Sunday, 2 August 2020

The Death of William Rufus: Accident or Assassination?


On 2nd August 1100 King William II was killed while hunting in the New Forest.

William, also know as "Rufus" owing to ruddy complexion and red hair, was the third son of William the Conqueror. The eldest son Robert Curthose inherited William’s lands in Normandy, the second son Richard died in 1075 while hunting in the New Forest. The youngest son Henry was left no lands but was the only one of William’s four sons born in England.

The Death of Rufus (William II), Alexander Davis Cooper, 1866

William Rufus came to the throne in 1087; his reign witnessed the rule of one of the most unpopular Kings of England, the Anglo Saxon Chronicle described him as “harsh and severe” and “hated by almost all his people”. He was constantly at odds with his elder brother Robert across the channel and at war with the Scots and Welsh. He increased the tax burden to fund his war machine. He was often at odds with the church; relations deteriorated to such a degree that the Archbishop of Canterbury went into exile.

William Rufus was staying at Winchester, and having rejected a plea for reconciliation with the Archbishop, declared he would go hunting the next day.

The day started with news that a monk had dreamed that William Rufus would die in a hunting incident that day. William scoffed at the prophecy and carried on with his plans to go hunting. The party ventured into the New Forest, a Royal hunting ground as designated by his father William the Conqueror.

William Rufus was with Walter Tyrrell, said to be an excellent marksman. An arrow shot by Tyrrell had missed his prey and rebounded of a tree and through the chest of the Rufus. It could simply have been a genuine hunting incident but immediate events cast doubt on this.

Tyrrell immediately fled to France. Stories claim he had a blacksmith shod his horse with shoes reversed so that he could not be tracked. It seems he needn’t have wasted his time as no one set after him in pursuit. Even so, Tyrrell is said to have never returned to England.

The lifeless body of the king was left in the forest with no reports of any attempts to save him. His younger brother Henry, also hunting in the forest that day in the same royal party, immediately set off to Winchester to secure the Treasury and was crowned King of England within three days. A forest charcoal burner eventually took William’s body to Winchester in a cart where he endured a simple burial.

Some historians have speculated that the death of William Rufus was no accident but an assassination on the orders of Henry; the Rufus had never married and having no offspring had no heir to the throne. However, Henry’s dash to secure the treasury and rapid coronation may have been simply to secure the throne of England and deter any aspirations of his elder brother Robert of Normandy who was on Crusade at the time.. It seems we will never know for certain.

Yet, theories abound of course; it has even been claimed that the Rufus had been killed by a French agent as the English king was planning to invade Normandy. Henry was installed on the English throne as he had no aspirations to do so.

In a woodland clearing off the A31 road between Cadnam and Stoney Cross in Hampshire, is a metre high iron memorial erected in 1841, replacing an earlier one erected in 1745. The adjacent oak tree is said to be a descendant of the original tree that the deadly arrow deflected off and pierced the King’s lung. Nearby is an inn called the Sir Walter Tyrrell.

The Rufus Stone

The memorial is inscribed on three sides:

"Here stood the oak tree, on which an arrow shot by Sir Walter Tyrrell at a stag, glanced and struck King William the Second, surnamed Rufus, on the breast, of which he instantly died, on the second day of August, anno 1100."

"King William the Second, surnamed Rufus being slain, as before related, was laid in a cart, belonging to one Purkis, and drawn from hence, to Winchester, and buried in the Cathedral Church of that city."

"That the spot where an event so memorable might not hereafter be forgotten, the enclosed stone was set up by John Lord Delaware who had seen the tree growing in this place. This stone having been much mutilated, and the inscriptions on each of its three sides defaced. This more durable memorial with the original inscriptions was erected in the year 1841, by WM Sturges Bourne, Warden."

However, historians asserts that this is not the place where William Rufus fell. In 1530 John Leland, the antiquary to King Henry VIII, claimed that the King died at a place recorded in Domesday called Thorougham (Truham). This village was lost during the formation of the New Forest by William the Conqueror around 1079; the site is likely to be at Park Farm, Beaulieu.

Henry I was King of England from 1100 until his death in 1135. On his death civil war broke out in England due to a succession crisis. His son William had died in the White Ship disaster of 1120, bringing Henry to name his daughter (and half sister to William) Matilda as his heir. Henry’s nephew Stephen of Blois claimed the English crown and a period of conflict known as The Anarchy ensued. The war run to a stalemate, finally concluding in 1153 with agreement in the Treaty of Winchester that Matilda's eldest son Henry (Curtmantle) would succeed to the throne on the death of Stephen of Blois.

Stephen fell ill and died earlier than expected in in 1154 and Henry was crowned King Henry II of England the first Plantagenet king of England.


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Saturday, 11 July 2020

The Battle of Mount Badon

Ambrosius, Arthur and the Defence of Britain  
by Alistair Hall 
Raven Fell Limited, 2019. (Kindle Edition). 

Having a passionate interest in Arthur since childhood, some 50 years ago, author Alistair Hall set off on a historical detective trail with the aim of solving one of the greatest British historical puzzles; was King Arthur simply a legend or did he actually exist?

Alistair is convinced that Arthur was real and that his book The Battle of Mount Badon: Ambrosius, Arthur and the Defence of Britain sets out to prove it.

The front cover illustration appears to be Artorius (Clive Owen) from the awful 2004 film King Arthur directed by Antoine Fuqua, starring Owen and Keira Knightly.

We know this film was inspired by the theory, currently pushed by Linda Malcor and John Matthews the “historical advisors” to the film, that the origin of the Arthurian legend can be found in Lucius Artorius Castus a Roman officer stationed in Britain in the 2nd century apparently in command of a troop of Sarmatian cavalry, a theory rejected by most Arthurians as utter bollocks; which seems odd why the author would choose this as his book cover to entice us in?

Why the author would chose to associate his book with this film which gave a dreadful reinterpretation of Arthur as the Roman officer is not an encouraging start.

Alastair Hall tells us that in the year 2000 he began to believe that he had identified a number of locations for King Arthur’s battles. He held back for another 20 years before putting pen to paper.

Following a long discussion on the ending of Roman Britain, the centrepiece of the book is the history of Britain 430 to 470 in which Hall asserts his claim to have discovered the true identity of Arthur, but he also rewrites history and provides a new structure and chronology. But he concedes that in reality this book is about the outcome of more complex events that occurred a century before; the ending of Roman Britain.

