Sunday, August 30, 2015

Who Succeeded King Arthur?


When I began researching King Arthur and the Dark Ages for Book 2: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, I had a pretty hazy view of Arthur based on popular fiction and movies. I was astounded to find so much material, some more fiction than fact, on this enigmatic figure. As the facts around Arthur solidified and merged with real history, I then began wondering who came after Arthur. We know he died at the Battle of Camlann, but history and Britain did not disappear into a black hole after that. Even though Arthur was no more, someone else must have continued in his role of leader. Someone did.

There has been much speculation as to who took Arthur’s place after the battle of Camlann. Geoffrey of Monmouth (circa 1100-1155) says: He handed the crown of Britain over to his cousin Constantine, the son of Cador Duke of Cornwall.’

Modern historians are not convinced of Geoffrey’s reliability as an historian. Sadly Geoffrey did not let the facts stand in the way of a good story. He could almost be called one of the earliest novelists. William of Newburgh, who wrote around 1190, said: “ is quite clear that everything this man wrote about Arthur and his successors, or indeed about his predecessors from Vortigern onwards, was made up, partly by himself and partly by others." Ouch! Harsh words indeed! Given Geoffrey’s tendency to elaborate on the Arthurian legends, one might wonder if this anecdote of handing over the crown to Constantine was another literary invention.

Cador (Latin: Cadorius) was a legendary Duke of Cornwall, known chiefly through Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudo-historical History of the Kings of Britain, but he is mentioned in a manuscript called Vita Sanctus Carantoci written circa 1100 (‘The Life of St Carantoc’). Cador is said to be King Arthur's relative (a cousin?), though the details of their kinship is usually left unspecified. Cador was the historical son of a Dumnonian king named Gerren Llyngesoc, and succeeded him as monarch. Traditionally Cador was a good friend of Arthur; they even ruled together says the Vita Sanctus. According to literary tradition, the two fought together many times against the Saxons and other enemies. At the famous Siege of Mount Badon, Cador commanded the British contingent that chased the invaders back to their boats at Thanet.

Cador appears in The Dream of Rhonabwy, a medieval romance. In it, Cador hands Arthur's sword Caledfwlch (Excalibur) to the king, and when the story's protagonist Rhonabwy asks who he is, his guide Iddawg replies that he is ‘Cadwr Earl of Cornwall, the man whose task it is to arm the king on the day of battle and conflict.’ Cador probably died at the beginning of the 6th century. Traditionally this was at the Battle of Camlann (AD 537), after which he was buried in the Condolden (or Cadon) Barrow near Camelford in Cerniw, Wales.

Constantine III (c.AD 520—576), the son of Cador, was a legendary king of the Britons, as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Constantine also fought in the Battle of Camlann and was apparently one of the few survivors. Arthur, about to be taken to Avalon, passed the crown to him. Constantine continued to have trouble from the Saxons and from the two sons of Mordred, who were Melehan and Melou. He eventually subdued his enemies, however, and chased Mordred's sons into churches where he murdered them. Constantine reigned only four years before being struck down, apparently by God’s vengeance. He was buried at Stonehenge beside the body of Uther Pendragon.

Constantine’s brother ought to have reigned next, but Constantine’s nephew Aurelius Conan attacked him, imprisoned him, and slew his two sons.  Though mostly forgotten in later continental romances, the British retained some knowledge of Constantine. He appears, for example, in the Alliterative Morte Arthure and Malory's Morte d'Arthur as Arthur's cousin and successor.

Facts are unclear after that, and for me this indicates that no one had the leadership and charisma of Arthur to unite people, to repel the enemy, and to create the kingdom that perhaps Arthur envisaged.

The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is Book Two in The Chronicles of the Stone. If you’re looking for more adventures, then please visit The Quest Books, where Cheryl Carpinello, Wendy Leighton-Porter and I have teamed up to offer readers an array of exciting quests. Sign up for our monthly newsletter with exciting exclusive material and get your choice of any e-book on the site FREE!

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