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As a historian I have been planning a post to challenge the claims of a Satan Hunter called Matt Taylor of Brighton about King Arthur. Matt Taylor is a well known fool who promotes narratives that Satanists eat and rape babies, hence his Satan Hunter tag. Taylor also is known for his obsession with King Arthur, and in some of his social media refers to himself as King Arthur II. Taylor wants the people of Brighton to vote him in as a Member of Parliament with the promise of gaining private and public investment for a film studios and theme park based on King Arthur. Like everything that Matt Taylor promotes his historical argument for promoting his vanity project is dubious, making claims without evidence or knowing what he is talking about.
Before I make comment on the ten claims Matthew Taylor makes about King Arthur in the linked blog post, I want to just mention that there is no evidence that King Arthur had any connection to Brighton. Taking into account major sources such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Annales Cambriae, by the time King Arthur arrives on the scene in the 490’s Brighton area was in the control of the Saxons. By 470 all but two of the Roman shore forts had fallen to the Saxons: those in East Anglia and Kent. On either side of Brighton on the South Coast of Britain the two remaining Roman shore forts fell to the Saxons: Pevensey (490) and Portsmouth (501). For some twenty years King Arthur was fighting the Irish and Picts in the North, Wales and Cornwall, and was only ready to take on a major alliance of Saxons and British elements in a showdown at the Battle of Badon (Bath area) in 519. Neither Arthur or any Romano-British leader would ever reconquer East Anglia, Kent or the Brighton area from the Saxons. The victory of Arthur at Badon only halted the advance of the Saxons for a generation, it did not roll back the Saxon conquests and kick them out of Britain. Matt Taylor would have been better off promoting the Charles Dickens connection to Brighton rather than an unevidenced claim involving King Arthur.
Claim: “There was more than one King Arthur”
Writers and bards only claim there was one Arthur, who probably lived between 450 and 550. Sources might say that a leader was like Arthur, but none who was compared to Arthur ever matched him in changing the fortunes of the Romano-British. The Romano-British leaders that followed from King Arthur were all mostly betrayed and murdered by their fellows, and their impact on the fortunes of the Romano-British was limited and short-lived.
Claim: “King Arthur didn’t pull a sword from a stone to become King“
Matt Taylor falls for the ignorance of literalism. A lot of sources on King Arthur use metaphor and symbol to represent ideas associated with King Arthur. A common theme in Celtic storytelling is how there is a bond between a king and the land through which prosperity flows: the sword is a symbol of that bond. A king that is disabled by reason of mind or body has to stand down in Celtic society, or sickness, famine and poverty will follow and turn a once healthy land to waste. Towards the end of the reign of King Arthur his bond with the land was impaired, hence the Grail Quest, and the notions of the Waste Land, lost swords, a lost Queen and the maimed Fisher King. The final battle of King Arthur at Camlann suggests King Arthur survived, but was maimed, and hence had to stand down as King.
Matt Taylor says:
“All the King Arthur’s throughout history were born into their roles, and neither King Arthur I or King Arthur II, needed to pull a sword from a stone to claim their right to rule.”Matt Taylor “Top 10 Misconceptions about King Arthur” 26 June 2019
Although I use “king” for convenience, at the point of history of the last days of Romano-Britain there are no kings: there are emperors, generals and civilian administrators such as magistrates. Even though Arthur had a large army and fleet at his command, he was appointed by an assembly of Roman officials and generals to become overall general of the Romano-British military – a magister militum or “Pendragon”. He was not born to his role, he was chosen by the Romano-British administration of the time, in the same manner as Vortigern, Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon was chosen as their overall general. Few sources ever credit Arthur with law making, public works such as maintaining or building roads, issuing coins or any other civilian role: it is pure military role. Arthur was answerable to the Romano-British assembly that appointed him their general.
“Royal inheritance was passed down between father and son”Matt Taylor “Top 10 Misconceptions about King Arthur” 26 June 2019
Celtic society did not follow the inheritance practice of father to son as Taylor claims such as the idea that eldest son inherits everything on the death of their father. In Celtic society all sons (possibly daughters as well), including the acknowledged bastards, will get a share of the lands ruled by their father: if there are six individuals inheriting the land of their deceased father, the lands are divided into six parts, the youngest getting first choice all the way to the oldest. One of the reasons why the Celtic peoples could never properly oppose the Romans, Saxons and Normans was they were too busy killing each other in civil wars over inheritance. One way for a son to opt out of being murdered in an inheritance struggle was to join the church as a bishop. Nearly all Celtic “saints” are from aristocracy.
Claim: “Merlin was not a wizard“
For reasons that are a mystery to me both Ambrosius Aurelius (uncle to Arthur, brother to Uther Pendragon) and Uther Pendragon (father of Arthur) are both eluded to in some of the sources to be of the Druidic and Bardic class in Celtic society. As a child Ambrosius was presented to Vortigern as a child at Dinas Emrys due to his castle constantly falling down, where he uttered the famous prophecies as written down by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and where the story of two fighting dragons comes from. Ambrosius was associated with the story of enchanting a fog so that Uther Pendragon could sleep with another man’s wife and beget Arthur. Ambrosius is said to have taken Arthur into his household. Again, Matt Taylor fails to appreciate metaphor and symbolic storytelling. It should be noted that Romano-British society was flexible about people moving between roles of bards, priests, generals, emperors and magistrates, so Ambrosius was as capable of moving between a Druid-Bardic role to general to emperor just as easily. As far as Celtic society was concerned, the Druids and Bards were walkers between the worlds, and were arguably seen as magicians or wizards.