The author's claim to prove the existence of Arthur is a bold one indeed, and his forensic research, as he calls it, suggests that the received history of the 5th century is incorrectly dated by as much as a generation since these events occurred in the North and followed the Roman evacuation. The majority of historians date the Battle of Mount Badon, accepted as a real event recorded by Gildas and Bede, to within ten years either side of 500 AD. In this book Hall moves the date of Badon back by a generation to fit his revised chronology.

He also tampers with the accepted geography to relocate the landing of Hengist and Horsa in Kent 250 miles north to the Humber instead, associating Vortimer’s last battle with Arthur’s first even though they are recorded as separate events in the Historia Brittonum. The eleven battles of the Historia Brittonum, the Arthurian campaign, immediately follow occurring mainly, Hall argues, in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire culminating in the battle of Mount Badon at Bardon Hill in c.469.

Rising up from the Vale of the Trent, Bardon Hill dominates a region known as Charnwood Forest and the M1 road passes close by its summit, at 912 feet, the highest point on this motorway. Hall admits he was attracted to this hill as the site of Arthur's greatest battle simply because of the similarity of its name to Mount Badon. Sadly the heart of this hill has been ripped out and forms a massive quarry, the high quality granite used for many miles of road building. Yet, there is no more than a late legend to link Bardon Hill with the site of Arthur’s greatest victory.

Hall claims that through the centuries the story of the early Anglo-Saxon rebellion  and war has been misunderstood and misplaced. Bede recounted a tradition that the mythical progenitors of the Jutes,  Hengist and Horsa, landed in Kent but Hall claims that they were never that far south, but in fact on the east coast of England further north in Lincolnshire.

Hall identifies Arthur as Arthwys of the Pennines, son of Mor, and accordingly locates him in Elmet and as a result of his research claims that the historicity of the Dux Bellorum will no longer be in doubt.

Unfortunately the author has been influenced by tired old sources, Britannia: A History of Roman Britain by Sheppard Frere and Roman Britain and the English Settlements by R. G. Collingwood and J. N. L. Myers. Both now outdated.

And it's never a good sign when you see The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650 by John Morris listed among the author's sources. Unfortunately the image of post-Roman Britain constructed by Morris has stuck with so many self-styled historical detectives who seek to identify Arthur’s battle sites fighting back the Anglo Saxon onslaught from the east. Modern studies of the English is moving away from the “slash and burn” rhetoric of Gildas, a model that influenced all later writers for centuries.

I didn't dislike this book but it brings nothing new to the Arthurian debate; the usual investigation into identifying the battle sites which typically commences with the ending of Roman Britain, an examination of the sources, with a typically adjusted chronology and relocated geography, on this ocassion centred around Lincoln, Doncaster and Derby, to suit the author's argument. Camboglanna is the site of the strife of Camlann, surprisingly outside the author's own locality. I was certainly not convinced by the author’s claims, he fails to present an assertive argument that Arthwys was Arthur; you need more than just a hunch that you’ve identified the real person.

After making such a grand entrance on the front cover, Artorius is not mentioned in the text at all.

At £25 for a copy, and only available from the publisher plus £3.50 delivery, this is not a cheap book. This will seriously limit the books distribution. Fortunately I downloaded a Kindle edition at a reduced price of £2.99 from Amazon.



[Read during lockdown 2020]

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Sunday, 5 July 2020

Staffordshire Hoard: The Book of the Treasure

Eleven years ago today on 5th July 2009 local metal-detector Terry Herbert started to unearth some gold objects in a recently ploughed field near Hammerwich, near Lichfield, Staffordshire. Over the next few days he uncovered over two hundred gold objects. The discovery of the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found had begun.

Herbert contacted the Staffordshire and West Midlands Portable Antiquities Scheme and Fred Johnson, landowner, gave permission for an excavation to search for more items. Finally 4,600 fragments were found consisting of more than 600 significant objects of mainly war gear, totalling around 4 kilos of gold, 1.7 kilos of silver and thousands of cloisonné garnets; there is nothing comparable in terms of content and quantity anywhere in the UK or Europe.



This historic find was called the Staffordshire Hoard and went on display at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The discovery captured the public imagination and many of us stood in huge queues to see exhibitions of the muddy Anglo Saxon gold, before the conservators began work cleaning the finds before the difficult task began of identifying these thousands of objects which would take several years to complete.

It was announced in December 2012 that another 91 items of gold and silver metalwork had been found in the same field at Hammerwich where the Staffordshire Hoard was discovered. 81 of these items were declared treasure by the coroner.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery jointly purchased The Staffordshire Hoard for £3.285 million, where it is permanently on display with regular loans to historic Mercian sites at Tamworth Castle and Lichfield Cathedral.

Except for three religious objects, the Staffordshire Hoard is mainly composed of male war gear; 80% of the objects are decorative fittings from the hilts of swords or from their scabbards. It is estimated that over a hundred weapons are represented by these fittings.

About a third of the fragments in the Staffordshire Hoard come from a very high-status helmet, a very rare find; only a very small number have been found from this period, only five other reasonably-complete Anglo-Saxon helmets are known. Over a thousand pieces were reconstructed from the original Anglo Saxon helmet that had been cut into strips and buried with the Hoard. The detail and bold, crested design indicate that the Staffordshire Hoard helmet probably worn by an important owner.

Two reconstructions of the helmet were completed in 2018, nearly 10 years since the Staffordshire Hoard was discovered, by a team of specialist combining ancient craft techniques and modern technology. These two replica helmets can be seen on display in the museums in Birmingham and Stoke.

The Reconstructed Staffordshire Hoard helmets

It seems we will never know who buried the hoard and why; most people in Anglo-Saxon society would never have had access to such items. However, we do know the objects were worn by elite warriors, ranked among the upper classes of society. Their style suggests that most of the objects in the Hoard were crafted in different places over a long time period, between 550 - 650 AD, yet assembled and buried together between 650-675 AD in a remote area, just south of the Watling Street Roman road, barely 2 miles from the remains of the old Roman settlement at Letocetum (Wall, Staffordshire), in the heart of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia.

The Welsh poem Marwnad Cynddylan (Lament for Cynddylan), a 7th century king of Powys, describes an otherwise unknown battle near Lichfield and alludes to Cynddylan’s host taking great booty. However, although the discovery of the buried gold has generated much interest in this poem, the context of the elegy in relation to the Staffordshire Hoard is yet to be determined; yet, intriguingly it is argued the poem originates from around the time of Cynddylan's death.

