This provides a
quick ready reference to Arthurian legend.
If you can add to it, please email us.
(Right) The round table. First described in 1155 by Wace, (c. 1115 – c. 1183), an Anglo-Norman
poet, born in Jersey and brought up in mainland Normandy. He ending his career as Canon of Bayeux.
The Round Table symbolism developed over time and by the close of the 12th century it had come to
represent the chivalric order associated with the Knights of the Round Table Arthur's court,.
Chretien de Troyes wrote "The Knight of the Cart", in the late 1100s. Later, the Vulgate Cycle, a trilogy ('Lancelot Propre',
'La Queste del Saint Graal', and 'La Mort de Roi Artu'), was believed to have been compiled between 1215 and 1235 by Cistercian monks.
Sir Thomas Malory wrote his stories 300 years after Chretien de Troyes.
Raised by Vivien, the Lady of the Lake, Sir Lancelot, Lancelot of the Lake (or Launcelot du Lac) , is known as both the greatest and the worst of the knights at the court of King Arthur. His first appearance is in Chretien de Troyes "The Knight of the Cart", written in the late 1100s. In this book he is ranked lower than Sir Gawain. However, he is described as the knight who is most skilled in arms and chivalry of all the knights in Camelot. Lancelot becomes the king's champion, fighting challenges and undertaking quests in the king's name. He eventually becomes the adulterous lover of Queen Guinevere, and it is this relationship that causes Arthur's Camelot to finally end. However, there is no reference in the Welsh legends to the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere and the affair appears to be a later creation..
The Vulgate Cycle, a trilogy ('Lancelot Propre', 'La Queste del Saint Graal', and 'La Mort de Roi Artu'), believed to have been compiled between 1215 and 1235 by Cistercian monks, brings the affair to the fore. The Cycle also marks a move from verse to prose in the King Arthur legend. Lancelot falls in love with the queen when knighted by Arthur, however the affair with Guinevere does not actually become adultery until Galehaut, King of the Long Isles and Lord of Surluse, makes war on Arthur.
Sir Thomas Malory wrote his stories 300 years after Chretien de Troyes and by then, Lancelot had become more popular than Gawain, who was portrayed as bent on revenge. Malory distances Lancelot from much of the passion between the two lovers described in the Vulgate Cycle and he focuses on Lancelot success rather than his eventual failure.
Illegitimate son of Lancelot and Elaine of Corbenic, Sir Galahad is renowned for his gallantry and purity. He emerges late in the medieval Arthurian tradition, and is perhaps the knightly embodiment of Jesus in the Arthurian legends. He is sometimes called “Galeas” or “Galath”. He was a knight of the Round Table and one of the three achievers of the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend.
He first appears in the Lancelot-Grail cycle, and his story is taken up in later works such as the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.
When he reaches adulthood, Galahad is reunited with his father Sir Lancelot and Lancelot knights him. Sir Galahad was then brought to King Arthur's court at Camelot during Pentecost, in the company of a very old knight who conducts him to the Round Table where he unveiled his seat at the Siege Perilous. the Siege Perilous (also known as The Perilous Seat) was a vacant seat at the Round Table which Merlin had reserved for the knight who would one day succeed in the quest for the Holy Grail. Depending on the version of the story, this was either Perceval or Sir Galahad,. For anyone else, the seat was immeidately fatal to anyone else who sat in it.
On realizing the greatness of this new knight, Arthur leads him out to the river where a sword lies in a stone with an inscription reading “Never shall man take me hence but only he by whose side I ought to hang; and he shall be the best knight of the world.” Galahad easily accomplishes this test and King Arthur swiftly proclaims him to be the greatest knight ever. Sir Galahad is promptly invited to become a Knight of the Round Table, and soon afterwards, King Arthur's court witnesses an ethereal vision of the Holy Grail. Dalahad immediately embarks on the quest to seek out the.Grail.