Claim: “Guinevere didn’t have an affair with Lancelot“
Just to complicate things the sources speak of three Guineveres, and these people and Lancelot may be symbolic tools of storytelling rather than real people. Guinevere represents the land, and her loss in various stories is another example of criticism of Arthur in storytelling that he has favoured his own vanity and glory over the land, the people and his British heritage. Lancelot represents an alternative perfect leader that the land has decided to turn it’s support to over Arthur, and thus this is metaphorically an affair. When Arthur was said to be campaigning in Gaul, his right-hand man looking after Britain whilst he was gone, attacked his fortress (perhaps Cadbury) and ran off with Guinevere, which began the events leading to the Battle of Camlann.
Claim: “King Arthur created The Round Table“
The Round Table is another symbol of story telling to convey a universal concept in the West amongst the Romans, Celts, Picts, Irish and Germanic peoples of the patron-client system. It was not practical or possible for Arthur for instance to drive the Saxons out of Britain, so when he defeated them at Badon he asked their leaders to pledge loyalty to him as client leaders, giving him tribute and support in his wars on request in return for his patronage and protection. Arthur had to deal with at least five different peoples of five languages, including the Alans, who originally came from Iran and made up a significant part of his army and navy from Brittany. The claim of equality amongst the followers of Arthur by Matt Taylor is deluded. All these leaders pledged to Arthur was bound by a complex network of patron-client relationships, often to the point there was conflicts of interest, especially in inheritance struggles and blood feud.
Claim: “King Arthur invented the Summer ‘Festive’ Games“
The role of creating and running games falls to civilian administrators such as magistrates. Arthur was a pure general, dealing with military matters, and there is no evidence in the written record that he ran any games or was involved in any civilian roles.
Claim: “King Arthur’s son did not kill him“
This is a matter of speculation. In the written record Arthur killed at least one of his sons. Other sources claim that Mordred is a bastard son of Arthur and mortally wounded him at Camlann. A lot is written about a son of Arthur known as the Hound of the Sea, who was a cause of many conflicts that Arthur had to deal with. Although a son may have not killed Arthur a son or sons contributed to his fall at Camlann.
Claim: “King Arthur didn’t give Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake“
Matt Taylor again falls for literalism and ignorance of the King Arthur tradition. Going back to the dawn of civilisation people give gifts to rivers, wells, lakes and springs: think of the modern day throwing coins into a well for a wish. The land was personified as a female who lived in a watery realm connected by sources of water. Throwing swords into lakes is a favoured tradition amongst the Celtic peoples. The sword that symbolises the bond between king and land was returned to the land on the death of Arthur. Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake are symbolic metaphors for concepts around the relationship of a ruler and the land on behalf of their people.
Claim: “King Arthur didn’t die in battle“
The written record infers that Arthur did not fall at Camlann but was so badly wounded he had to resign his leadership role. Arthur may have existed in obscurity for a while in Cornwall but he eventually died of his wounds. The claim by Matt Taylor that Arthur died by assassination by a native American Indian in the USA is fanciful and without any evidence. Tradition claims Arthur was buried in Glastonbury, but in my opinion his body was moved by ship back to a family mausoleum in Brittany or perhaps Soissons.
Claim: “King Arthur’s Kingdom was destroyed by asteroid debris”
Strictly speaking Arthur has a claim to being Emperor rather than King, and the area of his influence included: Wales (especially Gwent and Gwynedd); Somerset to the limit of Exeter; both sides of the River Severn; Wessex; the Roman outposts of Gloucester; Cirencester and Carlisle; Brittany; and a small colony in Spain. Those in Lothian and Powys, although related by blood, were generally hostile towards Arthur.
There is no scientific evidence or written evidence to suggest that any of the lands associated with Arthur was devastated by asteroids. The written record suggests Arthur died in the 530’s, his son, the Hound of the Sea, died in 560. In the years around the death of Arthur in around 536 a volcanic eruption plunged the whole world into a winter with extreme weather events that caused chaos throughout the world with crop failures, famine, resulting in social disorder and war. It is claimed 536 was the worst year to be alive. The Justinian Plague hit in 541 killing an estimated 25-60% of the European population. Matt Taylor claims that asteroids destroyed Britain in 562, however the overall record for the West shows that Emperor Justinian I is settling into a long reign and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the slow onward march of the Saxons into Romano-British lands.
Matt Taylor claims Arthur built 700 ships and sailed from Britain to the USA. The problem with this claim is that the Romano-British did not know USA existed and were generally terrified of travelling beyond Eire into a realm that belonged to the otherworld filled with gods and monsters. Roman ships were not designed for long ocean voyages. It would be 200-300 years later under the Vikings that North America would be discovered using ships that followed the lands and ice of the far north into Canada through a gradual process of exploration and colonisation. Those who funded and supported Arthur as a war leader would not have given consent to the enormous expenditure to fit out 700 ships, nor to strip their Britain and Brittany of soldiers required to keep the Germanic invaders out of those lands. The Saxons and Franks would have been delighted and taken full advantage if the Romano-British followers of Arthur all vanished from Britain and Brittany for a trip to the USA. Gregory of Tours (538-594) would have recorded such a major undertaking of 700 ships going to the USA under anyone, including Arthur, but there is no mention of such an event.
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