Anglo Saxon Treasure
Since its discovery we have awaited publication of the full story of the Staffordshire Hoard. Obviously an immense amount of work has been done since 2009 in cleaning, conservation and analysis. For example, who would have thought on discovery of those near 5,000 fragments that a third of them would comprise a rare Anglo Saxon helmet? Until recently the only literature available on the Staffordshire Hoard was a couple of booklets serving as exhibition souvenirs.


A 48 page booklet The Staffordshire Hoard by Kevin Leahy and Roger Bland was published by the British Museum shortly after the Hoard’s discovery in 2009. Then in 2014 West Midlands History published a 40 page booklet Beasts, Birds and Gods: Interpreting the Staffordshire Hoard by Chris Fern and George Speake providing tentative interpretations of the symbolism and iconography employed in the decoration of selective objects from the Hoard. Both of these slim booklets were produced to accompany the exhibitions.

Then in 2016 local man Robert Sharp, a guide at Lichfield Cathedral where a selection of objects from The Staffordshire Hoard are on display, published The Hoard and its History: Staffordshire's Secrets Revealed (Brewin Books, 2016) which tends to focus on the religious items of the Hoard and religious artwork from the 7th century onwards.

Now a new book published by the Society of Antiquaries of London tells the complete story of the Staffordshire Hoard in detail, from its discovery in Hammerwich to the reconstruction of the helmets. The Staffordshire Hoard: An Anglo-Saxon Treasure (2019) edited by Chris Fern, Tania Dickinson and Leslie Webster, containing over 600 pages written by a team of specialists in Anglo-Saxon archaeology and history, together with expert conservators, illustrated throughout with full-colour photographs, maps and explanatory drawings. But be warned this is a big book!


From the publisher:

“The Staffordshire Hoard: An Anglo-Saxon Treasure tells the story of the Staffordshire Hoard’s discovery and acquisition, and the six-year research project that pieced its fragments back together, identified its objects and explored their manufacture. Key chapters discuss the decoration and meaning of the Hoard’s intricate ornament, the techniques of Anglo-Saxon craftsmen, the religious and historical background, and hoarding practice in Britain and Europe, to place this most exceptional find in context. Finally, the text explores the impact that the find has had locally, nationally and internationally in the twenty-first century.”


Table of Contents:

Introduction

Part One: The Hoard
Chapter 1. From discovery to acquisition
Chapter 2. Characterising the objects
Chapter 3. Workshop practice
Chapter 4. The lives of objects: wear, modification, repair and damage
Chapter 5. Styles of display and revelation Style and substance
Chapter 6. Date and origin Dating the Hoard

Part Two: The Broader Context
Chapter 7. The historical context: local, regional and national
Chapter 8. The archaeological context: matters of material and social significance
Chapter 9. Hoards and hoarding
Chapter 10. What does it mean?

Part Three: Catalogue and Guide to the Digital Component


>> The Staffordshire Hoard website



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Friday, 3 July 2020

Arthur the God?

The legendary King Arthur has defied positive identification as a historical character despite the best efforts of legions of authors. Should we be looking elsewhere for him? There is no doubt that in the early Welsh tales Arthur belongs to a magical world of supernatural creatures and journeys to the Celtic Otherworld at will; does he have a place in the historical world at all?

This is the question that Richard Denham asks in his book Arthur: Shadow of a God (Blkdog Publishing, 2019), claiming to give “a fascinating overview of Britain’s lost hero and casts a light over an often-over-looked and somewhat inconvenient truth; Arthur was almost certainly not a man at all, but a god”.

Children of the Gods
I must admit I find the concept of Arthur as a god intriguing as, search as you will, there is very little evidence for a historical figure behind the legends. If Arthur was indeed a god we should expect to find him among the pantheon of Welsh gods such the Children of Llyr and the Children of Don. These deities feature in the Four Branches of the Mabinogi euhemerised as Christian Kings and Queens. The tales of the Four Branches clearly have their roots in much older fables but Arthur is notably absent.

However he does feature in the later Native British tales, such as Culhwch and Olwen (10th century?) and The Dream of Rhonabwy (12th century) included in the collection known as the Mabinogion, first compiled in the 18th century.

To scholars of the 19th century the Gaelic hero Fionn mac Cumhaill was seen as a historical figure fighting battles against foreign invaders. Yet, in early literature Fionn clearly belonged to the realm of mythology rather than to that of history.

There is now general agreement among scholars that Fionn was originally a pagan deity; indeed early references record Fionn as a descendant of Nuada Airgetlám of the Tuatha Dé Danann (the folk of the goddess Danu), deities of pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland.

The early Fionn, like Arthur before Geoffrey of Monmouth, belongs to a mythical world; did Arthur, like Fionn, have a divine origin?

I was quite eager to read what Denham unearths in searching for “The untold mythical Roots of King Arthur”.

Mist and Shadows
In setting out to reveal the obscure Celtic origins of King Arthur Denham waste no time in getting to “one of the earliest” references to him, which, he claims, comes from the Roman Province of Dalmatia (p.7). Of course here he is referring to Lucius Artorius Castus a 2nd century Roman officer briefly stationed in Britain. But this no early reference, indeed the link to the legendary King Arthur was not suggested until the 20th century.

Denham swiftly dismisses the notion of a “Dalmatian Arthur” before examining a “Sarmatian Arthur” from which the Roman historian Dio Cassius records 5,500 Sarmatian heavy cavalry were sent to Britain in AD 175 by the emperor Marcus Aurelius and literally disappeared from the archaeological record. Denham then moves on to the “Nartian Arthur”; the Narts Sagas are claimed to have influenced the Arthurian mythology and the Grail stories. Denham is so far not impressed and I’m in agreement with him.

We then move on to the ancient king of Britain Arviragus identified as Arthur by J Whitehead (Guardians of the Grail, 1959) and then the Ufologist Brinsley le Poer Trench who claimed Arthur was a generic name for a series hereditary priests (Men Among Mankind, 1962).

He’s starting to loose me now but then the relevance of the inclusion of these characters becomes apparent when Denham asks as he winds up the Prologue; "does Arthur occur everywhere, by different names and different guises, because he is not human at all?"

