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First Story of the Week

TIDBITS® INVESTIGATES THE

KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE

This week, Tidbits journeys to Camelot to gather information about King Arthur and his legendary Knights of the Round Table.

  • Fact or fiction? Was Arthur an actual king during Medieval Times? No actual historical or archaeological evidence of King Arthur exists. According to Great Britain mythology, he was a King of the Sub-Roman Britain who courageously defended his kingdom from the Anglo-Saxons. According to one legend, Arthur became king of the Britons when he pulled a sword out of a stone.
  • Some believe that the mythical king was based on a late fifth-century leader named Ambrosius Aurelianus, the second son of the Emperor Constantine. Others maintain that Arthur had his origins in Arthnou, Prince of Tintagel, who ruled Cornwall in the sixth century.
  • Folklore asserts that Arthur was magically conceived by the wizard Merlin, rising up out of the waves of Merlin’s bay, floating to his protector. Other traditions claim that Arthur’s father was King Uther Pendragon and his mother, Lady Igraine, Duchess of Cornwall, who died in childbirth. Shortly after the death of his father, Arthur was sent to live with a knight named Ector.
  • Why a round table? King Arthur maintained that no one, not even the King himself, could sit at the head of a round table, solidifying the concept of equality among the Knights. Arthur ordered the table constructed in response to an argument among the Knights as to who was greater. The round table deemed all equal.
  • Those who aspired to be one of Arthur’s Knights followed a strict code of chivalry, the bases of which were honor, honesty, valor, and loyalty. The rules to be followed included defending the weak with all one’s might, never to attack another Knight, to be willing to lay down one’s life for the safety of one’s country, and to practice religion diligently. In addition, Knights were never to commit treason against the country or King, and always give mercy to the one who asks for mercy.
  • There are differing opinions as to exactly how many Knights belonged to the brotherhood. Some say 50, others 60, still others claim 250. The numbers vary from 13 to as high as 1600. A large round wooden table can be found in the Great Hall of England’s Winchester Castle, engraved with 24 names. Made of 121 pieces of oak and measuring 18 feet across, the table is nearly 3 inches thick and weighs almost 1.25 tons. Although reputed to have been King Arthur’s round table, the date of construction has been narrowed down to 1250 to 1280, during the reign of King Edward I. It’s likely that the table was constructed for a Middle Ages festival called Round Tables, featuring events such as jousting, dancing, and feasting, perhaps in imitation of the legendary Arthur and his band.
  • One seat at the table was kept free for the one who would find the Holy Grail. The seat was known as the “Siege Perilous,” or “dangerous chair,” and was reserved for those with a pure heart who had committed no crimes and done no wrong. According to legend, anyone who sat in the chair without a pure heart would suffer instant death.
  • Those Knights tasked with finding the Holy Grail were known as Red Cross Knights. Believed to be the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper and the symbol of “divine grace,” the Grail was said to have magical healing properties, and was hidden in a mysterious castle guarded by the Fisher King. Arthurian folklore claims that Sir Galahad, the Round Table’s greatest warrior, was the one who finally retrieved the cup. Upon his return, Galahad reportedly sat in the empty seat at the Round Table. In addition, Galahad pulled a sword from a block of crystalline stone floating in the moat surrounding King Arthur’s castle.
  • Galahad was the son of Sir Lancelot and Elaine of Corbenic. Lancelot du Lac, or Lancelot of the Lake, as he was called, was Arthur’s closest companion and the greatest swordsman and jouster of the kingdom. After the death of his father, Lancelot was raised by the Lady of the Lake, a mystical enchantress who lives in a lake surround the island of Avalon. Although Lancelot was Arthur’s most trusted knight, that quickly changed when Lancelot fell in love with the King’s wife, Queen Guinevere.
  • Some literature states that the Lady gifted King Arthur with his magical sword Excalibur. Other tales claim that the wizard Merlin took the sword from the Lady to give to Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon. After being mortally wounded, Uther thrust Excalibur into a stone, exclaiming, “Nobody shall wield Excalibur, but me!” Merlin followed up with, “He who draws the sword from the stone, he shall be King,” a feat notably accomplished by Arthur.
  • Sir Gawain, a nephew of King Arthur was noted for his courtesy, compassion, and humility. Having been baptized by a miracle-working holy man, Gawain was gifted with great strength each day at noon, which had been the hour of his baptism. His strength decreased as the day went on. Gawain also possessed great knowledge of herbs and herbal medicine, making him a great healer.
  • Sir Percival, who retrieved Excalibur from a band of mischievous fairies, is also noted as one of the three Knights, along with Sir Galahad and Bors the Younger, to witness the wonders of the Holy Grail. Bors was known as an absolutely fearless knight, having once slain three dragons with a slash of his sword.
  • Other notable knights include Sir Dagonet, King Arthur’s jester, Sir Tegyr who acted as the King’s cup-bearer, and Arthur’s foster brother, Sir Kay.
  • Guinevere’s tragic alliance with Lancelot led to a battle between those who followed the King and Lancelot’s allies, which eventually brought an end to Arthur’s kingdom. Arthur’s son Mordred seized the kingdom, killing seven of Arthur’s most loyal Knights. In the final battle, Arthur killed Mordred with Excalibur. However, the King died from wounds received during his final duel with Mordred. As the Knights returned from battle, they threw Excalibur back into the lake, returning it to its roots.
  • Scientific analysis of the round table at Winchester Castle shows that a painting of a king was added to the table around 1522, a likeness that shows a remarkable resemblance to King Henry VIII, who was King of England from 1509 to 1547. The Tudor lineage has claimed actual descent from King Arthur.
“Zest” by Ron Ross | Monday, June 29th, 2020

“Zest”

Zest! Now there’s a word you don’t hear very often! It’s a fun word to use, but it’s tough to work it into a conversation. When we see a toddler dash across the living room babbling happy noises all the way, we don’t comment, “Wow! That kid has zest,” even though he does.

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