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Edward I and the Ritualization of English Royal Round Table Festivals

Edward I and the Ritualization of English Royal Round Table Festivals

Paper by Chris Berard

Given at the 33rd Medieval Colloquium, University of Toronto (March 2012)

In the Annales Angliae et Scotiae, a chronicle written around the year 1312 by a monk from the abbey of St Albans, there is a description of the wedding ceremonies between King Edward I and Margaret of France, that took place on 10 September 1299. Historians have already noted that the account of the festivities were lifted from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s description of Arthur’s coronation banquet, and do not reflect what actually took place during the wedding ceremony (in reality, after the ceremony was completed, Edward, quickly traveled to another town to have dinner with a couple of knights, while the Queen, who was about 20, entertained the younger people.

Chris Berard of the University of Toronto examined how and why this Arthurian tale was one of several stories weaved into the Annales from Geoffrey de Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae. He notes another example in the Annales, which describes Edward’s sack of Berwick in 1296, where the author gives a lengthy invective against the Scots describing them as “a rotten fruit from a once good vineyard”, which was directly taken from an Arthurian description of a brother of Arthur.

Berard believes that the use of Arthurian material to describe events in Edward’s reign may have been part of the English king’s propaganda campaign for his claim on Scotland. In 1291 Edward had asked 30 monastic houses, including St Albans, for evidence on English rule over Scotland, and another religious house responded with Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of Arthur’s victory over the Scots as part of the reason why England should rule Scotland.

By 1300, Edward himself was using Arthurian tales as part of his claims for Scotland. After the Papacy orders the English to leave Scotland, Edward writes to Pope Boniface VIII in 1301 invoking King Arthur to say all kings of Scotland were subject to all kings of England.

Berard also notes that King Edward also began using Arthurian themes in other ways, such as in 1302 when he held a roundtable at Falkirk, and in 1306, where he creates the Feast of the Swans, which was loosely based on Arthur’s Pentecost feast, where the English ruler vowed to defeat the Scots and go on crusade.

Berard concludes that the monk of St Albans who wrote the Annales Angliae et Scotiae was well aware of Edward’s use of Arthurian literature to promote his claims, and incorporated parts of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s writings to help fashion his account of the life and reign of the English king.

 

See also Who gave King Arthur “a crippling blow”? It was St. George, argues scholar

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