The Legends of Camelot
Legends of Camelot
The Legends and stories about Camelot create an enduring impression of a
wonderful, mystical castle and land where Knights in shining armour lived
to an honourable Code of Chivalry. The legends of Camelot are so deeply
ingrained in the myths and legends of the Britons that we often look for
evidence of exactly where, that mythical land, that was Camelot, existed.
A place now immortalised in the lyrics of the song where the climate of
Camelot was perfect all of the year, where winter and spring always
started on exactly the same day and where there was not a more congenial
spot - a land of happy endings that was Camelot! A lovely ideal but where
was Camelot supposed to have been located? Did Camelot exist? To answer
these question we must journey back in time to explore the legends and
myths of King Arthur and Camelot.
Legends of Camelot - did Camelot really exist?
Their is no historical evidence that
King Arthur existed. The Arthurian legends were based on the books written
by the clerics of the Medieval era or the Middles Ages. These legends and
myths about "the one, true King of the Britons" were used by Kings of
England to authenticate their claims to the both the Welsh and English
thrones! But there is some evidence that King
Arthur might have been based on a real person so is it therefore
unreasonable to expect that a place called Camelot also existed? The Historia Regum
Britanniae - the History of the King's of Britain was written in 1136 by
Geoffrey of Monmouth and detailed the old Kings and history dating from
the Roman era and climaxing with the reign of King Arthur. Geoffrey made
no mention of a place called Camelot. Geoffrey of Monmouth sets King
Arthur's court at Caerleon in Wales. Monmouth describes Caerleon as being
"Situated on the River Usk, not far from the
Severn Sea, in a most pleasant position, and being richer in material
wealth than other townships". So where did
the name of the place called Camelot originate?
Where did the name Camelot
The oldest known literature about King Arthur
makes no reference to Camelot by name. Camelot is first mentioned
explicitly in the romance called Lancelot written by the French poet
Chretien de Troyes between 1170 and 1185. The patroness of Chretien de
Troyes was the Countess Marie de Champagne who was the daughter of Eleanor
of Aquitaine who married King Henry II of England. The name Camelot is
mentioned as follows:"Upon a certain
Ascension Day King Arthur had come from Caerleon, and had held a very
magnificent court at Camelot as was fitting on such a day."
Chretien de Troyes mentions Caerleon, as had
Geoffrey of Monmouth, but in his work King Arthur had moved to another
court in Camelot.
Legends and Origins of Camelot - Was Camelot located in Winchester?
Was Camelot located in Winchester?
There is a massive Round Table in the Great Hall at Winchester which was
said to be King Arthur's Round Table.
Winchester was first identified as the
Camelot of legend by Sir Thomas Malory in his
"Le Morte D'Arthur" which was first printed by Caxton in 1485.
Legends and Origins of Camelot - Was Camelot located in Cornwall?
There is some speculation that Camelot
was derived from the Latin word 'Camelodunum'. Is Camelot is associated
with the River Camel in Cornwall? Or is Camelot and King Arthur associated
with Tintagel Castle? The association of King Arthur with Tintagel Castle
was thought to be another legend, another myth. All that is left of
Tintagel Castle is a ruin of a Medieval Castle built in the 12th Century.
It was believed that a small monastery previously existed on the site
which dated back to the 6th Century. However, a summer fire burned away
surfaces of earth at Tintagel revealing that nearly two hundred buildings
had previously existed on the site - not just a single monastery! A piece
of slate was also found which had a very rare inscription from the Dark
Ages dating the artefact to the late fifth century - the time that a man,
similar to King Arthur, was said to have ruled. Pottery was also found at
the site which originated in the Byzantine Empire. Tintagel was clearly an
important trading place in the Dark Ages and must also have been home to
an important person. This new information from Tintagel is intriguing -
normally evidence is found which disproves any connection between the
legend of Camelot and King Arthur - we now have evidence which possibly
links this place with a powerful King of the Dark Ages!
The Legends of Camelot - other
The term "Camelot" (Camallate) was used in 1542 by John Leland, who
identified "South Cadbyri"( Cadbury Castle in Somerset) as the setting for
King Arthur's court of Camelot. The remains of an ancient hillfort can be
found on this site at South Cadbury. The refernce to Camelot by John
Leland is as follows:
"At the very south end of the church of
South-Cadbyri standeth Camallate, sometime a famous town or castle. . .The
people can tell nothing there but that they have heard Arthur much
resorted to Camalat."
The old villages of Queen Camel and West
Camel are not far away from this site and some belive that Leland was
influenced by these local place names when making reference to 'Camallate'.
The Legends of Camelot
legends of Camelot are legion - there
are no definitive answers!