Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Where Was Camelot?


Author and Speaker Janalyn Voigt
Escape into creative worlds of fiction.
St. Michael's Tower on Glastonbury Tor overlooks flatlands. Some believe it was once the Arthurian Isle of Avalon.
Courtesy of Donnylad [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ah, Camelot! The legendary home of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and the Knights of the Round Table inspires our imaginations today. Whether (and where) it existed remains a hotly contested topic. 

The first mention of Camelot occurred in Chr├ętien de Troyes' poem "Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart," written around 1177, with a passing reference to Arthur coming from Caerleon in Wales, his usual seat, to hold court there. The name, Camelot usurped Caerleon in 13th-century French romances such as the Lancelot-Grail and the Post-Vulgate Cycle, although many details remained the same. It wasn’t until Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d'Arthur,” based on the earlier French romances, appeared in the late 15th-century that Camelot came into its own.

Mallory placed Camelot in Winchester, a Northampton town, and indeed a Round Table hangs in Winchester Castle. Although an interesting artifact, it is not the original. King Henry VIII commissioned this table in 1522 in honor of a state visit of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The table features the names of Arthur’s knights and King Henry, himself, in Arthur’s seat below a Tudor rose.

Winchester Castle Great Hall and Winchester Round Table,
Courtesy of Graham Horn [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Arthurian scholar Ernst Brugger thought that ‘Camelot’ might be a corruption of ‘Camlann,’ the site of Arthur’s final battle against Mordred and a Pictish army. The location of this battle is not known, however theories exist. 

Another Arthurian scholar, Roger Sherman Loomis, thought ‘Camelot’ to be a corruption of ‘Avalon.’ The Isle of Avalon is first mentioned in “Historia Regum Britanniae” (‘The History of the Kings of Britain”) by Geoffrey of Monmouth (circa 1136). Glastonbury became associated with Avalon in 1191 when monks at the abbey claimed to have located the graves of King Arthur and Queen. These remains were moved and lost during the Reformation, and scholars suspect they were not genuine.
Could this be the grave of King Arthur?
Courtesy of Harvey Robinson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the best claims comes from Cadbury Castle, an iron-age hill fort that was reoccupied and rebuilt by someone who was probably a king of great wealth during the Arthurian era. Read why this location has my vote in Cadbury Castle: Location of Camelot? 

I’ve barely scraped the surface of possible locations for Camelot. The list goes on. In reality, we may never know for certain whether Camelot, or King Arthur himself, actually existed. For most of us, that’s not important. Arthur, Guinevere, the Knights of the Roundd Table, and Camelot live in our imaginations and belong to us all. As Arthurian scholar Norris J. Lacy so aptly put it, "Camelot, located no where in particular, can be anywhere."

About the Author


Escape into creative worlds of fiction with Janalyn Voigt, an author whose unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates breathtaking fictional worlds for readers.

Beginning with DawnSinger, Janalyn's epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries readers into a land only imagined in dreams.

Janalyn is represented by Sarah Joy Freese of Wordserve Literary. Her memberships include ACFW and NCWA. When she's not writing, she loves to discover worlds of adventure in the great outdoors with her family.

16 comments:

  1. I love old stories like this. I like to think Arthur really lived.

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  2. I loved the tales of King Arthur and his court. The idea of Camelot being anywhere is a good one. I like to believe the old legends are true and that gallant knights like Lancelot really lived.

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  3. I loved the tales of King Arthur and his court. The idea of Camelot being anywhere is a good one. I like to believe the old legends are true and that gallant knights like Lancelot really lived.

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  4. Love this post, Janalyn! I saw a stage production of Camelot in Cincinnati with Richard Harris a long time ago. The fire alarm went off accidentally during a scene with Guenivere and Lancelot. Lance improvised saying, "When I look at you I hear bells ringing." Great fun and the alarm was quickly quieted.The location of Camelot at Cadbury Castle has my vote too.

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  5. I always assumed that Camelot was fictional, like the legend of Arthur and his knights. But a few years ago, I read that for a period of time, several kings were given the title of Arthur tacked onto their actual name. If that's the case, then one would think there was also a location in keeping with the title.

    Thanks for the interesting post, Janalyn.

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    1. That's true, Anita. Arthur became a title, which expands the possibilities.

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  6. Ah, Camelot! Just saying the word conjures up the music I heard when I saw the movie with Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave. I'm sure there was such a place - why else would there be such a legend? "Don't let it be forgot / That once there was a spot / For one brief shining moment / That was known as Camelot!" Thanks for taking down this wonderful rabbit trail today, Janalyn!

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    1. I'm in love with Camelot, too, Marilyn. It was a lot of fun to write this article.

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  7. Ah, Camelot! Just saying the word conjures up the music I heard when I saw the movie with Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave. I'm sure there was such a place - why else would there be such a legend? "Don't let it be forgot / That once there was a spot / For one brief shining moment / That was known as Camelot!" Thanks for taking down this wonderful rabbit trail today, Janalyn!

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  8. Fascinating post. I've always been fascinated by the Knights & Arthur ... even wrote a paper in high school that I still have comparing 3 of the Arthur books. The photos in your post make me want to visit those sites myself!

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    1. I have the same impulse. We could travel together, I think, with such similar tastes.

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  9. Interesting perspectives on an intriguing topic! Cadbury Castle has my vote too!

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    1. Hi, Janet. I'll be writing more posts on Arthurian topics in the future.

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