Monday 30 January 2017

The Arthurian Place Names of Wales

In The Giants of Wales: Cewri Cymru (Edwin Mellen, 1993), Chris Grooms lists no less than thirty-one instances of 'Coetan Arthur' (Arthur's Quoit) in Wales as the name most commonly occurring amongst prehistoric cromlechs and burial chambers, with the names of the capstones making the greater part of the listing.

Pentre Ifan (Arthur's Quoit)
The Arthurian place-name clearly suggests that Arthur played quoits here, throwing the capstone from some distant hill. The word "quoit" first appears on maps in the 16th century, but no one can be sure when these prehistoric megalithic sites were first named after King Arthur.

And these do not include all the other antiquities and natural features bearing Arthurian place-names such as Arthur's Chair, Arthur's Stone, Arthur's Grave and such like.

However, the earliest recorded onomastic tale to feature topographical folklore associated with Arthur is found in the 9th century Historia Brittonum within the Harlian 3859 manuscript. Chapters 67-75 of this work contain a description of various mirabilia, or 'Marvels' of the Island of Britain.

Two of these marvels are Arthurian in context. The first is the tomb of Arthur's son Amr at  a spring called Llygad Amr in Ergyng (Ercing), modern Herefordshire.

The other is in the country called Builth, Wales. Here a heap of stones is said to bear the footprint of the warrior Arthur’s hound when he hunted Twrch Trwyth. The pile of stones is called Carn Cafal (Carn Cabal). If a stone is removed from the pile the next day it will be found back on the carn.

Carn Cabal is one of the Arthurian sites that actually traces the geography of the tale, in this instance the Boar hunt across southern Wales from Culhwch and Olwen. Many sites associated with Arthur do not necessarily represent Arthurian geography, but in Wales there is an abundance of prehistoric site associated with Arthurian traditions. Many of these can be found scattered throughout books on the prehistoric remains in Wales and the Arthurian connection is noted but rarely explored.

Now a new book gathers together for the first time ever all the place names related to King Arthur that are found within Wales. These includes the multitude of Arthur's Quoits, Arthur's Seat, Arthur's Table and so on.

The Arthurian Place Names of Wales by Scott Lloyd (UWP, 2017) promises to offers full details on the history and mythology of more than one hundred and fifty sites in Wales, drawing on sources from the 9th to the 19th century. The result is claimed as a comprehensive look at the extensive traces of the Arthurian legacy on Wales and Welsh culture.

From the Publisher:

"This new book examines all of the available source materials, dating from the ninth century to the present, that have associated Arthur with sites in Wales. The material ranges from Medieval Latin chronicles, French romances and Welsh poetry through to the earliest printed works, antiquarian notebooks, periodicals, academic publications and finally books, written by both amateur and professional historians alike, in the modern period that have made various claims about the identity of Arthur and his kingdom. All of these sources are here placed in context, with the issues of dating and authorship discussed, and their impact and influence assessed. This book also contains a gazetteer of all the sites mentioned, including those yet to be identified, and traces their Arthurian associations back to their original source."

Scott Lloyd works at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, and has served on the committee of the British Branch of the International Arthurian Society. He lives near Aberystwyth.

The Arthurian Place Names of Wales by Scott Lloyd is due to be published on 15th May, 2017 by the University of Wales Press.

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Saturday 28 January 2017

Arthur and the Kings of Britain

The historians tells us that in 409 AD the Romans withdrew from these Isles and left the Britons to fend for themselves in the face of the barbarian onslaught. Britain then entered a so-called 'Dark Age' lasting for nearly two hundred years until the Anglo Saxons took control of the island. It is during this shadowy period that the legendary King Arthur emerges from the mist to repel the invading Germanic tribes.

Historians like to construct an ordered chronology; the Celtic Iron Age ended with the arrival of the Romans. The Roman period ended in 409; The Anglo Saxon period began in 597, and so on. But in reality it's never that simple. Increasingly more historians now see the authorities in Britain rebelling against Rome, ejecting the imperial officials, and setting up their own government; an independent Britain emerged from the grasp of Roman control.

