Biography of King Arthur

King Arthur

King Arthur was a legendary king of ancient Britain.

When and Where was King Arthur Born?

In the Sixth Century AD, thought to be around 465. Said to be Tintagel, Cornwall.

Family Background:

King Arthur’s father was said to be Uther Pendragon who was thought to come from the warrior class. It is also disputed whether he existed at all and many real events are said to be woven into the one story for mythological effect. Much of the story as known today is taken from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s imaginative “Historia Regum Britanniae” which was published in 1138. i.e. many centuries later. Most of the main elements of the “Arthurian Legend” come from this book such as his father being Uther Pendragon, the existence of the wizard Merlin, his birth at Tintagel, Guinevere and the sword Excalibur. The story of Sir Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table was added to the myth in the twelfth century by the French writer Chretien de Troyes.

Education:

No formal education.

Timeline to background of King Arthur:

63 AD: Joseph of Arimathea is said to have arrived in Glastonbury, Somerset bringing with him the Holy Grail which was allegedly a cup or bowl which held the blood and sweat of the crucified body of Jesus Christ.

184 AD: The first appearance of the name Artorius in Britain. Lucius Artorius Castus was the commander of a group of Sarmatian conscripts who were stationed in Britain and who went to Gaul to put down a rebellion. One theory is that Castus’s heroic deeds in Gaul are the basis for some of the later traditions of “King Arthur”.

396 AD: Stilicho, the Roman general in charge of Britain began transferring Roman military authority to the local British chieftains.

397 AD: Stilicho beats off an attack from the Saxons, Picts and Irish.

406 AD: Most of the Roman army in Britain had by now been recalled to fight in Gaul and Italy to defend Rome and the rump of the army that was left began to mutiny. Marcus was made Emperor in Britain but was assassinated before he could take up his role.

407 AD: Constantine the Third was seen by the remaining Roman troops as Emperor but he continued to withdraw men back to the continent.

408 AD: Major attacks on Britain by the Saxons, Picts and Scots.

409 AD: Outright civil war as Britons begin expelling all Roman officials and fighting against the invaders themselves.

410 AD: Britain becomes independent of Rome for the first time.

King Arthur's Round Table
King Arthur’s Knight’s of the Round Table hanging in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle. 
This actually dates from the late Thirteenth Century in the reign of King Edward the First. (copyright Anthony Blagg)

420 AD: Britain is ruled by a series of minor local tyrants.

440 AD: Civil war again is rife as the ruling Council fails to deal effectively with invasions from the Picts.

445 AD: Vortigern becomes effective leader of Britain.

450 AD: Hengest arrives in Britain and is welcomed by Vortigern. This event is known as “The coming of the Saxons”.

457 AD: Death of Vortigern.

515 AD: Arthur is victorious at the Battle of Badon when he was said to be 45 years old. He beat Hengist to end the Saxon threat. (Note: Saxo is the latin word for stone and it is probably likely that Arthur got the sword Excalibur from a Saxon and not by drawing it out of a stone as the legend suggests.

516 AD: He was the victor at Battle of Mons Badonicus. A 9th-century Latin historical work called “The Historia Brittonum” attributed by some to Nennius, a Welsh cleric. The book outlines twelve battles that Arthur is supposed to have fought against the Saxons which culminate in the Battle of Mons Badonicus, or Mount Badon.

537 AD: King Arthur is supposedly killed at the Battle of Camlann with the Knight Mordred. Camlann is reputed to be somewhere near Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland but this is disputed and it is not clear whether the battle actually happened at all. (See Arthur Rackham’s interpretation of the Death of Arthur).

(Around 1138: The British cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain”  (“Historia Regum Britanniae”) gave King Arthur, his international fame).

When and Where Did he Die?

537 AD Battle of Camlann. (located in Cornwall according to Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 1130s somewhere near the River Camel. According to Cornish tradition it was at Slaughterbridge near Camelford, 4 miles away from Tintagel).

Age at Death:

Unknown. (possibly 62).

Marriage:

To the Lady Guinevere.

Site of Grave:

Allegedly at Glastonbury Abbey ruins, Glastonbury, Somerset, England.

Places of Interest:

CORNWALL:

Tintagel Castle (supposed realm of Merlin the Magician).
Dozmary Pool (Lake where sword Excalibur is said to have come from).
Camelford, or Sutton Mondis, site of last battle.

SOMERSET:

Cadbury Castle (supposed site of Camelot).
Glastonbury Abbey (supposed burial place).

WILTSHIRE:

Amesbury Abbey (supposed site of the death of Guinevere.