Galahad usually travelled alone, smiting his enemies, rescuing Sir Percival from twenty knights and saving maidens in distress. Finally he was reunited with Sir Bors and Sir Perceval. These three knights then came across Sir Perceval’s sister Dindrane, who lead them to the grail ship. They crossed the sea and arrived on a distant shore, where Perceval’s sister is forced to die to save another. After leaving the ship, they encountered a castle with a mistress suffering from leprosy. Dindrane decided to give her own blood to the lady to heal her and died in doing so. She left directions that her body was to be set adrift in a boat (without a crew) to float to the holy city of Sarras (a mystical island to which the Holy Grail is brought in the Arthurian legend). Sir Bors left the company so that he could take her body back to her own country for a proper burial.
After many adventures, Sir Galahad and Sir Perceval found themselves at the court of King Pelles and Eliazar, his son. They were very holy men and they brought Galahad into a room where he was finally allowed to see the Holy Grail. Galahad was asked to take the vessel to the holy city of Sarras.
On his way back to Arthur’s court, Sir Galahad was visited by Joseph of Arimathea, who took his soul up to heaven. The death of Sir Galahad was witnessed by Bors and Perceval and the Holy Grail was never again seen on Earth.
Although there are many versions of Percival's birth usually he is said to be of noble birth. His father is either King Pellinore or another worthy knight. Usually his mother is unnamed but she plays a significant role in the stories. His sister is the bearer of the Holy Grail, she is sometimes named Dindrane and is sometimes claimed as the "Grail heroine". In tales where he is Pellinore's son his brothers are Sir Aglovale, Sir Lamorak and Sir Dornar, and he also has a half-brother, Sir Tor, from his father's affair with a peasant woman.
After the death of his father, Percival's mother takes him to the Welsh forests where she raises him ignorant to the ways of men until the age of fifteen. Eventually, however, a group of knights passes through his wood, and Percival is struck by their heroic bearing. Wanting to be a knight himself, the boy travels to King Arthur's court, and after proving his worthiness as a warrior he is knighted and invited to join the Knights of the Round Table.
Percival first appears in the writing of Chrétien de Troyes He later appears in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, and the now lost Perceval of Robert de Boron.
Also spelled Vortiger and Vortigen, Vortigern was a 5th-century warlord and leading ruler in Britain. He supposedly invited the Saxons to settle in Kent as mercenaries to aid him in his fight against the Picts and the Scots beyond Hadrian's Wall. However they revolted and killed his son, adding Sussex and Essex to their own kingdom. This did not improve his reputation. He was eventually remembered as one of the worst kings of the Britons. It was Bede who first called Vortigern the king of the British people.
“Old King Cole was a merry old soul
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl
And he called for his fiddlers three.
Every fiddler he had a fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he;
Oh there's none so rare, as can compare
With King Cole and his fiddlers three”
Coel also founded Colchester, while Gloiu
founded Gloucester. Strictly, Coel
should be pronounced as in the English word “coil” rather than
as in the nursery rhyme. Incidentally, the nursery rhyme inspired the making of a Royal Doulton mug crafted by Harry Fenton.
In fact there are several candidates for the
title of “Old King Cole”, both historical and mythical, and his
actual identity is disputed.
the most likely candidate is Cole Hen or Cole the Old, a figure in sub-Roman Britain.
In Welsh legend he was the leader in the Hen Ogledd or "Old North". This was the Brythonic-speaking parts of southern Scotland and northern England after the Roman withdrawal. He was believed to have ruled the whole of the north up to Hadrian's Wall. This was the territory assigned to the dux, i.e. the Roman military leader, which suggests that he was the last Roman commander, afterwards turning his command into a kingdom. In later generations it split into a number of independent kingdoms.
Believed to be the great-grandfather of Vortigern, Gloiu might be a Welsh version of the Latin name Claudius. However, the question arises whether he was a real or just an eponym of the city of Gloucester? (an eponym is the person for whom something is named, as in: "Constantine I is the eponym for Constantinople." Gloiu was the father of Guitolin, whose name can be a Welsh version of either Vitalinus or Vitalianus
Believed to be Arthur’s illegitimate son by his half-sister Morgause, otherwise known as Anna. In other traditions he was the legitimate son on Morgause by her husband King Lot of Orkney and Lothian. Mordred, in Cornish Modred, or in Welsh: Medraut or Medrod, was a traitor who fought King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann. He was killed and Arthur was fatally wounded. His brothers or half-brothers are Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, and Gareth. Gawain is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table who appears very early in the Arthurian legend's development.