Our one British contemporary source, Gildas, tells that this was the time of the 'Proud Tyrant', which later sources identify with a man titled 'Vortigern', invited the Saxons to defend the island against attacks from the Picts and the Irish. In his 6th century De Excidio Britanniae (Concerning the Ruin of Britain) Gildas cetainly paints a dark picture of violent invasion.

In the 8th century Bede, following Gildas, provides an ‘English’ perspective in his Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People) in describing the conquest of Britain. Then, the 9th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle used foundation legends to assert the right of the English dynasties to rule over the hapless Britons.

The British story was told in the anonymous Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons), often ascribed to a certain monk named Nennius, but this document's value as a historical source is unreliable to say the least.

Thus, the available sources for the period paint a very one-sided picture; we have the Roman version and the Anglo Saxon version. What of the Briton's own story?

In the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth produced the  epic work The Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) which traced the history of the Britons from the arrival of Brutus the Trojan to Cadwallader, the last of the British kings, in the 7th century.

Geoffrey claimed that his source was "a very ancient book in the British tongue". He never named his source and the absence of such a book today has added weight to the claims that he simply invented it all.

It is obvious to even the casual reader that Geoffrey’s work contains numerous fictional tales, he writes of a world of wizards and giants, so it’s hardly surprising that, within a few years of publication serious doubt were being cast on the authenticity of his research. In 1190 William of Newburgh declared that “it is quite clear that everything this man wrote… was made up”.

Nonetheless, Geoffrey's Historia was a medieval bestseller and copies spread across the whole of western Europe, over 200 manuscripts survive from the period showing the Historia's popularity. It was regarded as 'history' for some 500 years. However, today most scholars regard Geoffrey's work as a work of fables and untrustworthy, at best a literary work of national myth. It seems then that we do not possess a reliable account of the Britons in the period between the Romans and the arrival of the Anglo Saxons.

Now in his latest book, Arthur and the Kings of Britain (Amberley Publishing, 2017) Dr Miles Russell examines Geoffrey's so-called fiction and claims the Historia actually provides a priceless insight into what life was really like for the inhabitants of Celtic Britain.

Having examined the Historia in great detail as part of Lost Voices Project, Russell claims the current negative view of the epic does Geoffrey a huge disservice and argues that the Historia is actually formed from "a mass of unrelated stories woven together to form a grand narrative" and that, once this is accepted, "it’s easier to tease out individual tales".

Russell, a senior lecturer in prehistoric and Roman archaeology at Bournemouth University, sees the key to unlocking Geoffrey’s text lies in the account of Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain, the first ‘event’ in the book that can be independently verified from other historical sources.

Julius Caesar made two expeditions to Britain in 55 and 54 BC. In his own account of his second invasion, recorded in his Gallic Wars (De Bello Gallico), there are three main players: Caesar himself; a British king called Cassivellaunus, king of the Catuvellauni; and a Roman ally named Mandubracius, king of the Trinovantes of south-eastern Britain in the 1st century BC.

Mandubracius was deposed by Cassivellaunus some time before Caesar's second expedition to Britain in 54 BC. Mandubracius fled to Gaul under the protection of Caesar. When the Romans landed Cassivellaunus led the British resistance. The Trinovantes gave Caesar the location of his fortress who then proceeded to besiege him there. Cassivellaunus was forced to surrender and Mandubracius was restored as king of the Trinovantes. (Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico 5:20, 5:22)

Geoffrey replicates these events in his Historia, but sets them down as two separate events in what appears initially as a confused jumble. In the first, he has Ilkassar (Caesar) defeated by the Briton Cassibellaun (Cassivellaunus) at the 'Battle of Dorobellum'. In the second version, Geoffrey sets Cassibellaun as the aggressor waging war upon Androgeus (Mandubracius), when he receives news that Ilkassar has landed upon the south coast. At the battle of Durobernia, Ilkassar is victorious owing to the assistance of Androgeus acting as an ally of the Romans.

