Friday 1 March 2019

Join Historical Fiction author, Tim Walker, as he searches for the real Arthur. Tim is also sharing an excerpt of his fabulous #NewRelease — Arthur Dux Bellorum #Arthurian #History @timwalker1666

In Search of the Real Arthur

By Tim Walker

Many readers will be familiar with the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the round table, his court at Camelot, the ill-fated love affair between his queen, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot, and the search for the Holy Grail. These romantic and chivalric embellishments were added by various writers in the Middle Ages to a less glamorous King Arthur in a story first told by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his History of the Kings of Britain in 1136 AD. The effects of these additions to an already fantastical tale is to leave the impression that King Arthur is a made-up character, invented to fill the black hole in British history known as the Dark Ages (specifically, the late fifth and sixth centuries).

The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail, bÉvrard d'Espinques (c. 1475)

However, Geoffrey did not invent Arthur. There are earlier sources, mainly from Welsh literature, who mention a valiant military leader named Artur, Arthur (or Artorius in Latin) who may or may not have been a king. Undoubtedly, one of Geoffrey’s main sources would have been Nennius, the first compiler of early British history, in his work, Historia Brittonum (The History of the Britons c. 820 AD).

Historian Miles Russell in Arthur and the Kings of Britain (2018), describes this work as, “a structurally irregular mix of chronicle, genealogical table, legend, biography, bardic praise poems, itinerary and folklore.” It is Nennius who gives us our first tantalising glimpse of a ‘real’ Arthur in the listing of his twelve battles. Nennius tells us, “Arthur fought... together with the kings of the Britons and he was Dux Bellorum.” He describes Arthur as a Dux Bellorum (a leader of battles), who leads the combined armies of the kings of Britain against their enemies, primarily the Angles and Saxons. Some interpret this to mean that Arthur was not a king, just a hired military commander. Others argue that Nennius assumes the reader knows that Arthur is one of the kings of Britain and that as Dux Bellorum, he was first amongst equals.
Miles Russell is of the opinion that Geoffrey originated the legend of King Arthur by taking the name of a real character in Welsh folklore and then deliberately constructing a Dark Ages superhero by piling on his shoulders the deeds of earlier heroic Briton leaders. This was perhaps done to satisfy his sponsors. It was a record of history they would welcome, the story of a Briton hero who fought against the unpopular Saxons whom they had recently defeated. His story of a busy and destructive Arthur fuelled the imaginations of later writers, who further embellished the legend and imbued him with the more romantic and chivalrous qualities of the day.

Arthur defeats the Saxons in a 19th-century picture by John Cassell.

Whilst researching my new novel, Arthur, Dux Bellorum, I came across an article by historian David Nash Ford ( who speculates on the locations of the twelve battles of Arthur as outlined by Nennius. Ford suggests that Arthur’s first five battles could have taken place in the modern English county of Lincolnshire. He then places other battles further north in Yorkshire/Northumberland and has a further two, possibly three, battles in Scotland. These locations may or may not be correct, but they suited my storytelling, as I send Arthur and his comrades on a journey north, finally arriving at one of the many Roman forts on Hadrian’s Wall. From his base on the Great Roman Wall, Arthur sallies northwards, fighting northern tribes at three locations in Southern Scotland.
I think it perfectly achievable that he could cover such distance (some historians have suggested the spread of locations is too wide) – travelling by horseback on Roman roads. It is a mere three hundred miles from Winchester, where the story begins, to Newcastle, at the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall. He had plenty of time, as my story covers roughly a ten-year period, taking Arthur from late teens to late twenties. There is scope for a second book that takes Arthur southwards to the English Midlands and Wales for more adventures and to complete Nennius’s battle list.
There are other problems with Nennius’s list. For one, he mentions Badon Hill, most likely a battle associated with an earlier king such as Aurelius Ambrosius (or, as in my previous book, Uther Pendragon). Also, he doesn’t mention Arthur’s final battle, Camlann, mentioned by earlier Welsh sources and included in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s story.

