Like Camelot, King Arthur’s round table—whether it’s an actual object or a geographic site—belongs in the realm of legend, perpetrated in part by King Henry VII.
KING ARTHUR’S ROUND TABLE
The advent of King Arthur’s Round Table was a fairly late development. In his manuscript titled Roman de Brut which appeared around 1155, Wace was the first to mention this particular object, capable of seating fifty comrades to promulgate equality among all of King Arthur’s knights.
In relation to geographic sites identified as “King Arthur’s Round Table.” E.K. Chambers writes that The earliest mensa rotunda upon record was at Wallingford in 1252: the next at Kenilworth in 1279: a third at Nevin in Carnarvonshire in 1284 formed part of the triumph over Wales.”
One such geographic ‘table’, known as Bwrdd Arthur, is actually a hillfort on the Isle of Anglesey. east of Red Wharf Bay and under a mile north of Llanddona, obscure because it isn’t listed on any of the Ordnance Survey Motoring Maps, and is not a familiar location to many of the locals I encountered. Other geographic sites, however, are more familiar.
King Arthur’s Round Table, another byword in Arthurian lege., was allegedly given to King Arthur by Guineyere’s father as a wedding present There are three things which bar the credibility of this physical relic as King Arthur’s historic Round Table The first is the striking resemblance between King Arthur and Henry VIII, especially because it was painted during Henry VIII, reign to impress Charles V. The second suspicion is its centerpiece, which anachronistically bears the Tudor Rose, signifying a royal line from 1085 to 1603. The third is that the histories record nothing of this table until six and a half centuries after the historic time of King Arthur and two decades after Monmouth’s work.
One of the geographic sites which is commonly listed as King Arthur’s Round Table is this formation at Mayburgh, near Penrith at the base of the Cumbrian Mountains. Originally this was a ritual site which Leslie Alcock dates to the third or early second millennium B.C.
Although some speculators consider this site too far north and outside the realm of conflict during the era of the historic King Arthur, it fits the theory that some of King Arthur’s enemies were Saxon sympathizers from the north.
Another geographic site which is sometimes identified as King Arthur’s Round Table is the amphitheater in south-eastern Wales at Caerleon. considered such because it’s in the borderlands of conflict between the English Saxons and the Welsh, a locale where Monmouth writes that Arthur frequently held court. The amphitheater, outside the fortified city walls, would have been an excellent choice for war councils, military drills, parades, and jousts.
This Round Table which hangs at Winchester is oak, 18 feet in diameter, and weighs 1.2 tons. Prior to Henry’s design, it was originally unpainted when it hung on the east wall of the Great Hall, and remained so for three centuries. It was then moved to the west wall during renovations, and now hangs beneath three panes of stained glass which depict King Arthur in the center flanked on the left by King Alfred and on the right by Canute.
All pictures copyrighted by Frank D. Reno