Who Was King Arthur? - Legend, Knights & Court | Study.com

Who Was King Arthur? - Legend, Knights & Court

Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

The legend of King Arthur is one of the most popular legends set during medieval times. Learn more about the legend of King Arthur, life in England during King Arthur's reign, and learn about some of the most popular knights in King Arthur's court before testing your knowledge with a quiz.


The character King Arthur was created by myth and is a product of Arthurian legend; it is not based on historical fact. An author named Chretien de Troyes established King Arthur as a knight in shining armor. In fact, Chretien de Troyes created the names of a number of popular words associated with King Arthur's reign, including Camelot, Lancelot, and the Holy Grail.



A writer named Thomas Malory wrote a piece of prose called Le Morte D'Arthur, which is thought to be the premier historical writing about the legend of King Arthur. According to Thomas Malory, King Arthur was conceived when King Uther deceived Igraine into thinking he was her husband. King Arthur was the first-born son and heir to the throne after King Uther Pendragon. During King Uther's reign, times were hard in England. A wise magician named Merlin knew there would be conflict over the kingdom after King Uther's death and convinced King Uther to let Sir Ector raise Arthur in a secret place so that no one would know his true identity. When King Uther died, Merlin's prediction proved accurate and all of England was in conflict.

In order to reduce the conflict, at the urging of King Uther before his death, Merlin put a sword in a stone and wrote, Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone is the rightwise born king of all England. Everyone tried to pull the sword from the stone; however, none of them succeeded except for Arthur, who withdrew the sword for someone else to use in a tournament. After he pulled the sword from the stone, Arthur became the rightful king.

caption=Arthur pulling the sword from the stone

Conflict in Camelot

King Arthur married a woman named Guinevere after (some believe) her father gave him a roundtable as a dowry; this roundtable eventually became the center for King Arthur's knights to discuss issues of importance. One of King Arthur's best knights, Lancelot, fell in love with the king's wife Guinevere during many of his quests for the Holy Grail. After peace was restored in England, Arthur's Camelot was in civil war largely due to Lancelot's love for Guinevere.

King Arthur's Court

During the 5th and 6th centuries, there were several invasions in England; primarily invasions of the Angles and Saxons from the Northern part of Europe. When Arthur's army defeated the Saxons, peace was restored in England. Merlin continued to guide King Arthur during his reign as King. King Arthur was given a magic sword called Excalibur by a magician named The Lady of the Lake who had been trained by Merlin.

King Arthur established his kingdom at a place he called Camelot. His knights were very heroic men who had meetings at a roundtable and completed chivalric acts, such as fighting beasts and rescuing damsels in distress. The knights of the roundtable also searched for a treasure to cure all problems in a journey they called the Quest for the Holy Grail.

caption=Knights of the Roundtable

In King Arthur's court, equality was important. King Arthur's roundtable was significant because no one sat at the head of the table, which is why it was round. As previously stated, it is believed that Queen Guinevere's father gave King Arthur the roundtable as a dowry for his marriage to his daughter. Legend states King Arthur used the roundtable to prevent conflict in his court between all of his knights.

There were over twenty knights in King Arthur's court. Some of the most popular knights were Sir Lancelot (the knight who fell in love with the Queen), Sir Galahad (the son of Sir Lancelot), Sir Lucan (the most loyal and trusted of the Knights of the Round Table), Sir Alymere (the knight who was most loyal to King Arthur), and Sir Mordred (the knight who was a traitor and the son and nephew of King Arthur).

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