King Arthur and Morgan le Fay

in Historical Britain

Most people know the legend of King Athur from medieval romances. Written in the 1400s, Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur is the most influential version of the story. So in novels and movies, King Arthur usually shows up in medieval plate armor, a perfect Christian knight.

But Malory didn’t make Arthur up. Historical references to Arthur show up as early as the 9th Century. And the scholar Geoffrey Ashe makes a compelling case that Arthur was a British war chief called Riothamus (“High King”) who flourished around 470 AD, and was last seen around the French town of Avallon.

It’s a time when everything is up for grabs. The British still think of themselves as Romans. They write in Latin, and travel on old Roman roads. But the British are divided and disorganized against the invading barbarian Saxons, who are pushing them relentlessly westward. Rome can’t help. It pulled its legions out in 402, and it’s been sacked by barbarian Vandals.

The British are also between religions. Most British still worship the old pagan gods — including the war goddess, Morigenos, whom the Irish call the Morrígan. But Christianity — finally legal in the Empire — is spreading quickly.

Ireland is still completely pagan, except for one or two early monasteries. There are no towns in Ireland, no roads and no books.

This is the world Morgan lives in. Her father thinks of himself as a Roman governor, but where does that get him? The old Celtic British traditions, and the old religion, make more sense to her than Roman laws. She is a throwback. That is her strength, and her downfall.

The author has done extensive historical research on post-Roman Britain, both through written sources, and traveling to British sites such as South Cadbury Castle (Camelot), Tintagel, Tara, Emly, and Butser Ancient Farm. All the details of daily life in 5th Century Britain and Ireland — except the magic — are as accurate as possible.


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