Like many others of my generation I came across King Arthur and his knights in those simplified retellings with loads of coloured illustrations. Soon, however, I could see a mismatch between the knights in shining armour and his supposed location in the immediate post-Roman period: how did Roman soldiers morph virtually overnight into paragons of chivalry?
In pursuit of this and similar conundrums I studied history at A-level, attended lectures by Barry Cunliffe at the University of Southampton, got involved in digs at South Cadbury, Somerset — a hillfort claimed as the original of Camelot — then at a nearby Roman villa,¹ followed by a long-running excavation at an early medieval church site in Wales.² I also edited an amateur journal on and off for nearly forty years exploring Arthurian history, archaeology, fiction and popular culture: Pendragon, the Journal of the Pendragon Society.³
As a result I have over the years reviewed quite a few Arthurian titles in Pendragon, several of which have already been added to my Calmgrove blog. These Arthurian books range from historical and archaeological studies to counterfactual narratives, from literary commentaries to modern fiction, from personages to places and things.
Here on Pendragonry I’m aiming to republish — updated with commentary — a selection of articles and writings (other than reviews) that appeared in Pendragon over the years. In them I intend covering three general areas: history and archaeology; myths, legends and folklore; and finally literature, the arts and popular culture. Boundaries between these three areas are naturally porous so don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of wooliness in the discussions.
This will be a good point to declare that I’m agnostic where ‘King Arthur’ is concerned. The conception of a Dark Age warlord that was prevalent and partly (but not universally) accepted in the sixties was one I subscribed to as a possibility then, but the more I study it (and I’ve been doing so for nearly 50 years) the more I’m inclined to suspect that the concept is a combination of historical fabrication, paucity of evidence and wishful thinking. That doesn’t make it any less fascinating as a process, which is my apology for continuing to pursue it!
¹ Bratton Seymour Roman villa ST 66742992
Historic England Monument No. 199624, PastScape
http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=199624#aRt. Accessed 13.01.2018
² Schlesinger, A & Walls, C, with J Kissock, C Lovegrove, K Pollard and N Wright. 1995. ‘Excavations at Llanelen, Llanrhidian: an early church and medieval farmstead site.’ Gower, 46, 58-79
• Schlesinger, A et al. 1996. ‘An early church and medieval farmstead site: excavations at Llanelen, Gower.’ Archaeological Journal,Vol. 153
³ The Pendragon Society was founded in Winchester in 1959 and dissolved in 2009, its golden jubilee year. Its journal Pendragon (ISSN 0143 8379) was published between 1965 and 2009, with a final double issue (Volume XXXVI Nos. 3-4) issued in 2010 as Pendragon Jubilee Anthology
• Edward Watson ‘Farewell Pendragon’
http://clasmerdin.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/farewell-pendragon.html. Accessed 12.01.2018