The Death of Arthur by John Garrick (1862), depicting a boat arriving to take Arthur to Avalon after the Battle of Camlann.

My description of Arthur is partly based on the picture I chose for the book cover (‘Arthur Dux Bellorum’ by Gordon Napier). I was instantly drawn to this superb work of art when I recognised one element of Nennius’s scant description of Arthur: “The eighth battle was in Guinnion fort, and in it Arthur carried the image of the holy Mary, the everlasting Virgin, on his shield and the heathen were put to flight on that day, and there was a great slaughter upon them, through the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the holy Virgin Mary, his mother.” The artist had clearly been inspired by this description in his portrayal of the young leader. Yes, Nennius was a Christian monk who was clearly keen to portray Arthur as a Christian leader fighting the pagan Saxons and Picts – a theme reflected in my storytelling.
What really happened in the late fifth and early sixth centuries? Perhaps one day a lost manuscript will be found, or archaeologists will uncover a definitive battle site or evidence of Arthur’s fortress (almost certainly not called Camelot) or his burial site (almost certainly not Glastonbury Abbey). A recent theory by historian Graham Phillips in his book, The Lost Tomb of King Arthur, makes the intriguing case for the location of Arthur’s kingdom, his final battle and burial place, to be in Powys, central Wales.
His entertaining, if tenuous, case hangs on the possibility that ‘The Bear’ or ‘ur Arth’ was a title given to the kings of Powys, and one particular king was the Arthur of legend. There are still plenty of ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ in his extensively researched and passionately-argued case, but perhaps the most lasting impression is his enthusiasm for the search and deep commitment to the task of uncovering the definitive lost history of Arthur.

Arthur Dux Bellorum

by Tim Walker

From the ruins of post-Roman Britain, a warrior arises to unite a troubled land.

Britain in the late Fifth Century is a troubled place – riven with tribal infighting and beset by invaders in search of plunder and settlement. King Uther is dead, and his daughter, Morgana, seizes the crown for her infant son, Mordred. Merlyn’s attempt to present Arthur as the true son and heir of Uther is scorned, and the bewildered teenager finds himself in prison. Here our story begins…

Arthur finds friends in unexpected quarters and together they flee. Travelling through a fractured landscape of tribal conflict and suspicion, they attempt to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, whilst keeping a wary eye on Saxon invaders menacing the shoreline. Arthur’s reputation as a fearsome warrior grows as he learns the harsh lessons needed to survive and acquire the skills of a dux bellorum, a lord of war.

Tim Walker’s Arthur Dux Bellorum is a fresh look at the Arthurian legend, combining myth, history and gripping battle scenes. Although in a series, it can be read as a standalone novel.

Fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Mathew Harffy will enjoy Walker’s A Light in the Dark Ages series and its newest addition – Arthur Dux Bellorum.

Excerpt from Arthur Dux Bellorum

MERLYN LED HIS gang through the streets of sleeping Venta, beneath the glow of a pale moon. He glanced about for any signs of movement before rounding a corner, where he came face-to-face with a large, growling dog, its bared teeth and arched back indicating a readiness to strike. He held an arm up to indicate his followers should stop and dropped to eye level with the dog. He whispered in a soothing tone and slowly pulled a piece of roasted boar skin from inside his tunic and offered it. The dog approached, sniffing. Merlyn carefully patted its head and was relieved to see its tail wagging. “Come on,” he urged his followers, allowing the dog to tag along beside him.

They avoided a watchman’s tower at the corner of the wooden stockage that housed the royal buildings, and lined up in the shadow of a warehouse opposite the doorway to the kitchen. Merlyn checked both ways and studied the parapet above the wooden barrier across the street before running across to the door. He rapped the code and waited for a response. Sure enough, he heard bolts being withdrawn and he stood back, gripping his staff in both hands, ready to strike.

Morgaise’s face peered out from under a hood and he smiled with relief. “Come quickly,” she whispered. “The guards are drunk and sleeping.”