Russell argues that in describing the Roman incursion, Geoffrey appears to be using two different records of the same event, written from two entirely different perspectives. In the first account, generated by supporters of the British king, Cassivellaunus is portrayed as the hero; whereas the second is written from the perspective of Mandubracius; and suddenly Geoffrey's account of Caesar's expedition becomes clear.

Russell is a regular contributor to television and radio, appearing in Time Team, Timewatch, The Seven Ages of Britain. He is one of the few living archaeologists to have excavated at Stonehenge, having lifted the turf of the bluestone circle in 2008 with Geoffrey Wainwright and Timothy Darvill.

He is the author of fourteen books, including UnRoman Britain: Exposing the Great Myth of Britannia (with Stuart Laycock) (The History Press, 2011); and Bloodline: the Celtic Kings of Roman Britain (Amberley Publishing, 2010).

In his latest book, Arthur and the Kings of Britain (Amberley Publishing) due 15th March 2017, Russell argues Geoffrey's Historia was originally compiled from a variety of genuine sources, most of them generated from what is now the south-east of England, dating the first century BC.

Far from being a single fictional epic, Russell asserts, the Historia consists of a mass of unrelated stories woven together by Geoffrey in order to form one grand narrative.

When viewed objectively, he adds, the individual tales can radically change our understanding of British history, arguing that the Historia was set down by the ancient Britons themselves; recording how they dealt with the arrival of the Romans, and subsequently the events following the ejection of Roman authority in the early 5th century AD. It is, Russell maintains, their ‘lost voice’.

Arthur and the Kings of Britain: The Historical Truth Behind the Myths, by Miles Russell is due publication 15th March 2017 by Amberley Publishing.

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Sunday 22 January 2017

Shepherd's Monument Solved – Again!

The Legend of Anson's Gold
Legend claims that around the year 1714 a Spanish nobleman, Don Juan Esteban de Ubilla took a special treasure from Northern Spain and hid it on the other side of the world. A Spanish galleon carrying treasure of gold bullion, silver ingots and rumoured to hold the treasure from Enoch's Vault from the Temple of Jerusalem, landed at Robinson Crusoe island (Mas a Tierra), part of the archipelago of Juan Fernandez off the Chilean coast in the Pacific, in 1715.

Ubilla was a member of the Spanish Military Order known as the Knights of Santiago. It is claimed that the Santiago Knights became the guardians of the Temple treasure (the Holy Grail?) after it was placed in their custody by the Templars who were fleeing from the persecution of King Philip IV of France  in 1307.

The ship's Captain-General Ubilla is said to have buried the treasure in a cave on this island. Ubilla died shortly after when a hurricane off the coast of Florida drove his ship onto a reef and he drowned along with over a thousand men of his fleet. Fortunately Ubilla is said to have transmitted directional details and a map to the English Royal Society before his death. A British expedition was then sent out to recover the treasure, known as the Treasure of Lord George Anson, or Anson's Gold.

Admiral Lord George Anson
In 1760 Cornelius Webb, an Englishman commissioned by Admiral Lord George Anson to find Ubilla's treasure, sailed out of Liverpool and arrived in Mas a Tierra in January 1761. It is said that he did indeed find Ubilla's gold, and carved the name “Anson” into the wall of the cave. Webb then left the island with the treasure but was caught in a storm which shattered the ship's mast and was forced to return to  the island. He re-buried the treasure at a secret location.

Webb sailed to Valparaiso, Chile to repair his ship but uncovered a plot in which the crew were planning to mutiny against him and take the treasure for themselves. He blew up the ship killing all hands on board and made his escape by rowing off in a small boat, being the sole survivor of the expedition. Webb sent two letters back to Anson telling him the location of the treasure but the Admiral died suddenly on 6th June 1762, some six months before the arrival of Webb's envoy and the documents were apparently lost. A third document was buried. Webb also died soon after and the whereabouts of the treasure remained a secret …..... until now.

