Fact and Figures: Arthurian Court

Facts and Figures

Some additional information concerning Arthur’s courts and his household staff.

 

Arthur’s Residences     
Court Staff
Christian Feasts
Canonical Hours

Arthur’s Residences

In medieval romances, Arthur didn’t have just one castles, but reside in many, depending on the seasons. Some of these castles are located during the time when the Roman had built fortresses and towns throughout in England, Wales and Cornwall. Others are known to exist only during the time of the Norman period.

 

Site Welsh Name Roman Name Location
Caerleon on Usk,
City of the Legions
Caer Llion ar Wysg Isca Silurum, Isca Monmouthshire, Wales
Camelot near Caerleon, Wales?
Cardiff Caerdydd, Caerdyv Glamorgan (Morgannwg), Wales
Carmarthen Caer Vyriddin Moridunum Carmarthenshire, Wales
Caernarvon, Caernarfon Caer Seint yn Arvon Segontium Gwynedd, Wales
Cardigan Keredigyawn, Aberteifi (modern) Ceredigion (formerly Cardiganshire), Wales
Tintagel Cornwall
Carlisle, Carduel Caerleil Luguvallium Cumberland
Bath Caer Vaddon,
Baddon, Mons Badon?
Aquae Sulis Somerset
Winchester Venta Belgarum, Venta Hampshire, Wessex
London Caer Lludd, Caer Llundein, Lundein, Lwndrwys Londinium
Lurdenbryg (Saxon)
York Eboracum (North) Yorkshire, Northumbria
Chester Deva Cheshire

 

According to the Welsh tradition and early Arthurian authors, like Geoffrey of Monmouth, say that the castle of Caerleon in Wales was his capital, not Camelot. The Welsh called it Caer Llion, while Geoffrey called it City of Legions. Geoffrey say that when Arthur established an empire in western Europe, he made the City of Legions as plenary court, which he ruled this empire from. This is also the court, according to Wace, where Arthur had constructed the Round Table.

According to several romances, written by the French poet Chretien de Troyes (flourished in c. 1165-1182), Arthur’s residences dwelled in the castles of Cardigan, Carlisle (Carduel in French) and Camelot.

The first appearance of Camelot in the Arthurian literature, come from Le Chevalier à la charrette (“Knight of the Cart” or “Lancelot”), a medieval romance created by Chretien de Troyes in c. 1175. According to Chretien, Camelot was located not too far from Caerleon. He didn’t mention it as Arthur’s capital, but it was one of the king’s many residences (castles). Camelot didn’t become Arthur’s main castle until in later romances of the 13th century and afterward, in such works as the Vulgate romances (1227-1235).

Scholars, historians and archaeologists have tried to establish the location of Camelot. Most modern experts are in favour of Winchester in Hampshire, though there are some who say it is Caerleon, or Cadbury Castle in Somerset. Because of the similarity in names, some would say it is located in Camelford in Cornwall or Queen Camel in Somerset. Personally, I think that Camelot was just an invention of Chretien de Troyes, which other writers had elaborated.

The main importance of Tintagel, in Cornwall, is that Arthur was born in this castle. However, there was no Roman or post-Roman fortress until the Norman time. There is a Celtic abbey built in the late Roman or early post-Roman period. It was the scene of Arthur’s conception, where Merlin used his magic to allow King Uther Pendragon to seduce Igraine, wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall.

Carmarthen was best known for the place where Merlin was born in. It seemed that this is castle Vortigern had tried to build, but kept falling down. Merlin established Carmarthen as his own residence, calling it Caer Myriddin or “Fortress of Myrddin” (Merlin).

Arthur had also resided in Bath, Winchester, London, Cardiff (in Wales), and a whole lot of places throughout England. Some of writers even say that he lived in Brittany.

Below are other notable list of castles, which are not residences of Arthur but does deserve mentioning. These sites were important in medieval times, and some have connection to the Roman Britain times.

Site Welsh Name Roman Name Location
Canterbury Durdvernum Kent
Rochester Durobrivae Kent
Colchester Camulodunum Essex
St Albans Verulamium Hertfordshire
Lincoln Lindum Lincolnshire
Oxford Oxnaford (Saxon) Oxfordshire
Cambridge Durolipons Cambridgeshire
Gloucester Glevum Gloucestershire (capital of Mercia kingdom)
Silchester Calleva Hampshire
Leicester Ratae Leicestershire
Doncaster Danum South Yorkshire
Brough Petuaria
Manchester Mamucium Greater Manchester
Carlisle Luguvalium, Luguvallium Cumbria
South Shield Arbeia
Newcastle Pons Aelius Tyne and Wear; Northumberland
Exeter Isca, Isca Dumnoniorum Devon
Salisbury Plain? Camlann Wiltshire
Glastonbury Somerset
St Michael’s Mount Mynyw Icitis Cornwall
Neath Nidum West Glamorgan, Wales
Llandovery Alabum Wales
Llania Bremia Wales
Caer Sws Mediomanum Wales
Caerhun Canovium Wales
Anglesey Môn (island)
Edinburgh Dun Eideann (Gaelic) Scotland
Glasgow Glaschu (Gaelic) Scotland
Inchthuthil Pinnata Castra Scotland
Related Information
Related Articles
Arthur, Merlin.

