The Holinshed Project

Holinshed Project Home

The Texts

Previous | Next

5.14. Vpon what occasion the graue of king Arthur was sought for, the follie of such discouered as beleeued that he should returne and reigne againe as king in Britaine, whether it be a fiction or a veritie that there was such an Arthur or no; discordance among writers about the place of Gawains buriall and Arthurs death; of queene Gueneuer the wife of king Arthur, hir beautie and dishonest life, great disagreement among writers touching Arthur and his wiues to the impeachment of the historie, of his life and death. The xiiij. Chapter.

Vpon what occasion the graue of king Arthur was sought for, the follie of such discouered as beleeued that he should returne and reigne againe as king in Britaine, whether it be a fiction or a veritie that there was such an Arthur or no; discordance among writers about the place of Gawains buriall and Arthurs death; of queene Gueneuer the wife of king Arthur, hir beautie and dishonest life, great disagreement among writers touching Arthur and his wiues to the impeachment of the historie, of his life and death. The xiiij. Chapter.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 _THe occasion that mooued king Henrie the second to cause his nephue the foresaid abbat to search for the graue of king Arthur, was, for that he vnderstood by a Welsh minstrell or Bardh (as they call him) that could sing ma|nie histories in the Welsh language of the acts of the ancient Britains, that in the forsaid churchyard at Glastenburie, betwixt the said two pillers the bo|die of Arthur was to be found sixtéene foot déepe vnder the ground. Gyraldus Cambrensis affirmeth, that the trée in the which Arthurs bodie was found so inclosed, was an oke, but other suppose that it was an alder trée, bicause that in the same place a great number of that kind of trées doo grow, and also for that it is not vnknowne, that an alder lieng vnder ground where moisture is, will long continue with|out rotting.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 2 ¶By the finding thus of the bodie of Arthur bu|ried (as before ye haue heard) such as hitherto belee|ued that he was not dead, but conueied awaie by the fairies into some pleasant place,As for exam|ple in a caue néere a water called pond perillous at Salisburie, where he and his knights should sléepe armed, till an other knight should be borne that should come and awake them. where he should re|maine for a time, and then to returne againe, and reigne in as great authoritie as euer he did before, might well perceiue themselues deceiued in credi|ting so vaine a fable. But yet (where it might other|wise be doubted, whether anie such Arthur was at all, as the British histories mention, bicause neither Gyldas nor Beda in their woorks speake anie thing of him) it may appéere, the circumstances conside|red, that suerly such one there was of that name, har|die and valiant in armes, though not in diuerse points so famous as some writers paint him out. William Malmesburie a writer of good credit and authoritie amongst the learned, hath these woords in his first booke intituled De regibus Anglorum, Will. Malme. lib. 1. de regibus Ang. saieng:

But he being dead [meaning Uortimer] the force of the Britains waxed féeble, their decaied hope went backward apace: and euen then suerlie had they gon to destruction, if Ambrosius (who alone of the Ro|mans remained yet aliue, and was king after Uor|tigerne) had not kept vnder and staied the loftie bar|barous people, that is to say the Saxons, by the notable aid and assistance of the valiant Arthur.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 2 This is the same Arthur, of whom the trifling tales of the Britains euen to this day fantasticallie doo descant and report woonders: but woorthie was he doubtlesse, of whom feined fables should not haue so dreamed, but rather that true histories might haue set foorth his woorthie praises, as he that did for a long season susteine and hold vp his countrie that was readie to go to vtter ruine and decaie, incouraging the bold harts of the Britains vnto the warre, and fi|nallie in the siege of Badon hill, he set vpon nine hundred of the enimies, and with incredible slaugh|ter EEBO page image 93 did put them all to flight. On the contrarie part, the English Saxons, although they were tossed with sundrie hops of fortune, yet still they renewed their bands with new supplies of their countriemen that came out of Germanie, and so with bolder courage assailed their enimies, and by little and little causing them to giue place, spread themselues ouer the whole Ile. For although there were manie battels, in the which sometime the Saxons and sometime the Bri|tains got the better, yet the greater number of Sax|ons that were slaine, the greater number of them still came ouer to the succour of their countriemen, being called in and sent for out of euerie quarter a|bout them.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 Héere is also to be noted, that where the British hi|storie declareth, that Gawaine or Gallowine being slaine in the battell fought betwixt Arthur and Mor|dred in Kent,Gawaine where he is buried. was buried at Douer, so that his bones remained there to be shewed a long time after: yet by that which the foresaid William Malmesburie wri|teth in the third booke of his volume intituled De re|gibus Anglorum, Wil. Malm. lib. 3. de regib. the contrarie maie séeme true: his woords are these.