Codes and Conspiracies 
The Shepherd's Monument at the Shugborough Estate in Staffordshire, now owned by the National Trust, had remained a mystery for nearly 300 years.  The 10 letter cryptic inscription bearing the letters D-O-U-O-S-V-A-V-V-M has defied some of the world's greatest thinkers including Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin and even the code-breakers from Bletchley Park.

Over the years theories abounded including the suggestion that  the inscription is a mysterious cipher used by the Knights Templar and their successors to point to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail. Another explanation is that the inscription is simply a private affirmation of love.

The Shugborough sculpture, set within a stone arch contains a marble bas-relief copy of Nicolas Poussin’s 1637-38 painting “Et in Arcadia Ego” (or “The Shepherds of Arcadia”) with the addition of an enigmatic 10-letter inscription beneath it, was commissioned by Thomas Anson, paid for by his brother, Admiral George Anson, and designed by the Flemish sculptor Peter Scheemakers in 1740.

Poussin painted two versions of The Shepherds of Arcadia, the original is held in the Louvre, Paris, and his earlier version, painted in 1627, is held at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. The painting shows a woman and three shepherds, two of whom are pointing to a tomb. On the tomb is carved the Latin text 'ET IN ARCADIA EGO' translated as “And in Arcadia I am…”  interpreted as referring to the true secret of Rennes-le-Château.

Et in Arcadia Ego II (Nicolas Poussin)

The Key to the Grail?
The Anson's were said to have been to have been members of secret societies and in the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (1982) Henry Lincoln, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh suggested that Poussin was a member of the Priory of Sion, a successor of the medieval Knights Templar, and that his Shepherds of Arcadia contained hidden meanings of great esoteric significance.

The Templars were famous for the capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. They become self-appointed guardians of the Temple of Jerusalem which they inhabited for some time, tunnelling underneath. The Crusades seem to be intimately linked to the Grail Romances of Arthurian legend that appeared around this time. Legend claims that the Templars were the guardians of relics recovered from the Holy Land, including the Holy Grail, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper.

Lincoln  and co drew attention to a poem from Erdeswick's Survey of Staffordshire (1844) which was read in parliament in honour of his memory when Admiral George Anson died in 1762:

“Upon that storied marble cast thine eye
The scene commands a moralising sigh
E'en in Arcadia's bless'd Elysian plains
Amidst the laughing nymphs and sportive swains
See festal joy subside, with melting grace
And pity visit the half smiling face;
Where now the dance, the lute, the nuptial feast
The passion throbbing in the lover's breast
Life's emblem here, in youth and vernal bloom
But reason's finger pointing at the tomb!” 

This stanza seems to relate unequivocally to the Shepherd's Monument at Shugborough.

The Shepherd's Monument at Shugborough

Dan Brown's bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) cleverly weaved together many of these themes, particularly from The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, asserting that the Grail was a Holy bloodline descending from Jesus.

Never slow to miss an opportunity for attracting attention and visitor numbers, the following year, the Shugborough Estate launched a promotional campaign asserting a connection between Shugborough, and in particular the Shepherd's Monument inscription, and the location of the Holy Grail.

Now, after a decade of research author George Edmunds claims to have finally unlocked the meaning of the mysterious cipher carved into the famous Shepherd's Monument. And it might just reveal the location of the Holy Grail.

Anson's Grail
 A retired engineer from Weymouth, Edmunds previous book exposed the so-called Captain Kidd's Charts as a convincing hoax. Edmunds has studied Admiral Lord George Anson, second son of William Anson, of Shugborough, for the last ten years and claims the inscription on the Shepherd's Monument is linked to the treasure hidden by the Spanish Captain-General Ubilla. Without doubt, Lord Anson's large fortune was amassed from foreign gold.

