Arthur who?

Arthur who might or might not have existed. We usually call him King Arthur but some say he was a war lord not a king. He might have been based at Camelot, wherever that was, and might have led the Knights of the Round Table. Now we all know who I mean – right?

Why do I say Arthur is back?

In the legends, someone prophesied that Arthur would return. He certainly has done that in fiction. Down the ages there have been books and poems about him and, from the 20th century, plenty of film and TV versions. (Nearly as bad as the Tudors – see my post.) I have just read that ITVX will soon be screening a series about Arthur called The Winter King . It is based on the book of that title and its sequels by one of my favourite authors, Bernard Cornwell.

What do I think of The Winter King?

I haven’t seen the TV version but I would probably enjoy it. However, I usually prefer a book to its TV counterpart , because a book usually explains more and allows more of the characters’ thoughts to come through. I have enjoyed the Winter King and its sequels. It created a credible background, great characters and plenty of action. There were some amusing surprises for those of us who thought we knew the story of Arthur.

How historical is it?

Bernard Cornwell places Arthur in the late 5th century, when the Romans had left Britain and the Britons were trying to push back against the Angles and Saxons coming in fairly small boats and taking the land. He is based in the Westcountry and sometimes in Wales. That fits with the best historical evidence and speculation. However, some think it possible that Camelot was Colchester and the action in the centre of what is now England, where heavy cavalry would be most effective.

Pembroke Castle. Birthplace of Henry Tudor, allegedly descended from Arthur!

Pembroke Castle. Birthplace of Henry Tudor, allegedly descended from Arthur!

Was Arthur a Christian?

In the works of my namesake, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and most subsequent writers, he is defending a Christian country from pagan invaders, but Bernard Cornwell depicts him as a pagan . Personally, I would expect a leader at that time to have been ambiguous about religion so as to gain support from both Christians and Celtic pagans. He would be similar to modern politicians in  parts of Africa where Islam and traditional religions compete with Christianity for people’s souls. It was interesting to read a novel where paganism was portrayed sympathetically. This approach certainly made Merlin a more credible character than the magician at a Christian court.