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The Discovery of King Arthur

By Geoffrey Ashe

‘A classic piece of detective work into the identity of King Arthur’ – Living History

“Beside the King stand his Queen, Guinevere, and his enchanter, Merlin. Their home is Camelot, the centre of a mysterious, wonderful Britain. [But] if we explore the scene more deeply we see a brooding tragedy overshadowing it. The King’s reign, however splendid, is only a brief, shining moment; he is doomed to be plotted against, betrayed and brought down. Camelot must fall.”

The legend of King Arthur and his castle Camelot has gripped people’s imagination for centuries. It has inspired numerous poems – from Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur in the 5th Century to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King in 1859 – novels, books and paintings. On into the modern age, it has been filmed and refilmed, with the iconic imagery of the sword, the magician Merlin, Queen Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table. 

But who was Arthur? Did he ever exist and if so, where was Camelot?

In this classic study, drawing upon myriad sources both literary and historical, the world’s leading Arthurian scholar Geoffrey Ashe digs deep into the important 12th century chronicles of Geoffrey of Monmouth to trace the origins of the myth. Through brilliant historical detective work, he shows that much of Monmouth’s history, which sets out to describe 5th-century Britain, was based on fact. After challenging previous assumptions about where Arthur’s court and other remnants can be found Ashe identifies the “real” King Arthur and provides powerful evidence to support his theory. Ashe is a leading proponent of the theory that Camelot was actually located in Somerset, rather than Cornwall, citing an archaeological dig which found remains beneath Cadbury Castle. “I would say there must have been a tradition about the hill and its powerful overlord, handed down from the Dark Ages”.

Throughout The Discovery of King Arthur, the sweep and grandeur of a tumultuous era in British history is vividly recounted as Ashe investigates how the character of Arthur evolved, and how the ideals of chivalry and heroism he personifies came to occupy such a dominant place in British history.

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