Anson, one of Britain’s foremost admirals is favourably compared with Francis Drake after leading a fleet on a circumnavigation voyage in the 1740s, in which he captured the Spanish bullion ship Nuestra Señora de Cavadonga. 

The Capture of the Spanish Galleon 'Nuestra Señora de Covadonga', 20 April 1743
(John Cleveley, the younger, 1756 - Shugborough Estate collection)

A month after England had declared war on Spain the highly regarded Anson was selected to lead an expedition to attack Spanish holdings in the Pacific Ocean. In September 1740 Anson's ships sailed from England under orders to raid and plunder the Pacific coast of South America, attacking Panama and with the intention of capturing the annual galleon which carried treasure and goods between Mexico and the Philippines. In 1741 Anson is known to have stopped off at Juan Fernandez  in his ship HMS Centurion.

Anson succeeded in capturing the Manila treasure galleon 'Nuestra Señora de Covadonga' on its voyage from Acapulco in June 1743. The amount of treasure was enormous, said to value about £500,000. He arrived back at Portsmouth in June 1744, to receive wide acclaim and great personal wealth; no doubt some of the booty was used to enhance the Anson's ancestral home at Shugborough. It was around this time that the Shepherd's Monument was commissioned.

Edmunds argues that Anson’s elevated position as First Lord of the Admiralty during the Seven Years' War gave him access to state secrets from which he learnt of the Spanish treasure. In 1760 he launched a secret expedition to search for Ubilla's treasure but died before its recovery.

The Shepherd's Code
In his latest book 'Anson’s Gold and the Secrets to Captain Kidd’s Charts' Edmunds claims that decoding the Shepherd's Monument cipher proves Lord Anson's involvement in the search for the treasure explaining that this is why the Shepherd's Monument was constructed.
George Edmunds at Shugborough

Edmunds claims that the cipher contains the co-ordinates to the location of the Spanish treasure, consisting of more than 160 chests of gold, silver, and possibly even the relics from the Temple of Jerusalem, buried on a remote island in the south Pacific ocean, and he believes it is still there.

The trail for Ubilla's treasure goes cold after the death of Anson and Webb. However, in the 1950s an Italian Jorge di Giorgio heard about the Legend of Anson's Gold. He contacted a Chilean friend living in England named Tita Diaz who visited the Anson family home at Shugborough. Diaz is said to have found some old letters written in code in an old writing desk at Shugborough Hall.

Girogio could not make head nor tail of the letters but his mother Angelica Lyon was an expert in cryptograms and interpreted the letters as referring to the “Horseshoe Expedition” led by Captain Webb on the Unicorn, specifically sent by Lord Anson to the South Seas in 1760.

The letter states that, “adverse circumstances forced me [Webb] to bury the property of the crown in a new place and blow up the ship.” A piece of paper attached to this letter claimed it “arrived from Chile six months after my Lord [Anson] passed away.”

The second document referred to “the map of the bay 'Pascoy'  with many lines; one indicating a point on the coast where the answer can be found.” Written in the corner, “This map arrived from Chile fifteen months after my Lord passed away.

A third document refers to “Altitude Schuba I Depth Yellow Stone 1.

Giorgio was convinced that the second document referred to the place the directional instructions for finding the treasure where hidden. He was convinced it was Horcon to the north of Quintero. Realising he needed more funds to carry out the exploration he formed a Company with his friend Louis Cousino.

Cousino went out at night to search the beaches of Horcon. He eventually found a box containing a document written in the same key as the Shugborough letters found by Diaz. Again Angela Lyon de-coded the text. It was written by Cornelius Webb Captain of the Unicorn, and only survivor of the Horseshoe Expedition. Webb detailed the treasure, consisting of 864 bags of gold, 200 bars of gold, 21 barrels of precious stones and jewels, a gilded trunk and 160 chests of gold and silver coins which he transferred, providing longitude and latitude, to a new hiding place, seemingly 15 feet below a great yellow stone.

