Although the ruling English attempted stamp out the Welsh language as far back as the 12th century, Arthur, Gwenhwyfar , Bedwyr and other heroes and villains associated with the Arthurian Era were readily found in any Welsh school book up to 1847. That was the year of the dark event known as the Treachery of the Blue Books where the ruling English fully sought to criminalize the use of the native tongue, the result being the obfuscating Arthur's very existence.
The blurring of Arthur is an act of cultural eradication. His memory and legacy is too strong and endures through the ages. Thus, he is either blended with other persons, real and legendary, blown up into an impossible farcical character who could not possibly have existed, or appropriated to the English (in an act of woefully sad irony given that the Saxons were the Once and Future King’s principal enemy).
Below are 7 Reasons that Arthurian Researchers and enthusiasts struggle to find him in history:
1. The Church didn’t like him
Arthur maintained a strict position of neutrality when it came to matters of personal worship and loathed ‘organized religion.’ As he refused to raise taxes or grant extraordinary powers to the Church, they propagated a campaign to render him a tyrant, and later, a myth.
2. He wasn’t an Englishman
Arthur was the Pendragon or High King of the Britons. The tribes who made Arthur their sovereign later became known as the ‘Welsh’ and they, by rights of primacy, have claim to the rulership of the Isles; and the Throne. The Monarchy, who are German, know this, and don’t like it.
3. He beheaded the brother of the chief scribe and historian
Gildas Ap Caw was the chief scribe and historian during the Arthurian era. His brother, Hueil, offended the Pendragon in such an injurious and insulting way that the Just King beheaded the rogue. Gildas, though he loved the king, hated the act and threw his notes and histories into the ocean, greatly reducing the available material on Arthur and other notable figures of the time.
Arthur and Gildas ultimately reconciled in Armagh, Ireland one year before Gildas passed away; 570 A.D.
4. An apocalyptic cataclysm destroyed much of the written and physical evidence of several cultures living at the time.
It seems that God Himself didn’t desire that much Arthurian history survive for us to easily read and enjoy today. A comet leveled Britain and Ireland circa 536 A.D, resulting in a ‘nuclear winter’ that destroyed over 2 million lives, annihilated weapons, documents, buildings and significant quantities of wildlife. This produced the ‘Waste Lands” of the Grail Legends and much history was forever lost.
5. Geoffrey of Monmouth either protects or destroys the body of Arthurian history
A Welsh cleric, Gruffudd ap Arthur who is now known as Geoffrey of Monmouth, wrote his famous History of the Kings of Britain between 1120-1150. Geoffrey moves Arthur to Conrwall and encodes much Welsh history passed down to him from bardic tradition and some now lost texts. Often viewed as a ‘pseudo-historian’, some believe that Geoffrey intentionally moved Arthur from South Wales so that the ruling Normans would not further desecrate and disrespect the Seat of the King; or worse that they would through unwanted marriages merge the Silure line with their own and misuse the legacy of Arthur for their own ill intentions.
Wether for good or for folly, Gruffudd’s work has created great difficulty in engaging the mainstream scholars on a serious hunt for the Welsh’s most famous king.
6. The Norman’s desecrated the grave of Gawaine and the Welsh took their history ‘underground’
When the Normans invaded the British Isles in the mid-11th century, they brought with them many Bretons, who were but Welsh migrants to the continent from 600-700 years before.
Wanting to extend great hospitality to their kin and celebrate their shared heroes, the Welsh showed a group of Breton pilgrims the grave of Gwalchmai, who is Gawaine in Arthurian literature.
The ruling Normans swooped in, desecrating and robbing the site.
After this, the Welsh took their history ‘underground’, further encoding and hiding it in carvings, epic poetry and carefully crafted ‘legends’ that their culture might survive.
7. Iolo Morganwg discredits himself
Iolo Morganwg has given the world tomes of Arthurian and other Welsh history, lore, theology and documented culture. Unfortunately, the Chief Bard of the 18th and early 19th century fell into a great rivalry with Northern Welsh academics. In trying to “one up them”, the eccentric historian forged some poems by the famous Daffyd ap Gwilym.
For this transgression and personal vices, the whole of Iolo’s works are discredited, most unfairly. This makes his works regarding Arthur ‘cast aside’ by the academia.
And so it is that objection to State Religion, being on the losing side of history, natural calamity, rivalry, desperate attempts to protect and preserve (and thus hide) Welsh culture and history and the very real impacts of the personal sins, errors and political machinations of relevant and important historians have made it difficult to discover and restore the very real King Arthur to his place in ‘accepted’ history.
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