Merlyn waved for his men to follow and then entered the compound. Once all eight were inside, Varden, their leader, detailed one man to watch the doorway and two others to scout the yard and be in readiness to cover their escape.

Merlyn turned to Morgaise and asked, “Do you know where the sword of Ambrosius is?”

“The one Artorius pulled from the stone? Yes, it hangs on the wall in the Great Hall, behind the throne and under Mordred’s banner.”

When Varden returned to his side, Merlyn conveyed this information in a whisper. With a nod from Merlyn, Morgaise led them into the kitchen and out into a passageway that connected the hall to the sleeping quarters. She met Anne halfway along the narrow hallway, who indicated they should take a left turn. At the top of a circular stairwell Anne whispered to Merlyn, “At the bottom you will find the jailor sleeping on a wooden bed, but the night watchman is awake. He has the keys to the cells.”

Merlyn nodded. “Anne shall lead us down and Morgaise shall remain here to keep a look out and wait for our return. Varden will go to the hall and get the sword.”

“No,” Morgaise whispered, “the hunting hounds sleep in there by the hearth. They will attack him.”

Varden and Merlyn were confounded by this information. “Barking and snarling hounds would wake the guards,” Merlyn said, deep in thought.

“I sometimes feed the hounds,” Morgaise hissed. “They know me. Let me go there with a plate of meat from the larder and pick the sword on my way out.”

“Will they attack you in the dark?” Varden asked.

“Not if they smell the meats on offer,” she replied.

“Then let us try it,” Merlyn said, not wishing to delay further. “Varden will stand by the door with two men, ready to come to your aid if the hounds are restless,” Merlyn added.

Morgaise led Varden back to the kitchen to raid the larder for joints, whilst Merlyn and the rest of the men descended the stairs behind Anne. At the foot of the stairwell was a chamber lit by a solitary torch glowing from a bracket on the stone wall. To their right was a wooden bed on which slept the large form of Ahern, the jailor, snoring on his back. Anne crept forward towards the row of cells and bumped into a startled watchman, holding a lantern in which the candle had died.

“Oy, what are you doing here?” he growled. Merlyn and his companions shrunk back into the shadows, leaving Anne to answer him.

“I… followed my cat down the steps. Have you seen him?”

“No, I have not…” was all he managed in reply as Merlyn stepped forward and banged his head with the ball at the end of his wooden staff. The young gaoler fell to the floor, unconscious, and they checked whether the sleeping man had been disturbed by the clatter of the lamp on the floor. Ahern grunted and rolled over, facing the wall. Anne picked up the keys from the stricken man and passed them to Merlyn. They moved cautiously down a flight of a dozen steps to a tunnel lined with locked doors. A burning torch fixed to the wall lighted their way. Anne plucked it from its sconce…

Tim Walker
Tim Walker is an independent author based in Windsor, UK. His background is in marketing, journalism, editing and publications management. He began writing an historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages (set in Fifth Century Britain), in 2015, starting with Abandoned, set at the time the Romans left Britain. This was extensively revised and re-launched as a second edition in 2018.
Book two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, was published in 2017 and the third installment, Uther’s Destiny, was published in March 2018 (winner of One Stop Fiction book of the month award, April 2018). The adventure continues from March 2019 in the fourth book, Arthur, Dux Bellorum.
His creative writing journey began in July 2015 with the publication of a book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales. In September 2017 he published a second collection of short stories – Postcards from London. These stories combine his love of history with his experiences of living in London and various Thames Valley towns.

In 2016 he published his first novel, a dystopian political thriller, Devil Gate Dawn, following exposure through the Amazon Scout programme. In 2017 he published his first children’s book, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, co-written with his 12-year-old daughter, Cathy, followed In 2018 by a second adventure, Charly & The Superheroes.

Connect with Tim: WebsiteNewsletter sign-upFacebookTwitterAmazon Author Page.


  1. Arthur has always intrigued me, Tim, there are so many different theories about who he was and where he operated. I think your take on his life is plausible and exciting... and until that missing manuscript turns up, the truth will never be known! Congratulations and good luck with your new release.


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