This then presumably sets the tone for book which one expects to be an investigation of the various claimants to be the real Arthur, ultimately leading to the conclusion of the author's argument that Arthur is a God. And so the investigation begins.

Book I examines the Dark Ages the period following the Roman withdrawal from Britain and the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. The is the classic Arthurian period in which our Hero is typically depicted as a Romano-British warlord. Denham toys with the idea of Arthur as a mercenary "like Vortigern's Hengist", who “transmogrified” over time into a king.

Denham claims many early texts refer to Arthur as a cavalry commander, which in the later Romances evolved into the Knights of the Round Table. What early texts? Denham does not reference any.

Then we're off to Armorica with Riothamus, another candidate for the legendary king before briefly examining Ambrosius Aurelianus and quoting John Morris (The Age of Arthur, 1973) who argued that what Ambrosius started [the Anglo-Saxon wars] Arthur finished.

The author briefly examines the Arthurian reference in the poem Y Gododdyn, suggesting that this Arthur was probably Artur mac Aedan of Dal Riada who died in battle with the Picts around 596.

Denham takes us through the Arthurian sources before coming to the conclusion that Arthur is an amalgamation of two gods; the horned god Cerunnos and Artio the bear goddess. No mention of any similarity with Fionn mac Cumhaill, or Arthur’s absence from the Four Branches.

Here he fails to present a persuasive argument for Arthurian links with these two deities before he departs on the next chapter, a round up of Arthurian sites. In this list he claims there are five ‘Arthur’s Quoits’ when in fact Chris Grooms lists over thirty just in Wales (The Giants of Wales: Cewri Cymru, Edwin Mellen, 1993). And this is the main problem with this book; there are a number of errors and inaccuracies which disappointingly shows the lack of research carried out on the subject:

p.6 "No doubt William of Malmesbury believed that Arthur's killing spree was accomplished with his mighty sword Excalibur".

Excalibur ultimately derives from the Welsh Caledfwlch, listed as Arthur’s sword in Culhwch and Olwen. Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain, c. 1136), Latinised the name of Arthur's sword as Caliburnus, perhaps derived from the Latin chalybs for "steel".

In the poem Conte du Graal (c.1180) Chretien de Troyes has Arthur present Gawain with the sword Escalibor. It is not until Malory, in the 15th century, that Arthur's sword is properly named as Excalibur and neither Malmesbury (died c.1143) or Geoffrey would not have known it by this name in their day.

Ok, so we all all know what the author means by Arthur’s sword, so what’s in a name, perhaps I’m just nit-picking and after all, we do all make mistakes, but this early inaccuracy sets the scene for the rest of the book and we rapidly loose confidence in the author’s argument:

p.20 "This is the Arthur of the Britons whom Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote about in the early thirteenth century...." Geoffrey actually wrote his account around 1136 and died in the mid-12th century.

p.27 Denham claims many early texts refer to Arthur as a cavalry commander, which in later Romances evolved into the Knights of the Round Table. What early texts? Denham does not reveal what these are.

pp.46-7 He states that in Culhwch and Olwen, "Arthur and Bedivere survive Camlann" along with Sandar and Morvan. When in fact there are just three survivors of Camlann recorded in Culhwch; Sande, Morvan and Cynwal Sant.

p.82 Denham writes that the "whole area around Glastonbury is criss-crossed with leylines and chalk carvings that echo signs of the zodiac in the sky overhead." Leylines maybe, but the Glastonbury zodiac is not made up of chalk figures; according to Emma Maltwood it consists of a series of mounds, paths, streams and rivers that come together to form terrestrial representations of the 12 horoscope constellations. No chalk.

p.150 lists the burial chamber Cors-y-Gedol at Talybont in Gwynedd as one of five "Arthur's Quoits littered all over Britain." Chris Grooms lists over thirty in Wales alone as stated above.

p.197 At the big reveal Denham then hints at the "Belgic god Camulos ....  a war god with the similarity of name with both Camelot and Camlann cannot be a coincidence" before claiming that "we believe" the once and future king is actually a mix of two Celtic gods; Cernunnos, the god of the hunt, and Artio, the bear goddess.

Cernunnos, the god of the hunt and of the forest, Denham associates with Arthur because "the hunt occupies so much Arthurian legend in the Welsh texts" (in Culhwch and Olwen yes) and in France the Wild Hunt is known as la Chasse Artu (Arthur's Hunt) and "Arthur himself is also known as Herne the Hunter"  (where?). I can't see the relationship myself, however, carry out your own research into Cernunnos and Herne the Hunter and explore the associations with King Arthur.

The Goddess Artio is depicted in the Muri statuette group now displayed in the Historisches Museum in Bern, Switzerland. The bronze statue shows a large bear facing a woman, perhaps the goddess in human form? The woman, or goddess, is holding a bowl of fruit in her lap, perhaps feeding the bear as a Mother of Plenty. It would appear the attributes of Artio were later absorbed into the hunter goddess Diana.

The association with Arthur appears to be based solely on the Proto-Celtic *arto which has been argued for the source of the name. However, there the similarity ends and there are no links between the goddess Artio and the Arthurian legend.

And then we get the odd notion put forward by Denham that the image that Nennius says Arthur carried on his shoulder at his eighth battle was not an image of Saint Mary at all but more probably a bearskin (p.200) without qualifying his argument. Then, on the same page, he claims that the bear goddess Artio is also linked with horses which he says brings us back to "Arthur's cavalry" and the knights of the Round Table. I’m now seeing a big grizzly bear riding a horse.

Then he claims that Ambrosius Aurelianus, Lucius Artorius Castus, Vortigern and "even the shadowy Hengist" are "all fifth and sixth century figures" (P.202). Last time I looked Lucius Artorius Castus was a 2nd century Roman officer.

We can excuse one or two errors but this account has many, which betrays how poorly researched this investigation in to the world of Arthur has been. Ultimately Denham fails in his quest to present a convincing argument for his identification of Arthur as a combination of Cernunnos and Artio, or indeed a deity at all. I really wanted to like this book, I was hoping it would bring something new to the Arthurian debate, and a negative review is never pleasant but at least it is honest.

Richard Denham is the co-author of the popular historical fiction series 'Britannia'. 


