Dates of Reign
No two sources seem to agree as to the date of Arthur’s reign. The following facts are noted:
- Gildas places the battle of Badon at around 500. He does not name the British leader, but if it was Arthur, than Arthur flourished at this time. It is uncertain whether, in history, the battle of Badon marked the beginning or end of Arthur’s career.
- Nennius places the arrival of the Saxons in King Vortigern’s Britain in 428. Arthur’s activities seem to lie between 440 and 460.
- The Annales Cambriae put Arthur’s victory at Badon at 516 and his death at Camlann at 537. These dates seem late.
- The Legenda Sancti Goeznovii places Arthur’s activities in the 460s or 470s.
- Henry of Huntingdon puts Arthur’s twelve battles against the Saxons between 527 and 530. Again, this seems late.
- The Chronicle of Saint Michael’s Mount, a Breton document likely written in the twelfth century, says that Arthur was king in 421. This date is probably too early.
- Geoffrey of Monmouth has Arthur ruling in Britain while Emperor Leo I reigns in Constantinople. Leo held the throne between 457 and 474. However, Geoffrey gives the date of Arthur’s death as 542. Modern scholars believe that Geoffrey made a calculation error and meant to put Arthur’s death at 470. Other chronicles were to continue to report Arthur’s death at 542, however.
- The Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal places the beginning of the Grail Quest at about 475, and Malory ups this by four years.
- The English Short Metrical Chronicle puts Arthur’s reign during the time of Pope Eleutherius in Rome (c. 175). This of course is far too early. Later, however, the Chronicle dates Arthur’s coronation at 560, which is almost certainly too late.
- The Italian La Tavola Ritonda says that Arthur died in 399, but previously said that the Grail Quest began in about the same year.
- The English ballad “The Legend of King Arthur” places Arthur’s reign between 490 and 512.
- Riothamus, who may be Arthur under a different name, reportedly went to Gaul in 468 and was defeated by the Visigoths in 469 or 470.
Dates and Survival
The date of Arthur’s death is given by Geoffrey as AD 542. Malory places his life in the fifth century. Geoffrey Ashe puts forward the argument that Arthur is, at least to some extent, to be identified with the historical Celtic king Riothamus. If this is so, he would have flourished in the fifth century. It is not impossible that the legendary Arthur is a composite of a number of persons so called, living at diffirent times.
Arthur’s survival after death was believed in by many Britons who awaited his return. He was thought to have journeyed to Avalon (a Celtic paradise) or to be lying asleep in a cave somewhere, awaiting arousal.
The finding of his possible grave at Glastonbury did not extinguish these beliefs.
King Arthur’s Family and Retainers
King Constans of England
Igerne (Igraine) (or Eigyr in Welsh). In Wolfram’s Parzival, his mother is named Arnive.
Ambrosius, Ardan, Constans, David, Gweir, Gweir False Valor, Gweir Servant of Birds, Gweir White Shaft, Gwrfoddw the Old, Llygadrudd Emys, Maine, Pendragon, Yttra
Enfeidas and Goleuddydd
Ector (not de Maris)
Wifes and Lovers
Angellica, Countess of Orofoise’s Sister, Dollallolla, Emmeline, Gamile, Gilaneier, Grey-Hammed Lady, Guenevere, Gwenhwyfar, Inogen Lady of the Blonde Hair, Lisanor (Lyzianor), Margawse
Adeluf III, Amr, Aristes, Art Aionfhear, Arthur the Less, Borre (Bohort), Garnot, Gwydre, Ilinot, Llacheu, Loholt, Mordred, Morgan the Black, Patrick the Red, Tom a’Lincoln
Gyneth and Huncamunca
Black Knight, Fairy Knight, Melehan
Acheflour, Albagia, Anna, Anthonje, Belisent, Blasine, Brimesent, Clarine, Elaine of Tintagil, Felice, Morgan le Fay, Morgause, Olimpia, Orchades, Sangive, and Seife
Cador, Gormant, and Madawg
Bagdemagus, Borel, Constantine, Culhwch, Helis, Hoel of Brittany (also an ally), Illtud, Ither of Gaheveiz, Lady of Cabrion, Laris, Leonce, Lidoine, Mark, Mordred, Richard
King Lot (m. Margawse); King Nentres (m. Elaine); King Uriens (m. Morgan)
Agravain, Beacurs, Borel, Constantine, Gaheris, Galescalain (Galeshin), Gareth, Gawain, Gwidon, Hoel, Lancelot, Meleranz, Mordred, Perceval, Tristan, Yvain
Clarissant, Cundrie, Elaine, Elyabel, Itonje, Lore, Soredamors
Kings Ban and Bors, Carbarecotins, Archbishop of Canterbury
Damsel of the Marches, Lady of Nohaut
No effort has been made to include all of Arthur’s allies and liege subjects on this list.