“Whoso Pulleth Out This Sword of this Stone and Anvil,
is Rightwise King Born of all England”
What a romantic thought. No one can take the sword from the stone unless he is the rightful heir to the throne. It beats spending hours looking at a patent of nobility and then going to war if you don't agree with the outcome.
Arthur, the unlikely warrior, if Disney is to be believed, pulls the said sword from the stone. Yes!
Arthur is the King. Fantastic. But it gets better because Arthur is the best King in the history of Kings. He is the best King in the future of Kings. No on can be better him. This is it. He is it. Hazar!
"What right do you have to the throne of England?"
"I pulled this sword out of a stone."
"Oh, well, if that is the case..."
Arthur wasn't just a king. He was a king with a vision. Perhaps his vision was ahead of its time, or maybe it was before it. It is so confusing. He certainly wouldn't fit in nowadays, would he? Can you imagine…?
"Good man, I need a Round Table, a large one. And find me some Knights, the noble kind."
"The noble kind, Sire?"
"Yes. The kind who ride around the countryside and rescue maidens, battle dragons and do other noble things."
"Right, I'll just get on my bike then."
"You do that good man. I shall wait here in my castle that I have named Camelot."
Arthur believes in equality. He has a Round Table commissioned for goodness sake. He wants his knights to have a say in how the country is run. It is like parliament, only better, because the Knights are trying to outdo each other in chivalry. They all want to be seen as heroic and honourable. There is no corruption at Arthur's court. No backhanders. No claiming for expenses, unless it involves the Armourer because we all know how much he charges. Oh, and don't forget the livery of the horses, that comes to a pretty penny too. But apart from that...Oh hang on, we are forgetting about the Christmas parties ~ they need to be paid for. But perhaps we can get the Green Knight to pay for it this year. He did make a heck of a mess of the Hall last year with his ridiculous Beheading Game.
And so Arthur sat down with his knights. Life was perfect. There was no scandal, nothing for the Sun to get their hands on and put on the front page for everyone to read over their cup of tea at breakfast. Everyone is happy. The country is at peace. Those pesky Saxon's have been put in their place. Everything as Lego would say, "is awesome!"
Oh come on, this isn't much of a story.
Bring on the drama. Bring on the war.
Maybe Arthur's golden court is not that different after all. I mean Arthur's best friend ran off with his wife. That caused a bit of a scandal. And then there was the dramatic rescue were Lancelot rode into the courtyard like an avenging angel and rescued Guinevere from the pyre ~ as if Arthur was really going to let his wife go up in flames ~ Lancelot should have had more faith. And to make matters worse, while Arthur is away trying to restore his honour by going to war with Lancelot, his nephew, Mordred takes control of the kingdom.
That was the abbreviated and rather tongue-in-cheek version of King Arthur's life. It was the gilded version of Arthur's life. Let's be honest, the fictitious version of Arthur's life.
So how did this fantasy come about?
Arthur's story is so ingrained in the collective imagination of a nation that we believe what we are told. In fact when Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his great work in the 12th Century, his every word was taken as fact. Well, when I say that, not by all. The 12th-century historian, William of Newburgh wrote.
"…It is quite clear that everything this man wrote about Arthur and his successors, or indeed about his predecessors from Vortigern onwards, was made up, partly by himself and partly by others…"
But for the most part, Newburgh was ignored. Our ancestors liked this version of events, and you know what, so do we, whether we like to admit it or not. Arthur wouldn't be the same without his Round Table and his Knights. We want Arthur to be this formidable warrior but also a genuinely nice person. He is the best. No, he is better than best, he is...I can't think of a word...ummm...He is just awesome!