[Read during lockdown 2020]



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Saturday, 20 June 2020

The Emergence of the English

A Reconstruction from the Sources:

AD 410. The Romans, therefore, left the country [Britannnia], giving notice that they could no longer be harassed by such laborious expeditions.… No sooner were they gone, than the Picts and Scots, like worms which in the heat of mid-day come forth from their holes, hastily land again from their canoes...... they [the Britons] left their cities, abandoned the protection of the wall and dispersed themselves in flight more desperately than before. The enemy, on the other hand, pursued them with more unrelenting cruelty than before, and butchered our countrymen like sheep. [Gildas]

Again, therefore, the wretched remnant, sending to Aetius, a powerful Roman citizen, address him as follows: "To Aetius, now consul for the third time: the groans of the Britons." And again a little further thus: "The barbarians drive us to the sea; the sea throws us back on the barbarians: thus two modes of death await us, we are either slain or drowned." The Romans, however, could not assist them. [Gildas]

The British provinces were devastated by an incursion of the Saxons [The Gallic Chronicle]

Then all the councillors, together with that proud tyrant, the British king, were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them (like wolves into the sheep-fold), the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful both to God and men… [Gildas]

In the year of our Lord 449. Then the nation of the Angles, or Saxons, being invited by the aforesaid king, arrived in Britain with three long ships, and had a place assigned them to reside in by the same king, in the eastern part of the island. [Bede]

In the meantime, three vessels, exiled from Germany, arrived in Britain. They were commanded by Horsa and Hengist, brothers, and sons of Wihtgils. The Saxons were received by Vortigern four hundred and forty-seven years after the passion of Christ... [Nennius]

AD 449.  This year …… Hengest and Horsa, invited by Vortigern, king of the Britons to his assistance, landed in Britain in a place that is called Ipwinesfleet; first of all to support the Britons, but they afterwards fought against them. [ASC]

After the Saxons had continued some time in the island of Thanet, Vortigern promised to supply them with clothing and provision, on condition they would engage to fight against the enemies of his country. But the barbarians having greatly increased in number, the Britons became incapable of fulfilling their engagement. [Nennius]

At length Vortimer, the son of Vortigern, valiantly fought against Hengist, Horsa, and his people; drove them to the isle of Thanet, and thrice enclosed them with it, and beset them on the western side. The Saxons now despatched deputies to Germany to solicit large reinforcements, and an additional number of ships: having obtained these, they fought against the kings and princes of Britain, and sometimes extended their boundaries by victory, and sometimes were conquered and driven back. Four times did Vortimer valorously encounter the enemy; the first has been mentioned, the second was upon the river Darent, the third at the Ford, in their language called Epsford, though in ours Set thirgabail, there Horsa fell, and Catigern, the son of Vortigern; the fourth battle he fought, was near the stone on the shore of the Gallic sea, where the Saxons being defeated, fled to their ships. [Nennius]

AD 455 Hengest and Horsa fought at Aylesford. Horsa fell. [ASC]

…… Horsa, being afterwards slain in battle by the Britons, was buried in the eastern parts of Kent, where a monument, bearing his name, is still in existence. [Bede]

AD 457 Hengest and his son Esc fought with the Britons at Crayford. The The Britons conceded Kent, and fled to London. [ASC]

AD 465  Hengest and Esc fought with the Britons at Wippedfleet. [ASC]

AD 473 Hengest and Esc fought with the Britons and took immense booty and the Britons fled. [ASC]

AD 477.  This year came Ella to Britain, with his three sons, Cymen, and Wlenking, and Cissa, in three ships; landing at a place that is called Cymenshore.  There they slew many of the Britons; and some in flight they drove into the wood that is called Andred'sley. [ASC]

AD 488.  This year Esc succeeded to the kingdom; and was king of the men of Kent twenty-four winters. [ASC]

Those who came over were of the three most powerful nations of Germany: Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. …… From the Jutes are descended the people of Kent, and of the Isle of Wight, and those also in the province of the West Saxons who are to this day called Jutes, seated opposite to the Isle of Wight. From the Saxons, that is, the country which is now called Old Saxony, came the East Saxons, the South Saxons, and the West Saxons. From the Angles, that is, the country which is called Anglia, and which is said, from that time, to remain desert to this day, between the provinces of the Jutes and the Saxons, are descended the East Angles, the Midland Angles, Mercians, all the race of the Northumbrians, that is, of those nations that dwell on the north side of the river Humber, and the other nations of the English. [Bede]

"Three very populous nations inhabit the Island of Brittia, and one king is set over each of them. And the names of these nations are Angles, Frisians, and Britons who have the same name as the island." [Procopius]

After this the barbarians became firmly incorporated, and were assisted by foreign pagans; .... the Saxons were victorious, and ruled Britain. [Nennius]

Britain abandoned by the Romans passed into the power of the Saxons. [The Gallic Chronicle]

[The Britons] took arms under the conduct of Ambrosius Aurelianus, a modest man, who of all the Roman nation was then alone in the confusion of this troubled period by chance left alive. His parents, who for their merit were adorned with the purple, kind been slain in these same broils, and now his progeny in these our days, although shamefully degenerated from the worthiness of their ancestors, provoke to battle their cruel conquerors, and by the goodness of our Lord obtain the victory. [Gildas]

After this, sometimes our countrymen, sometimes the enemy, won the field..........until the year of the siege of Bath-hill, [Badon] when took place also the last almost, though not the least slaughter of our cruel foes, which was (as I am sure) forty-four years and one month after the landing of the Saxons..… [Gildas]

Then Arthur along with the kings of Britain fought against them in those days, but Arthur himself was the military commander ["dux bellorum"]. His first battle was at the mouth of the river which is called Glein. His second, third, fourth, and fifth battles were above another river which is called Dubglas and is in the region of Linnuis. The sixth battle was above the river which is called Bassas. The seventh battle was in the forest of Celidon, that is Cat Coit Celidon. The eighth battle was at the fortress of Guinnion, in which Arthur carried the image of holy Mary ever virgin on his shoulders; and the pagans were put to flight on that day. And through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the power of the blessed Virgin Mary his mother there was great slaughter among them. The ninth battle was waged in the City of the Legion. The tenth battle was waged on the banks of a river which is called Tribruit. The eleventh battle was fought on the mountain which is called Agnet. The twelfth battle was on Mount Badon in which there fell in one day 960 men from one charge by Arthur; and no one struck them down except Arthur himself, and in all the wars he emerged as victor. [Nennius]

AD 516.  [495 x 500] The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors. [Welsh Annals]