Giorgio and Cousino assembled a team to carry out a search on Juan Fernandez island. After finding nothing they returned to the mainland empty handed in 1952. Forty years later a wealthy American named Bernard Keiser began a search of the island for the so-called Anson's Gold but after a seven year investigation also failed to find the treasure.

 Keiser was looking in the wrong place, claims Edmunds, because he had made a fundamental translation error of the Latin in looking for the 'yellow rock' when this was in fact a reference to a significant star in a constellation for the second bearing. Edmunds and his then business partner offered to exchange information with Keiser but the American declined.

Edmunds believes that the so-called Anson's Gold will not be found on Juan Fernandez island, as the “horseshoe” (expedition) refers to another island in the Pacific where Webb relocated Ubilla's treasure; the co-ordinates given on the Shepherd's Monument at Shugborough.

Further reading:
Anson's Gold: and the Secret to Captain Kidd's Charts 
by George Edmunds
Filament Publishing, 2016

The Story of Admiral Lord Anson's Treasure

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Monday 16 January 2017

Unravelling King Arthur

The Real King Arthur Thrice Discovered: Book III
2016 saw the publication of three Arthurian books claiming to have identified the legendary King Arthur: Pennine Dragon by Simon Keegan (New Haven, 2016); The Lost Tomb of King Arthur by Graham Phillips (Bear & Co, 2016); King Arthur: Unravelling the Mystery by Chris Barber (Pen & Sword, 2016). Whereas Keegan's book is his first venture, the last two works claim to be the summation of a life times study of the Arthurian legend by the respective authors.

There are many differences in the two accounts by Graham Phillips and Chris Barber; what is the avid reader of Arthuriana to make of all these conflicting theories? Here I focus on just three significant deviations: the character identified as Arthur; the location of Camlann; the location of Arthur's tomb.

Tracking the Bear
Much of Graham Phillips's latest book, The Lost Tomb of King Arthur, recaps on the self-acclaimed historical detective's earlier book 'King Arthur: The True Story' written with Martin Keatman (Century, 1992) in which he identified Owain Ddantgwyn as the man himself, with the Roman city at Wroxeter his Camelot.

In King Arthur: The True Story Phillips identifies Arthur (The Bear) as the battle-title of Owain Ddantgwyn based on the 'Denunciation of the Five Princes' contained in Chapters 28-36 of De Excidio Britanniae (The Ruin Of Britain) a 6th century text by Gildas. Phillip's theory has not received wide acceptance by any means as Ddantgwyn appears as a minor king of Rhos in the Gwynedd genealogies, not Powys.

In his latest work Phillips maintains the identification with Owain Ddantgwyn but provides additional conjecture on the battle of Camlann and the location of Arthur's tomb. His argument for the location of Camlann is based on the native British tale 'The Dream of Rhonabwy' (Breudwyt Rhonabwy) found in the Red Book of Hergest and included in  Lady Charlotte Guest's Mabinogion collection. Phillips claims that Rhonabwy's Dream reveals the location of the Battle of Camlann.

When Rhonabwy falls alseep on the yellow ox-skin he finds himself at Maes Argyngroeg (the plain near Welshpool, today named 'Gungrog') riding towards Rhyd-y-groes on the Hafren (the river Severn) and meets a rider named 'Iddog Cordd Prydain’, meaning the ‘Agitator of Britain’, for his role as messenger at the battle of Camlann. In the dream, Camlann happened in the past; Iddawg explains that he did seven years penance at Y Lech Las in Prydain (The Grey Rock in Pictland) for sending hostile messages between Arthur and Medraut (the Welsh name for the Cornish Mordred).

Rhonabwy's Dream actually details the build up to the battle of Badon, not Camlann, where a huge host is gathering at the crossing of the river Severn. The sequence of the Dream is indeed the reverse to the traditional chronology with Camlann occurring before Badon; time appears to be running backwards (see: Edgar Slotkin, “The Fabula, Story, and Text of Breuddwyd Rhonabwy”, CMCS 18, Winter, 1989).

