone: prove him dead and reinvent him as a tourist event."
Michael Wood In search of England.
And so the story continues.
I'll catch you later.