AD 495.  This year came two leaders into Britain, Cerdic and Cynric his son, with five ships, at a place that is called Cerdic's-ore.  And they fought with the Welsh the same day. [ASC]

AD 501.  This year Porta and his two sons, Beda and Mela, came into Britain, with two ships, at a place called Portsmouth.  They soon landed, and slew on the spot a young Briton of very high
rank. [ASC]

AD 508.  This year Cerdic and Cynric slew a British king, whose name was Natanleod, and five thousand men with him.  After this was the land named Netley, from him, as far as Charford. [ASC]

AD 514.  This year came the West-Saxons into Britain, with three ships, at the place that is called Cerdic's-ore.  And Stuff and Wihtgar fought with the Britons, and put them to flight. [ASC]

AD 519.  This year Cerdic and Cynric undertook the government of the West-Saxons [ASC]

AD 547.  This year Ida began his reign; from whom first arose the royal kindred of the Northumbrians. [ASC]

AD 596.  This year Pope Gregory sent Augustine to Britain with very many monks, to preach the word of God to the English people. [ASC]
Conventional view of the Anglo-Saxon settlements in Britain AD 400-500.
Showing Angle, Saxon, and Jute homelands based on Bede's Ecclesiastical History (Book I.15)

Summary
“The obscurity of the period which begins with the landing of the first Saxon invaders is a commonplace of history. Its details are lost, and the materials from which alone its course can be inferred are fragmentary and sometimes obscure. Nevertheless it is possible to exaggerate their incoherence. Gildas, Procopius, and the early traditions of the West Saxon court agree in suggesting that the English conquest of southern Britain was accomplished in two phases, separated by a considerable interval in the early part of the sixth century. Both Gildas and the tradition of a conquest of Wessex close to the year 500 imply that the greater part of southern England was overrun in the first phase of the war. 

“Gildas claims for the Britons a victory which gave them peace from external enemies for more than a generation, and the traditions of the West Saxons suggest that after their early advance they were thrown back to the settlements which they had founded immediately after their first landing. Procopius describes a migration of English peoples to the Continent in the first half of the century.... the Fulda tradition of a landing of Saxons from Britain at Cuxhaven in 531 indicates that these migrations had begun within a few years of the British victory recorded by Gildas. They are not mentioned by any English authority but the period within which they must have fallen coincides with a significant gap in the traditions of Wessex, Kent and Sussex.

“Finally, the West Saxon traditions imply that the second phase of the conquest began in the south immediately after the middle of the sixth century, proceeded very slowly at first, and then culminated in a twofold advance which carried the Saxons as far as the Lea towards the east and as far as as the Severn towards the west....

“But it may at least be claimed that when four independent authorities agree in suggesting a single coherent story, it is unlikely to be very far from the truth.” [Stenton]


….. And the Circus Leaves Town
And there we have the account of the English Conquest of post-Roman Britain according to the sources. We are taught this at school, it is etched on our national identity.

We believe that we speak English today because Germanic tribes invaded and took control over lowland post-Roman Britain. How did that happen? There is little evidence: not much reliable histography, and even less archaeology. There is, however, a huge amount of speculation and conjecture.

The Anglo-Saxon period, stretches from the fifth to the late eleventh century, from the Roman withdrawal to the Norman Conquest; some 650 years termed the Early Medieval Period (or Early Middle Ages). However, it is the near 200 year period from the Roman withdrawal, AD 410, to the arrival of St Augustine, AD 596, that is termed the post-Roman period, or the now unfashionable “Dark Ages”.

How post-Roman Britain became “English” in 200 years is one of the greatest enigmas of cultural history. Easy, you answer; Germanic tribes invaded the country and filled the vacuum left by the Romans. Genetic studies have argued that the Germanic immigrants completely replaced the indigenous population in the east of the country. Others argue for a smaller scale immigration of a Germanic warrior elite taking political control which lead to cultural change, perhaps amounting to just 5 - 10% of the population. Large scale Anglo-Saxon cemeteries uncovered in the south and east of the country containing Germanic grave goods including distinctive Germanic style cruciform broaches were identified as evidence of the invasion. Which forces the question: “How many migrants are needed to explain the fifth-century cultural changes marking the transition from Late Roman Britain to Early Anglo-Saxon England?”

This problem is discussed by Susan Oosthuizen in The Emergence of the English, Arc Humanities Press, 2019. At just 148 pages this is a small book but covers a huge amount of ground on an immensely significant period of British history.

Oosthuizen argues that ever since Edward Gibbon’s interpretation of the history of post-Roman Britain in the 18th century the story of the origins of the English are so well known to appear incontrovertible. Successive generations of historians accepted this view which evolved further into the mid-19th century when that great earthwork Wansdyke was seen as a frontier between Saxons and Britons marking the retreat westwards of the native population.

Oosthuizen examines the early British documentary sources. The first of these, the writings of St Patrick from the 5th century, portrays a period of continuity of Romano-British society and culture. When Patrick returns home to his father’s villa estate he does so unhindered and makes no mention of barbarians in the locality. Next is the sermon of Gildas from the early 6th century. Gildas's vision of post-Roman Britain subjected to attacks by barbarians has stuck with modern writers producing reconstructions of the time. Many fail to realise that Gildas is not writing history, indeed his chronology is garbled; he moves back and forth through time to “relate a series of divine punishments visited by God on British kings and communities who had sinned in rebelling against the Roman empire, the Roman church and Roman standards of public life.” Bede largely follows Gildas for this period but develops the origins of the English, which later would come to influence the foundation stories embedded within the Anglo Saxon Chronicle (ASC). Very early the mass migration from north-west Europe had become fact.

In discussing the archaeological evidence for groups of Germanic immigrants, Oosthuizen argues against a break in exploitation of the British landscape and no evidence of economic collapse after about 400. However, she concedes that there was substantial change in material culture.

In looking at genetics, Oosthuizen draws the readers attention to nineteen individuals buried in a cemetery at Berinsfield, Oxfordshire, between 450 and 550; “the Germanic grave-goods found with them appeared to be clear evidence of an Anglo-Saxon community.” However analysis of their teeth  showed that fifteen of these were in fact local people, three had moved to Oxfordshire from another area in Britain and just one was a European immigrant. How many other apparent Germanic cemeteries have also been incorrectly identified?

