So the legendary King Arthur is once more in the news. Channel 4 is putting out a big budget drama called ‘Camelot.’ It is only the latest in a long long line of King Arthur movies and TV series; there has even been a musical, and all of them, thanks to Geoffrey of Monmouth for a start, pure fiction. One film got closer to the truth in placing him in Roman Britain but even that was a hundred years out of date.
He most definitely was not a fifth or sixth century Romano-Celtic warrior resisting Anglo-Saxon settlement; he was a Welsh chieftain by the name of Arivagu, or ‘The Great bear,’ son of Cunobelinis, (Cymbeline) grandson of King Llyr, (Lear) Roman name – Caractacus. His bother was Togodumnus. Uther Pendragon as his father is, like the sword in the stone, the lady in the lake, Camelot, the round table and Avalon, romantic myth. Scroll through any list of the kings of England and you will find no Arthur.
Google and the internet are truly amazing. Bits and pieces of my autobiography ‘No Official Umbrella’ keep popping up all over in the most unexpected places. I was no longer sure if I was spelling Arivagu right so I looked it up on Google and what did I find? An extract from the book so,if you’re really interested in finding out who I believe was the real King Arthur look up Arivagu on Google and you will read the extract from ‘No Official Umbrella.’ Alternatively I said all this I find in my Blog of October 1, 2008, also on Google.
Another king who has a hold on the British imagination, a real one this time, King John, and not for being a hero but ostensibly for being a died in the wool villain. (All down to Shakespeare?) A new film about King John further underlines history's judgment of the medieval English monarch as a cruel tyrant. But among the dozens of bad kings and despots, why is John always the pantomime villain? Depictions on television, stage and big screen, particularly in Robin Hood films, usually present a man who is treacherous and weak.
King John’s reign has been characterized by disaster and his reputation languishes among the lowest for all the kings and queens of England. Born in Oxford, in 1166 he was the youngest of the four sons of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, nicknamed Lackland because he had no obvious inheritance. His brother Richard, known as the Lionheart, became king and named his nephew Arthur as his heir. John tried unsuccessfully while Richard was still alive to seize the throne and on Richard’s death he did become king. An interesting sideline here: it was during the siege of the castle of Chalus in France that the king received an arrow in the neck that also penetrated his chest and he died of gangrene at the age of 41 but, before he died, he had the archer brought to his bedside, gave him a hundred shillings and set him free. The archer’s name was Betran and despite the king’s pardon he was flayed alive before being hanged. Interesting times.