Many stories abound about Arthur and his round table, most of which unfortunately are fables. Very little is known of these times and nothing at all was written down until many years later during which time everything became distorted. Some of this was deliberate to give the beleaguered British soldiers an example, from the fairly recent past, of fortitude and the courage to fight on. For this reason, it is believed he was referred to as King Arthur, though everything in history suggests that he was a 'duke de combat' or leader of warriors.
All is not lost however because the stories that abound about this man are such that the truth will never be known and only reasoned thought put forward to try and provoke more thought. So here goes.
Arthur's grandmother was Gwen, meaning white, the daughter of Cunedda and wife of Ambland (the red hand of the ten lands) Wledic, also known as Lluch. Ambland Wledic and Gwen had five daughters, but no sons, as follows:-
Ygerne + 1. Gwerleis + 2. Uther = Arthur
Tywanwedd + 1. Arwystal Cloff = daughter Machell, son Tyrnog (giant) + 2. Llyr Merini + 3. Tutulwch Goreu = son Huallu
Gwyar + Geriant = son Caw of Prydein (Hueil, Gildas and 17 others were Caw's sons).
Not Known + Constantine the shepherd = son Goreu
Goleuddydd + Kilydd (son of Cyleddon Wledic) = son Culhwch.
Arthur eventually married Gwenhvfar (Gwenhwyfar), who had a sister Gwenhvach (Gwenhwyfach). He also had a nephew called Gwelchmei.
According to the "Triads of the Isle of Britain", being a document much referred to by Wilhelm, he states 'from the earliest times the Celtic peoples have used triple groupings as a means of classifying, remembering and passing on a wide range of information and lore. Laws, genealogical and geographical information, rules of poetic composition and much else besides, have come down to us arranged in triplets'. According to these Triads, it was a quarrel between Gwenhvfar (now Gwenavere) and her sister Gwenhvach that caused the final battle of Arthur at Camlan. The same Triads list the three faithless wives of Britain and ends 'and one was more faithless than those three : Gwenhwyfar, wife of Arthur, since she shamed a better man than any of them'.
Arthur's mother was Ygerne and his father was claimed to be Uther Pendragon (the terrible dragon). Arthur's name incidentally has the meaning Great Bear, he originally had a bear as an emblem and led the Bear army. His father Uther led the Dragon army, with more power, and was later succeeded by Mathuthavar. When very young Arthur was fostered by Cynyr (of the Fair beard). Fostering in those days was nothing like today; his father was a soldier and Arthur was sent to an important family to be taught soldiery and leadership.
He later became a 'leader of warriors', but his knights were nothing like the mythical ones. His closest companions were Cei of the Cole dynasty, his cousin known later as St. Illtud and his 'first fighter' who was Gwenwynwyn, who is thought to have been the son of Naf. During most of his fighting life Arthur's main enemy was Twrch Trwyth (which because it means 'boiled hog' is likely to be a name used by Arthur and his men) who was not a Saxon but Irish. Cei killed Wrnach, a formidable opponent, and took his sword to Arthur, which he greatly prized, but later Cei fell out with Arthur and stopped fighting for him.
Arthur was the battle leader for Einion Yrth of the Cole dynasty, who was married to an Irish princess. Culhwch and Olwen tell of Arthur sailing to the Ulster area of Ireland to enroll warriors to fight for his cause. Because of fighting for Einion Yrth he appears to have been successful because Iollan, King of Leinster, Ireland, fought eight battles with him in Britain between 495 and 512.
Nennius wrote of Arthur's 13 battles, at the last one of which he was killed. A summary of the battles is as follows:-
1. At the mouth of the river called Glein. There are two river Glens, one in Lincolnshire and the other in Northumbria.
2 to 5 At the river Dublas (Douglas) in the region of Linnius (Lancashire), but with linnius meaning 'region of the water' it could even be in Cumbria.
6. 'On the river called Bassas' which could be Bassenthwaite Lake in Cumbria or Bassen Beck close by. There are also a lot of Bass prefix names in Yorkshire.
7. Nennius says this 'was in Celyddon Forest, that is, the battle of Celyddon Coed'. This was thought to be near Celleron, where the Roman Road (High Street) descends from Arthurs Pike toward Broughton, near Penrith - sites controlled by Meirchawn and his son March.
8. Nennius wrote 'The eighth battle was in Guinion fort, and in it Arthur carried the image of the Holy Mary, the everlasting virgin, on his (shield) and the heathens were put to flight on that day, and there was great slaughter upon them, through the power of our lord Jesus Christ and the power of the holy virgin his mother'. Guinion would equate with the Roman Vinnovium at Bishop Aukland, County Durham but there was a second place of the same name in the North West.
9. 'was fought in the city of the Legion (urbe Legionis). This must have been either Chester, York or Caerleon, the only forts where Roman Legions were permanently based. The favourite is Chester, which in the 616 war was referred to as Caer Legion.
10. 'on the banks of the river called Tryfrwyd'. Tryfrwyd meant 'three streams (or torrents)' and could be at the junction of the Calder, Hodder and Ribble at Mitton where once the Roman road ran from York to Ribchester. So says the Harleian document, written in Welsh between 875 and 925. The Vatican document however reads 'the river strand called Traht Treuriot' which would have placed the battle near the River Trent.
11. Again the Harleian and Vatican versions disagree, the former saying the battle was 'on the hill called Agned' and the latter 'on the hill called Breguoin ... we call that the battle of Breguoin'. Agned is referred to by Geoffrey of Monmouth when saying that Ebrauc founded the city of York and went on to say he also 'founded the city of Alcud towards Albany (Scotland) and the fortress of Mount Agned'. On the other hand Breguoin could be a corruption of Brigantii, a tribe living in the York area of Yorkshire.
12. Arthur's final victory took place in 516 'on Baden Hill and in it 960 men fell in one day, from a single charge of Arthurs, and no one laid them low save he alone; and he was victorious in all his campaigns'. As Gildas also referred to this battle it is safe to assume that it was fought exclusively against the Anglo Saxons. The wording 'no one laid them low save he alone' obviously meant that Arthur either had no backing from other kings of Britain or by now was a king in his own right. Whatever the reason there was comparative peace for many years after. Gildas even went so far as to say that peace was created between Britons and Anglo Saxons lasting 44 years, lending strength to the theory that a lot of Arthurs battles were not against the Anglo Saxons. At the end of the 6th century Cyndyllan tried to emulate Arthur by attacking the Anglo Saxons on the edge of his kingdom at Lichfield, to stop them encroaching further. He failed however and lost all his land right back to Shrewsbury as a result.
13. The battle of Camlann in 537 led to the death of Arthur and Medrawt. This being Arthurs 13th battle may well have led to the number 13 being classed as unlucky. It is not known where or what caused the battle but by now Arthur was old for a soldier and many wanted to replace him. By now the Anglo Saxons had taken over the north and the east, and the Welsh kingdom of Powys extended as far as Lichfield, so Arthur could no longer be in Cole country and Camlann may have been a last battle to keep his kingdom in the east midlands.
Many documents have been read in order to come to the above conclusions, not least of which was Old King Cole and the Real King Arthur. Please feel free to criticize.