In King Arthur: The True Story, Phillips and Keatman wrote of the Iron Age earthworks known as 'The Berth', near Baschurch in Shropshire as a potential burial place of King Arthur. Now he returns to The Berth with details of archaeological surveys carried out at the site since publication of that book in 1992 and locates a probable warriors grave; hence the title of the book.

Wroxeter Roman city (Viroconium) - Phillips's Camelot
The Wrekin in the distance (Dinlle Wrecon in Canu Heledd)

The Lost Tomb of King Arthur?
The main theme of Phillips's latest book is the apparent identification of King Arthur's lost tomb as in the title. Phillips argues he has identified the Churches of Bassa (Eglwyssau Bassa) as the Iron Age earthwork known as The Berth in Shropshire from the Welsh cycle of poems known as Canu Heledd, is the the resting place of the kings of Powys and Owain Ddantgwyn (his King Arthur).

Attracted to the site by claims that in 1925 archaeologist Lilly Chitty came across a local legend that claimed a prince was buried at The Berth with his men nearby. However, archaeological investigation at The Berth has been very limited. Phillips now provides further information following surveys of the site with ground penetrating radar in 1995 and 2011.

The Berth consists of two circular earthworks connected by a gravel causeway, linked by a further causeway to the hill at Birchgrove to the south. In Arthur's time the two earthworks would have been surrounded by a large lake which today survives as the much reduced Berth Pool. In 1906 a large bronze cauldron dating to the 1st century AD was found at the pool, suggestive of votive offerings in the lake. Scans through the waters of Berth Pool revealed indications of numerous metal objects below the mud at the bottom. Phillips was hopeful he might recover Arthur's famous sword Excalibur but conditions were too poor to allow a thorough investigation of the lake bed.

One significant groundscan revealed a strong resistance, possibly the iron boss of a shield. Phillips wonders could this be the grave of a warrior with shield; is this the lost tomb of Arthur? Phillips concedes that this is probably a Powysian king, such as Cynddylan, the main subject of Canu Heledd. If this grave belongs to a king of Powys, where then is the grave of Owain Ddantgwyn, King Arthur?

On his website Phillips adds what should have been included as an appendix to his book. He states that in some versions of the legend of King Arthur he is taken to an island, but others record that he was brought back to shore for burial in a chapel. The groundscans at The Berth revealed the potential sites of several chapels, hence,  the plural name the Churches of Bassa (Eglwyssau Bassa).

At Birchgrove, at the end of  The Berth's southern causeway, a chapel was demolished when they built the  modern B4397 road in the 1930s. During the demolition a gravestone was found bearing the Latin inscription "HIC" which Phillips contends was probably part of the words 'HIC IACET' which translate as ‘Here Lies...’.

This site, where the B4397 crosses the line of the southern causeway at Birchgrove, Phillips suggests could be the site of a chapel where the tarmac was laid over. This, he argues, could be the site of King Arthur's lost tomb. We will only know for certain if he obtains permission to dig up the road.

We now come to the claimed third identification of the real King Arthur.

Arthur of Gwent
In 'Journey to Avalon' (1997) Chris Barber and David Pykitt identify the legendary King Arthur with Athrwys ap Meurig, a petty king of Gwent and Glamorgan in 7th Century Wales, outlived by his father. This identification is questionable as the late date is inconsistent with the historical Arthur of the Battle of Badon which is normally dated between 495 - 500 AD.

To get around this chronological obstacle Barber & Pykitt, following Blackett & Wilson (Artorius Rex Discovered, 1986), argue that Athrwys was the REAL King Arthur by pushing his lifetime back to the traditional Arthurian period in the early 6th century.

