King Arthur: Fact or Fiction?

With the premiere of Guy Ritchie's 'King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword' today, we explore whether the Celtic hero was real or just a figment of our colorful, collective imaginations.
'King Arthur Legend of the Sword' Movie

Charlie Hunnam as King Arthur in Guy Ritchie's 'King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword.'

King Arthur was said to be a British leader who fought Saxon invaders in the 5th and 6th century. He was a unifying force and beloved by his people. Though his end was tragic, King Arthur is celebrated today and his story is depicted in the hallowed halls of the British Parliament.

But the actual existence of the legendary king has been up for debate, and few modern historians can come to an agreement. Whether based in history or legend, stories about King Arthur have captured the imagination and continue to live on. King Arthur's castle Camelot symbolized a golden age and his love for Queen Guinevere, the power of his Excalibur sword, his equity of power at his Roundtable, and his search for the Holy Grail were steeped in romanticism and heroism.

It was only until 1136 that a cleric by the name of Geoffrey of Monmouth collected all the stories and sporadic fragments of information to assemble a history of the famous king and his battles. Of the sites that were included in Monmouth's history, many have been excavated. Among them was South Cadbury Castle, believed to be the location of Camelot, as well as Glastonbury Abbey. In 1191 monks claimed that it was in the latter that they had discovered the resting place of King Arthur and his Lady Guinevere (in folklore, it was called the Isle of Avalon). Among the skeletons, a cross was recovered that had the inscription: ‘Here in the Isle of Avalon lies buried the renowned King Arthur, with Guinevere his second wife.’

Among the ruins of Tintagel Castle (the alleged birthplace of King Arthur), a piece of pottery was found that had the following message: ‘Artognou, father of a descendent of Coll, has made this.’ (Artognou was the archaic spelling of King Arthur's name.)

But whether King Arthur was a real person or merely part of our imagination, his stories have lessons to tell and reveal the reality of our human nature: from the virtues of chivalry and romance to the vices of ambition and treachery.