My Arthur Inspiration
By Tim Walker
Okay, I’m being slightly mischievous here – my Author Inspiration has morphed into My Arthur Inspiration. In fact, in setting out to write my Fifth-century historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages, I had more of an Arthur problem than inspiration to address. Here it is: I wanted to write a believable alternative-history of life in Britannia in the immediate years after the Romans abandoned their province, but the Arthurian legend gets in the way.
410 AD is the accepted date for the final separation from Rome, and is therefore a real historical fixing point. What happens next is the subject of conjecture as little evidence survives, apart from a few brief mentions of ‘turbulent times’ by monks Nennius and Gildas who mention high kings Vortigern and Ambrosius Aurelianus by name, but with scant reference to an Arthur (apart from by Welsh chroniclers). This is the problem – the Arthurian legend, as finally laid out in detail by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of Britain, written around 1136, stands squarely in the way of my planned alt-history. Did Geoffrey have sight of a missing text when writing about Uther Pendragon and King Arthur, or did his imagination run wild? This remains a source of debate with Historians.
Further investigation gives a less murky picture of a possible ‘Arthur’ – a king or ‘leader of battles’ - who came after the two kings mentioned above, whom some historians believe was real enough to have fought and died at the Battle of Camlann around the year 515. So, my Arthur problem is this – assuming Geoffrey’s account is credible, and his lineage of Fifth century kings is valid, then Arthur would have been born around the year 470, and became king at the age of fifteen (as Geoffrey says) in, say, 485. Therefore, he would have been 45 years old when he died in battle. Reasonable enough?
So, now I have my timeline and Geoffrey’s narrative to build my story around:
410 Romans leave, Archbishop Guithelin appeals to the Christian King Aldrien of Brittany to come and claim the island as his kingdom.
411 Aldrien is too busy and sends his brother, Constantine, with a small force.
Constantine is accepted by a council of tribal leaders and becomes king.
420 Constantine is murdered on the orders of Vortigern, a sly noble.
Vortigern becomes high king and invites Saxons to fight in his army.
440 Constantine’s sons, Aurelius and Uther return to Britain with an army.
They defeat Vortigern in battle and Aurelius becomes king, taking the name ‘Ambrosius’ (The Divine One). He unifies the tribal chiefs.
467 Ambrosius is poisoned and his brother, Uther, succeeds him.
Uther’s son, Arthur, is raised in secret by Merlin.
485 The teenage Arthur becomes king following Uther’s death.
Over three books I’ve attempted to tell this story (or ‘sell’ this story), with some embellishments, as an account of a lost period in our history – The (early) Dark Ages. What really happened? Will we ever find out? Until we do, it remains in the realm of myths and legend.
Whether I have succeeded in de-mystifying Uther Pendragon and King Arthur by presenting them as ‘real’ historical figures in the context of a constructed alt-history, is for my readers to judge. If it wasn’t them, then it was other, similar, leaders - it is a safe assumption that the Britons did organise themselves in defence of their island against the slow colonisation of Angles, Saxons and Jutes over the ensuing three hundred years.
This is my contribution to the Arthurian legend debate – to give credence to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account and attempt to present his kings as believable historical characters.
Tim Walker is an independent author based in Windsor, UK. Tim’s background is in marketing, journalism, editing and publications management. He began writing an historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages (set in the Fifth Century), in 2015, starting with a novella set at the time the Romans left Britain – Abandoned. This was followed in 2017 with a novel – Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, and the third installment, Uther’s Destiny, has just been released in March 2018.
His creative writing journey began in July 2015 with the publication of a book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales. In 2016 his first novel, a futuristic/dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn was exposed on the Amazon Scout programme prior to publication. Both titles were re-launched with revised content, new covers and in print-on-demand paperback format in December 2016.
In January 2017 his first children’s book, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, co-written with his 12-year-old daughter, Cathy, was published. In September 2017 he published a second collection of short stories – Postcards from London.
Tim loves to hear from readers, you can find him: Website Newsletter Amazon Author Page Facebook Twitter
In the year 467 AD Britannia is in shock at the murder of charismatic High King, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and looks to his brother and successor, Uther, to continue his work in leading the resistance to barbarian invaders. Uther’s destiny as a warrior king seems set until his world is turned on its head when his burning desire to possess the beautiful Ygerne leads to conflict. Could the fate of his kingdom hang in the balance as a consequence?
Court healer and schemer, Merlyn, sees an opportunity in Uther’s lustful obsession to fulfil the prophetic visions that guide him. He is encouraged on his mission by druids who align their desire for a return to ancient ways with his urge to protect the one destined to save the Britons from invaders and lead them to a time of peace and prosperity. Merlyn must use his wisdom and guile to thwart the machinations of an enemy intent on foiling his plans.
Meanwhile, Saxon chiefs Octa and Ælla have their own plans for seizing the island of Britannia and forging a new colony of Germanic tribes. Can Uther rise above his family problems and raise an army to oppose them?
Book three in A Light in the Dark Ages series, Uther’s Destiny is an historical fiction novel set in the Fifth Century - a time of myths and legends that builds to the greatest legend of all – King Arthur and his knights.
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The History of the Kings of Britain is a fabulous retelling of the the Arthurian story. Is there any truth in it? As you said, that is always up for debate. Personally, I think a lot of what is in Monmouth's book derives from folklore. A book I found really interesting, especially if you want to take a more in-depth look into Nennius account of Arthur is 'The Complete King Arthur: Many Faces, One Hero' By John Matthews & Caitlín Matthews.ReplyDelete
Thanks Mary Anne, I shall take a look. There are so many Arthur opinions and perspectives - the case for a Scottish Arthur is well argued by Alistair Moffat in 'Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms'ReplyDelete