Then we come to the biggest puzzle of all; why did the people of Romano-Britain adopt the English language? In answering this Oosthuizen suggests the population of Late Roman Britain was bilingual, probably speaking a Late Roman Latin language and possibly a West Germanic dialect that had developed through many years of trade with the North Sea coastlands and may have been spoken in Eastern Britain since the Iron Age. Over time, as in most countries of the Empire, the Latin language eventually died out. It emerges that language, migration and ethnicity are not necessarily linked.

In conclusion,  Oosthuizen argues that “there is no reliable, contemporary documentary evidence from early British or continental scholars for substantive invasion, settlement, or conquest of Britain from north-west Europe in the fifth century. Material culture begins to reveal the contribution to late antique and early medieval artefacts of late Romano-British craftsmanship, technology, and artistry. Genomic research has been unable to identify the scale, period, or volume of a distinctive immigration from north-west Europe. And linguistic research begins to reveal the extent to which most people in the English lowlands could speak two or even three languages. The origins of the English language itself remain controversial. In all, the most certain evidence appears to show the stability, evolution, and adaption of late Romano-British institutions, culture, languages and society across the fifth and sixth centuries, while absorbing and evolving in response to influences from across the countries that bordered the North Sea.”

The Emergence of the English 
Susan Oosthuizen
Arc Humanities Press, 2019
Paperback, 148 pages

1. Introduction
2. What Can Reliably be said to be Known about Late Antique and Early Medieval England?
3. Ethnicity as an Explanation
4. Another Perspective

From the publisher:
“This book takes a critical approach to the assumption that the origins of the English can be found in fifth- and sixth-century immigration from north-west Europe. It begins by evaluating the primary evidence, and discussing the value of ethnicity in historical explanation. The author proposes an alternative explanatory model that sets short- and medium-term events and processes in the context of the longue durée, illustrated here through the agricultural landscape. She concludes that the origins of the English should rather be sought among late Romano-British communities, evolving, adapting, and innovating in a new, post-imperial context. Though focusing on England between the fifth and seventh centuries, this volume explores themes of universal interest--the role of immigration in cultural transformation; the importance of the landscape as a mnemonic for cultural change; and the utility of a common property rights approach as an analytical tool.”


Afterword
The so-called Arthurian battle list  (Chapter 56, Historia Brittonum, aka Nennius) is included in the above reconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon invasion as it records the wars leading up to the battle of Badon, which the author credits to Arthur. It will be noted than neither Gildas or Bede record the leader of the victorious Britons. Notably, the passage reads similar to the account of Vortimer’s battles from the same document.

Authors of popular accounts of King Arthur provide reconstructions of these battles across north, south, east, and west fighting against the advancing Anglo-Saxons. There is no reason, they argue, to reject the Arthurian battle list above any other part of this document.

However, if Oosthuizen is correct, we must now reconsider the implication of “The Emergence of the English” on the Anglo-Saxon wars; If that invasion never took place then where is your King Arthur now?


Sources:
Gildas; De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (6th Century)
Procopius, History of the Wars (early 6th Century)
Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, c. 731.
The Gallic Chronicles: The Chronicle of 511 - THEOD. II XVI [441]
Nennius: Historia Brittonum, c.829
ASC: Anglo Saxon Chronicle, 9th century
Welsh Annals (Annales Cambriae) 10th century
Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788.
Frank Stenton, Anglo Saxon England, first published 1943.
Stenton’s seminal work was a huge influence on modern day Anglo-Saxon studies. 


[Read during lockdown 2020]

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Friday, 8 May 2020

St Indract and Glastonbury

In the early 12th century the English historian William of Malmesbury was commissioned by abbot Henry of Blois to write the history of Glastonbury Abbey emphasising its early Christian past. William’s work De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie (On the Antiquity of the Church of Glaston, c.1129) claimed that Irish saints Benignus, Brigit, Columba and Indractus the martyr had visited St Patrick’s resting place at Glastonbury.

Clearly impressed with this Irish connection at Glastonbury, William mentions in his prologue to the De Antiquitate that he wrote Vitae (Lives) of Saints Patrick, Benignus and Indractus, in addition to two lives of St. Dunstan. In his Vita Dunstani (Life of St Dunstan) William reaffirmed the tradition of Patrick at Glastonbury, although in his earlier Gesta pontificum Anglorum (Deeds of the English Bishops) he appeared somewhat sceptical about Glastonbury’s claims to hold the remains of Ireland’s patron. Afterall, Glastonbury has claimed to possess a remarkable collection of relics, not least the legendary King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere.

The earliest reference to Irish pilgrims at Glastonbury is found in the Life of St Dunstan by the anonymous author known simply as “B” (995- 1005) which states that Irish peregrini flocked to Glastonbury because St Patrick is said to lie at the Abbey.

There certainly seems to have been an Irish community at Glastonbury, with many Irish saints appearing in the Abbey calendars before the 11th century, as attested by a letter dated to before 690, by Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne (d.709), in which he rebukes Heahfrith, possibly one of his pupils, for succumbing to Irish learning. Irish saints such as Brigit, Patrick and Indract were known to have been venerated at Glastonbury.

The Glastonbury Charter of St Patrick provides the names of twelve hermits said to have been inhabiting Glastonbury when Patrick arrived. The names have been compared to the names on the largest of the two ancient pyramids in the old cemetery as described by William of Malmesbury. The Charter has long been recognised as a forgery produced by the monks of Glastonbury in the late 13th century which puts much doubt on the authenticity of the names on the pyramids,


However, whether pilgrims first journeyed to Glastonbury because of the claims that St Patrick rests there, or whether the legends were a product of the Irish presence at Glastonbury remains to be answered. And yet the possibility that Patrick was indeed native to Somerset before he was abducted by Irish pirates adds further intrigue to the association with the Holy Men of the Emerald Isle.

St Benignus appears in the Glastonbury calendars from the 10th century but the association appears to be based on a confusion of identities (as is usually the case at Glastonbury). William of Malmesbury tells us that St. Benignus was born in Ireland and converted to Christianity by St. Patrick. Benignus became a disciple of St. Patrick and three years after Patrick founded the abbey at Druimlias he was appointed abbot. There Benignus remained for 20 years before becoming Bishop of Armagh. Benignus died around 468.

Yet in William's De Antiquitate Glastoniae he writes that Benignus did not die in Armagh but resigned his bishopric and left for Somerset around 460, where he lived as a hermit at Meare, barely three miles from Glastonbury. It seems the Irish community associated this man, known as Beonna, with St Benignus who had followed St Patrick to Glastonbury. In the late 11th century Beonna's relics were translated to the church at Glastonbury.

