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Our shared history is filled with tales of kings and queens from a Norman conqueror to
a regal empress. Among them no British ruler is shrouded in as much mystery as King Arthur. We all
know the tales of Excalibur, Camelot and the Holy Grail. But did the fabled ruler REALLY
exist?
Richard Earl of Cornwall was the younger brother of King Henry III and one of the wealthiest
men in Europe. Around 1233 he eagerly exchanged three of his manors for a small seemingly
undesirable piece of land on the north Cornish coast. It was the island of Tintagel, a harsh
rocky headland entirely unsuitable for building on. So why was the earl of Cornwall so keen
to own it?
A century earlier in the 1130s a cleric named Geoffrey of Monmouth has written a book chronicling
2000 years of the nation's rulers. He called it the Historia Regum Britanniae or History
of the Kings of Britain. One of the tome's most remarkable tales was about a king by
the name of Uther Pendragon who fell madly in love with Igraine, the most beautiful woman
in Britain. To keep her from Uther's advances, her husband Gorlois Duke of Cornwall sent
Igraine away to Tintagel. Even two or three guards could hold this island against an entire
army. But Uther Pendragon would not be stopped so easily.
He sought the help of the prophet Merlin who gave the king a magical potion so that he
appeared to be Gorlois himself. In this disguise Uther travelled to Tintagel, fooled the guards
and won over his love. And so, says Geoffrey, King Arthur was conceived on Tintagel Island.
According to legend, Arthur was crowned king at just fifteen and went on to lead the defence
of Britain against Saxon invaders in the mid- to late- 400s, securing his place in the ranks
of heroic kings. We now know that Geoffrey's stories are mostly made up but nevertheless
they thrilled and inspired people across Medieval England, one of whom was Richard Earl of Cornwall.
Having bought the legendary landscape he set about doing what kings and earls do best.
He built a castle. Unfortunately the terrain made construction difficult. The resulting
structure was small and had no military value. The garderobes (or toilets) had to be rebuilt
several times as they kept falling into the sea. Still, Richard wanted the castle, maybe
to cement his place in the myth as a worthy successor to King Arthur or simply because
he admired him as a symbol and chivalry.
He died in 1272 and by around 1300 the castle was already crumbling in the face of the fierce
Cornish weather. But the remains can still be explored today. Many other historic places
in England are also associated with the legend of King Arthur. Carlisle Castle is thought
to be a possible locations of the Court of Camelot while Arthur's Stone in Herefordshire
supposedly marks the place where the king slew a giant. King Arthur's Round Table in
Cumbria is said to have been his jousting arena and some even thought that Stonehenge
was built by Merlin for Arthur's Uncle Aurelius as a war memorial. Many people are still drawn
to these places and especially to Tintagel.
So did King Arthur really exist? Hard evidence is lacking but one thing's for sure: thanks
to the influence of one wealthy fan, Arthur's tale remains deeply ingrained in the fabric
of Britain's past, resting somewhere between fact and fiction in the realm... of legend.
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Did King Arthur Really Exist? | Animated History

2 Folder Collection
Summer published on June 8, 2020
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