 

Court Staff

In any medieval kingdom, a ruler usually have a number of staff to serve him, some in the household and others in military capacity. Arthur’s court was no exception to this rule.

Below are small list of Arthur’s personal staff. Most of these staff have a title of their own, and most of them also served as Arthur’s knights.

Name Position
Merlin Adviser, sorcerer
Sir Kay Seneschal
Sir Bedivere (Bedevere) Cupbearer and constable
Sir Lucan Butler and wine steward
Sir Ulfin (Ulfius) Chamberlain (had also served Uther)
Sir Brastias Warden (had also served Uther)
Sir Baudwin of Britain Constable and viceroy
Bretel
Daguenet (Danguenes, Dagonet) Fool
Niniane (Lady of the Lake) Occasional adviser
Archbishop of Canterbury Spiritual adviser and bishop

 

Among these staff, Ulfin or Ulfius and Sir Brastias had actually first served Uther Pendragon, the father of Arthur, before they served their current king.

Merlin and Niniane were not actually member of Arthur’s staff, but they do act as his advisers on occasion.

Merlin come and goes in Arthur’s court, but when he wasn’t needed, the wizard is never around. Merlin Merlin sometimes act as an adviser or guide to the Arthur’s knights in their adventures. When Merlin is not around Arthur or with any knights, he usually goes to Blaise, his old friend, chronicler and master.

It is only in the Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin (“Merlin Continuation”, c. 1240) or Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1469) that Niniane or Nimue appeared as Arthur’s adviser and protector, after she had confined Merlin. And that was only to disrupt the plots and enchantment of Morgan le Fay against her brother. Niniane had saved Arthur’s life twice.

Another person who is not actually a member of the staff, is the Archbishop of Canterbury. As far as I can tell, the Archbishop have no name.

 


 

Welsh Tradition

Arthur also appeared in a few Welsh literature, such as some tales from the Mabinogion and in the Welsh Triads, which supplied different names to the people who served in Arthur’s household. There’s actually a lot more names in this tradition. Most of the name found here, come from various sources.

Welsh Name English or
French Name
Position
Caradawg Strong Arm Chief adviser
Kei (Cei) Sir Kay Seneschal
Bedwyr Sir Bedivere (Bedevere) Cupbearer and constable
Gwrhyr Interpreter of languages.
Kynddilig Guide
Talyssin Taliesin Chief bard
Menw fab Teirgwaedd Sorcerer or druid?
Morgan Tud Chief physician
Cadyryeith Chamberlain
Amren Chamberlain
Amhar Chamberlain
Goreu Chamberlain
Glewlwyd Gaafaelfawr (“Strong Grip”) Chief gatekeeper.
Huandaw
Gogigwr
Llaesgymyn
Penpingyon
Gryn
Gogyvwlch
Gwrddnei Cat Eye
Drem
Clust
Other gatekeepers of Arthur.
Madawg Forester of Dean
Rhyverys Master of the Hounds
Elivri Head Groom
Gwyn Llogell Gwyr Magistrate
Odyar the Frank Court steward
Ysgyrdav & Ysgudydd 2 servants of Gwenhwyfar

 

Related Information
Related Articles
Arthur, Guinevere, Kay, Bedivere, Lucan, Merlin, Niniane, Lady of the Lake, Taliesin.

 

 

Christian Feasts

Often in Arthurian literature, any feast held at one of Arthur’s castles was usually held on a particular Christian feast day.

Below, is a list of Christian feasts that often used in the legend.

 

Feast Date Descriptions
New Year January 1
Candlemas February 2 The purification of the Virgin Mary in the Temple, 40 days after giving birth to Jesus. The day is observed with lighted candles.
Lent Between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday. 40-day period of fasting to commemorate the days Jesus spent in the wilderness. In the Western churches, it begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday (or Easter Vigil).
Palm Sunday Sunday before Easter. Also known as Passion Sunday. Commemorates the day of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
Good Thursday Thursday before Easter. Day of the Last Supper, also known as Holy Communion or Eucharist.
Good Friday Friday before Easter. Day of Christ’s crucifixion.
Holy Saturday Day before Easter. Also known as Easter Vigil. The last day of Lent. The day is celebrated by tolling bells and lighting fires.
Easter Sunday 1st Sunday on or after spring equinox. Day of Christ’s resurrection. Originally called Pascha.
Ascension 40th day after Easter. Ascension of Christ to heaven.
Pentecost (Whitsunday) 50th day after Easter. Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.
Christmas December 25 Day of Jesus’ birth.

 

Canonical Hours

The canonical hours were used frequently to distinguished the hours of the day in the Arthurian literatures. It was widely used in Western medieval Europe, to mark the divsion of the day. Each of these canonical hour lasted at three hours interval.

matins 1st hour before daybreak
prime 2nd hour 6 AM
terce 3rd hour 9 AM
sext 4th hour midday (noon)
none 5th hour 3 PM
vespers (evensong) 6th hour 6 PM
compline 7th hour before retiring for the night

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