Miracles soon occurred, a sign the Saint approved of the translation, at a point midway between Meare and the Abbey where a church was built dedicated to the Saint. The relics of St Benignus (or Beonna) were moved to a shrine before the High Altar of St Marys Church at the Abbey, close to those of fellow Irish saints St Patrick and St Indract.

When William visited Glastonbury in the 1120’s, in addition a cult of St Benignus, he found the existence of cult to St Indract. William wrote a Vita Indractus but this is sadly now lost, consequently most of the information we have on St Indract comes from a Latin passio said to be based on an earlier Life written in Old English and from John of Glastonbury’s 14th century account said to be based on William’s original.

John of Glastonbury tells us that Indract was martyred during the reign of King Ine, 688-726. John writes that Indract was the son of an Irish king who journeyed on pilgrimage to Rome. On his return he pledged to visit Glastonbury to venerate the relics of St Patrick. Following a few days at Glastonbury Indract and his seven companions set off for Ireland breaking their journey at Shapwick for the night.

Some of King Ine’s men were staying nearby, including a band of wicked men led by a thegn named Huna. Thinking Indract and his companions were wealthy and carrying large amounts of money they attacked them as they slept and mutilated their bodies.

Meanwhile, when looking out over the Somerset countryside the King saw a pillar of bright light in the distance. After witnessing the same event for the next two nights he decided to investigate. On arriving at the spot he found the mutilated bodies of Indract and his companions, and Huna and his band of men who had gone mad were devouring their own flesh. King Ine brought the bodies of Indract and his companions to Glastonbury where he enshrined Indract at the north side of the High Altar at St Mary’s Church, opposite St Patrick, with his followers placed under the floor of the basilica. The body of one companion is said to have not been found, but on their feast day, 8th May, a column of light is said to emanate from his place of burial.

According to John of Glastonbury when St Hilda’s relics were gifted to Glastonbury Abbey by King Edmund the Elder they were kept in a reliquary with those of St Indract.

There is evidence suggesting that St Indract was venerated at Glastonbury at least by the early 11th-century. However, his cult, although known in Ireland, seems to have been local to Glastonbury. According to William of Malmesbury, St Indract’s martyrdom was around 710, but Irish accounts assert a date of around 854.

As with Saints Patrick and Benignus, and so many others, there again seems to be confusion with the identity of the individual claimed to rest at Glastonbury.

Michael Lapidge has argued that he is most likely to represent a 9th-century abbot of Iona named Indrechtach ua Fínnachta whom several contemporary Irish sources report as being "martyred among the English" in 854. These sources give the date of his death as 12th March, which differs from the Glastonbury tradition of 8th May.



Sources:
Michael Lapidge, The Cult of St Indract at Glastonbury in Ireland, pp.179–212, Ireland in Early Medieval Europe: studies in memory of Kathleen Hughes, editors Dorothy Whitelock, Rosamund McKitterick, David N. Dumville, Cambridge University Press, 1982.
James P Carley, Glastonbury Abbey: The Holy House at the Head of the Moors Adventurous, Gothic Image, 1996.


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Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Camelot Has Fallen

The Arthurian Legacy is the theme of the latest issue of Medieval Warfare X.1 (May/June 2020).

Warfare in Arthurian literature is explored by Danièle Cybulskie in the major article ‘The fall of Camelot’ according to writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Malory who tell the story of King Arthur’s last battle and show how warfare changed between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries.

Neither author was a stranger to warfare and their experiences clearly influenced their respective portrayals of the Arthurian Legend.

Geoffrey witnessed medieval warfare first hand and no doubt some elements of his History of the Kings of Britain (c.1138) were influenced by the early part of the civil war raging for nearly twenty years between King Stephen (reigned 1135-54) and his cousin Empress Matilda and her son Henry of Anjou (future Henry II)  for the English Crown. Indeed Robert, 1st Earl of Gloucester, illegitimate son of Henry I of England, and powerful military supporter of Matilda during The Anarchy, is recorded as patron to some versions of Geoffrey’s Historia.

The true identity of Malory has been debated for many years, however, the Thomas Malory who fought at the Siege of Calais (c.1436) during the Hundred Years War is generally considered to be the same man who wrote the Arthurian epic Le Morte d’Arthur from a prison cell during the Wars of the Roses (1455 to 1487) civil war fought between the Hose of Lancaster and the House of York. Malory was in prison for much of this period in which he switched his allegiance from York to become entangled in a Lancastrian conspiracy to overthrow King Edward IV.

The major difference between these works was that Geoffrey writing what was perceived as ‘history’ at the time; whereas Malory produced a summation of all the Arthurian literature that he could get his hands on in his prison cell to provide the ultimate tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Cybulskie traces accounts of warfare in their respective ages up to Arthur’s final battle at Camlann. Geoffrey's version of Arthur's final battle is surprisingly brief, yet Arthur is mortally wounded and taken to the Isle of Avalon to be cured of his wounds.

Malory based his tale of the fall of Camelot on the Mort Artu and the Stanzaic Morte Arthur. The dying Arthur is taken away in a barge by ladies in black hoods, his ultimate fate uncertain; does he die of his wounds or is he healed and lives on? Bedivere then wanders through a forest where he comes to a hermit who is kneeling over a freshly dug grave. The hermit reveals it is the grave of a man brought to him at midnight by ladies in black. Is this the body is of Arthur? Malory does not say.

The cover shows the mortally wounded King Arthur taken by boat to Avalon while his sword
Excalibur is returned to the Lady of the Lake as depicted in Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

If Geoffrey and Malory’s accounts of the fall of Camelot were inspired by the Arthurian literature of the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, Randall Moffett’s article 'Defending Britain in the sixth century - The historic Arthur' in the same issue steps back to the sixth century. By ‘historic’ the author considers a figure that could have rallied the beleaguered Britons after the withdrawal of the Romans and faced the onslaught of the invading Germanic tribes. Moffett considers what a historic King Arthur and his Knights would have looked like in the sixth century and discusses armour and weaponry used during the Post Roman to the Anglo Saxon period (AD 450-600).


Medieval Warfare Magazine is a publication for those interested in the military history of the Middle Ages. Published six times per year, each issue contains articles on battles, weapons, and armies, along with news and reviews.



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