I've just delivered my talk and presentation on "The Real King Arthur" to a U3A group of over 120 people via zoom. This is the first time I've done such a big group on zoom, and it worked surprisingly well. We took in Monty Python, Keira Knightly, Dark Age battle tactics, medieval troubadours and climate change as well as romance, legend and culture wars. This talk truly has it all.
Movies, books and television series have been produced recounting the tales of Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, Ophelia and the other legendary characters. And yet the panoply of chivalric legend is known to have been added from the 12th century onwards. But behind this later accretion of legend and romance lay much older stories firmly routed in Dark Age Britain. But scholars are divided over how much truth the older stories contain. It is generally agreed that the character of Merlin is based on the bard and poet Myrddin Wyllt, who died in about 612, while Lancelot was a Breton nobleman who died around 680. Most enigmatic of all is Arthur himself who may have been a post-Roman ruler or military commander of about 500 – though some historians doubt he even existed. This talk untangles the later legends and seeks to find the truth that lurks behind them.
The audience was particularly interested in the cultural changes that overwhelmed what is now England during the Dark Ages. There were questions on the way Christianity was replaced by paganism, why people stopped talking Latin and began conversing in the Germanic precursor of English and that all led into a discussion on how people identify their own culture in opposition to others. Great stuff. I'm glad I took party.