From the recent Merlin TV series to the spoof Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are some of the most enduring myths in the world and they continue to fascinate us today, although historians have found it impossible to confirm whether King Arthur really existed.
The King Arthur that we know today embodies many chivalric ideals and seems to be a composite of many different myths and legends that have grown up over a thousand years.
Arthurian legend says that Arthur was the son and heir of King Uther Pendragon, and that when the king died Arthur proved his right to rule by pulling Merlin’s sword from a stone. In his kingdom of Camelot he met with his knights at a Round Table, quested after the Holy Grail and fought foes using his famous sword, Excalibur. He was mortally wounded at a battle at Camlan and his body was sent to the Isle of Avalon where he is said to be resting with his knights still, ready to awaken and fight for Britain in its hour of need – the Once and Future King.
Early written accounts of the Arthurian story appeared in 1130 in Geoffrey of Monmouth's 'History of the Kings of Britain' where he says that Merlin had the 15-year-old Arthur crowned at nearby Silchester.
The first mention of the Round Table is in Robert Wace's Roman de Brut (1155), which says that Arthur seated his knights at a round table so that all should be equal. Malory says that the round table was a wedding gift to Arthur from Guinevere's father, Leodegrance
Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur, written in 1486, tells the stories as we now know them although these stories were also explored in French medieval romance literature and have been re-explored in popular media ever since.