In King Arthur: Unravelling the Mystery Barber maintains this identification and argues that as a young warrior Athrwys may have made quite an impression and it is quite conceivable that many stories associated with King Arthur in south-east Wales actually refer to Athrwys. One notable association is King Arthur's link with Caerleon (City of the Legions) deep in the heart of King Athrwys' kingdom, which, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, was one of his major courts.

Barber tells us that Medraut's family had a residence on the Llŷn Peninsula, North Wales. According to the Welsh Triads, Medraut's father Cawdraf was one of Arthur's three counsellors. He is said to have been buried at the church he founded at Abererch which became known as Llan Gawrda. About a mile north of this church is a large boulder called Cadair Cawdraf which seems to preserve a memory of him.

Further evidence for the association of Camlan with the North Wales peninsula is found with Cynwyl, named as one of the survivors of Arthur's final battle, as the patron saint of Penrhos near Lannor on Llŷn.

Barber has Arthur land his army at a small harbour known as Porth Cadlan (Battle-place Harbour) on the Llŷn Peninsula. In Journey to Avalon Barber argues for the battle of Camlann being fought here at Cadlan. In King Arthur: Unravelling the Mystery he revises his opinion on the strength of Geoffrey of Monmouth's account stating that the battlefield was three days from the point of disembarkation and now opts for a location in Wales bearing the very name of the battle of Camlan(n).

The memory of Camlann is found in Welsh tradition free of influence from Geoffrey of Monmouth. Between Dinas Mawddwy and Mallwyd, near the border between Powys and Gwynedd, we find 'Camlan isaf', 'Bron Camlan' (lower and upper Camlan respectively), 'Bryn Cleifion' (hill of the wounded) and 'Maes y Camlann' (the field of Camlan).  Anyone visiting this location cannot fail to be moved by this desolate valley and the voices of the ancient warriors carried on the wind.

Again following Geoffrey, Barber claims that Medraut was killed at Camlann and Arthur was mortally wounded. Geoffrey states that Arthur was taken to the island of Avalon to be healed of his wounds and handed the crown of Britain to his cousin Constantine. Barber sees this as an act of abdication. Arthur's disappearance after the battle of Camlann is one of the great mysteries of the legend.

Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlii)
Barber solution to this mystery is to claim that Arthur was taken to Bardsey Island off the western tip of the Llŷn peninsula. Here he was healed of his wounds before sailing to Brittany where he became known as St Armel. Barber argues that this was the same fate of his grandfather Tewdrig, who abdicated and then became known as St Tewdrig.

Armel is a combination of the words 'Arz' (Bear) and 'Mael' (Prince). There are several churches dedicated to him in Brittany. The wounded Arthur, or Arzur as he is called locally, arrived at Plouarzel on a silver bier, a few kilometres inland from where he landed with his companions at Lyonesse. At Ploermel (Plou-Armel), once known as Lann Arthmael, a 15th century stained-glass window tells the story of St Armel arriving from Britain with his company, subduing a dragon, and finally his death at around 80 years of age.

It is not known for certain, writes Barber, where St Armel died but he dates it to the year 562 AD. It is probable that he died at Ploermel and his body was taken to St Armel-des-Boschaux for burial. Indeed, the church at St Armel-des-Boschaux displays a stone sarcophagus which claims to have once contained the saint's bones. Some relics seem to have been kept at Ploermel where the cranium was retained and later the lower jaw was obtained. Other relics are claimed by Plouharnel and Chateau-Revand.

Silhouettes and Shadows
How can these accounts of the life and death of Arthur be so widely different?

The simplest answer is that the Arthurian legend contains many elements that can be found in the accounts of various historical characters such as Athrwys ap Meurig of south-east Wales (Arthur of Gwent),  Arthwys ap Mor (Arthur of the Pennines), and possibly even Owain Ddantgwyn , but although there are similarities in the names of many contenders none contains all the elements of the legend in one place and not one is actually named ARTHUR.

Copyright © 2017 Edward Watson

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