Then (saith he) in the prouince of Wales, which is called Rosse, the sepulture of Gal|lowine was found, who was nephue to Arthur by his sister, not going out of kind from so woorthie an vn|cle. He reigned in that part of Britaine which vnto this day is called Walwichia, a knight for his high prowesse most highlie renowmed, but expelled out of his kingdome by the brother and nephue of Hengist, of whome in the first booke we haue made mention, first requiting his banishment with great detri|ment and losse to those his enimies, wherein he was partaker by iust desert to his vncles woorthie praise, for that he staied (for a great manie yéeres) the de|struction of his countrie, which was now running headlong into vtter ruine and decaie. But Arthurs graue no where appéereth: yet the others toome (as I haue said) was found in the daies of William the conqueror, king of England, vpon the sea side, and conteined in length fouretéene foot, where he was (as some say) wounded by his enimies, and cast vp by shipwracke. But other write, that he was slaine at a publike feast or banket by his owne countriemen.
Thus saith William Malmesburie.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 ¶But heere you must consider, that the said Mal|mesburie departed this life about the beginning of the reigne of king Henrie the second, certeine yéers before the bones of Arthur were found (as ye haue heard.) But omitting this point as néedles to be con|trouerssed, & letting all dissonant opinions of writers passe, as a matter of no such moment that we should néed to sticke therein as in a glewpot; we will pro|céed in the residue of such collections as we find ne|cessarilie pertinent to the continuation of this histo|rie; and now we will say somewhat of quéene Guen|hera or Guenouer, the wife of the foresaid king Ar|thur.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 2 Some iudge that she tooke hir name of hir excel|lent beautie, bicause Guinne or Guenne in the Welsh toong signifieth faire, so that she was named Guennere or rather Guenlhean, euen (as you would say) the faire or beautifull Elenor or Helen. She was brought vp in the house of one Cador earle of Cornewall before Arthur maried hir: and as it ap|peareth by writers, she was euill reported of, as no|ted of incontinencie & breach of faith to hir husband, in maner as for the more part women of excellent beautie hardlie escape the venemous blast of euill toongs, and the sharpe assaults of the followers of Uenus. The British historie affirmeth, that she did not onelie abuse hir selfe by vnlawfull companie with Mordred, but that also in Arthurs absence she consented to take him to husband. It is likewise found recorded by an old writer, that Arthur besie|ged on a time the marishes neere to Glastenburie, for displeasure that he bare to a certeine lord called Melua, who had rauished Gueneuer, and led hir in|to those marishes, and there did kéepe hir. Hir corps notwithstanding (as before is recited) was inter|red togither with Arthurs, so that it is thought she liued not long after his deceasse.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 2 3 4 Arthur had two wiues (as Gyraldus Cambrensis affirmeth) of which the latter (saith he) was buried with him, and hir bones found with his in one sepul|chre, but yet so diuided, that two parts of the toome towards the head were appointed to receiue the bones of the man, and the third part towards the féet conteined the womans bones, apart by them|selues. Here is to be remembred, that Hector Boe|tius writeth otherwise of the death of Arthur than before in this booke is mentioned, & also that Guene|uer being taking prisoner by the Picts, was con|ueied into Scotland, where finallie she died, and was there buried in Angus, as in the Scotish chro|nicles further appeareth. And this may be true, if he had thrée sundrie wiues, each of them bearing the name of Gueneuer, as sir Iohn Price dooth auouch that he had. Now bicause of contrarietie in writers touching the great acts atchiued by this Arthur, and also for that some difference there is amongst them, about the time in which he should reigne, manie haue doubted of the whole historie which of him is written (as before ye haue heard.) ¶But others there be of a constant beléefe, who hold it for a grounded truth, that such a prince there was; and among all other a late writer,Dauid Pow. pag. 238, 239. who falling into necessarie mention of prince Arthur, frameth a spéech apologeticall in his and their behalfe that were princes of the British bloud, discharging a short but yet a sharpe inuectiue against William Paruus, Polydor Virgil, and their complices, whom he accuseth of lieng toongs, en|uious detraction, malicious slander, reprochfull and venemous language, wilfull ignorance, dogged en|uie, and cankerd minds; for that they speake vnre|uerentlie and contrarie to the knowne truth concer|ning those thrisenoble princes. Which defensitiue he would not haue deposed, but that he takes the mo|numents of their memories for vndoubted verities.

Compare 1577 edition: 1 2 3 4 5 The British histories and also the Scotish chro|nicles doo agrée, that he liued in the daies of the em|perour Iustinian, about the fiftéenth yeere of whose reigne he died, which was in the yéere of our Lord 542,542 as diuerse doo affirme. Howbeit some write farther from all likelihood, that he was about the time of the emperor Zeno, who began his reigne about the yéere of our Lord 474. The writer of the booke intituled Aurea historia affirmeth, Aurea historia. I. Leland. that in the tenth yéere of Cerdicus king of Westsaxons, Ar|thur the warriour rose against the Britains. Also Diouionensis writeth, that Cerdicus fighting often|times with Arthur, if he were ouercome in one mo|neth, he arose in an other moneth more fierce and strong to giue battell than before. At length Arthur wearied with irkesomnes, after the twelfth yéere of the comming of Cerdicus, gaue vnto him vpon his homage doone and fealtie receiued, the shires of Southampton and Somerset, the which countries Cerdicius named Westsaxon.Westsaxon. This Cerdicius or Cerdicus came into Britaine about the yéere of your Lord 495. In the 24 yere after his comming hither, that is to say, about the yéere of our Lord 519, he began his reigne ouer the Westsaxons, and gouer|ned them as king by the space of 15 yéeres, as be|fore ye haue heard. But to follow the course of our chronicles accordinglie as we haue began, we must allow of their accounts herein as in other places, and so procéed.

Previous | Next