King Arthur Wasn’t English

Y Gododdin Manuscript
Y Gododdin

Those French Academics! What gall to point out that King Arthur wasn’t English! I can just see the French snearing down at King Arthur from their castle as he clip-clops by with a coconut-shell laden adviser.

You can read the news article here.

At least they didn’t claim he was French. Now that would have been audacious!

So what nationality was King Arthur? This question has been given many answers over the years, with some even thinking far out thoughts that the legend is from the Samartians!

From my own study of the issues, I certainly don’t think he was English in the sense that he was Anglo-Saxon. These were the people he was repelling.

So was he Celtic? My answer is yes.

But from where is the question. As the Celtic peoples were pushed toward the margins of Britain, they were not thought of as “Cornish”, “Welsh”, or “Scottish” … they were simply different regions of what could be called a pan-Brythonic kingdom, sharing a very similar language, customs, lore, and traditions.

(This Brythonic kingdom also includes what is now Brittany, France. Hum?)

In my series, I start Arthur out in Cornwall, move him to Wales, but he will also fight battles up near Scotland. His fame will spread throughout Britain.

This, in my opinion, is why the very early Northern Brythonic poem Y Gododdin mentions him as the greatest warrior to whom you cannot compare even a man capable of killing 300 in a single battle.

If you want to read a very detailed treatise (not all of which I agree with, but very interesting) on the origins of King Arthur, take a look at The Historicity and Historicisation of Arthur written by Thomas Green, Exeter College, University of Oxford. Here he has a lot to say on the original sources, scholars, etc.

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2 thoughts on “King Arthur Wasn’t English

  • Interesting stuff, Robert. I haven’t read the historical article but it sounds like interesting reading. Having read Lawhead’s version, I think I am a little biased toward the Celtic ideas similar to what you’re putting forth. I’ve not done research but I’ll come back and look at some of your links another time.
    Thanks!

  • Dan,

    The article’s conclusions are hard to fish out, but he seems to say that there was possibly an original Arthur, but won’t commit. A true scholar with a reputation!

    Either way, he seems to have studied all the authorities and the original documents, and has some interesting thoughts about Ambrosius Aurelianus being Arthur.

    Stephen Lawhead makes Aurelianus the father of Arthur, and the brother of Uther.

    For me, I make Aurelianus the grandfather of Arthur, and father to Uther. Had to make a change there and do Uther’s character different—Lawhead did such a splendid job with it I wouldn’t dare to try that the same way.

    -Robert

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