Legends of King Arthur & the Knights Templar The True Historical Bases of Arthurian Tales of the Holy Grail

King Arthur, representation on 11th century 'Arthurian Round Table' at Great Hall in Winchester, England

King Arthur, representation on 11th century ‘Arthurian Round Table’ at Great Hall in Winchester, England

N (100) Knights Templar Illuminated Letters www.knightstemplarorder.orgNo presentation of the authentic Knights Templar of the Order of the Temple of Solomon would be complete, without an exploration of the medieval Arthurian legends of King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table, and their Quests for the Holy Grail.

Indeed, much popular awareness and a significant part of the public image of the Templars in the middle ages was shaped and promoted by the Arthurian tales. The literary portrayals of “knights in shining armor” fighting to champion noble causes, and always pursuing deeply spiritual Quests, seeking profound esoteric wisdom by pursuing or protecting the Holy Grail, were all an artistic expression of the genuine traditional values and religious beliefs of the Templars.

The Arthurian legends have their own historical value as symbolic esoteric teachings, and an expression of medieval culture. Separate from this, however, there is the independent topic of the identity and factual history of a historical figure, who was later transformed into the legendary King Arthur of Camelot.

 

The Real “King Arthur” of the Historical Record

 

'Vita Columba' by Adomnan (7th century) at Town Library Archives in Schauffhausen, Switzerland

‘Vita Columba’ by Adomnan (7th century) at Town Library Archives in Schauffhausen, Switzerland

T (100) Knights Templar Illuminated Letters www.knightstemplarorder.orgThe first historical reference to a noble warrior named Arthur (using the Latin spelling “Arturius”) was found in the 7th century Scottish manuscript, the Vita Columba.

This work identified Arthur as a “Prince”, who was the “son of King Aidan” (King of the Scots from 574 AD). It recorded that Arthur and his father King Aidan led a coalition of “Briton” (modern UK region) kings who fought the invading Picts and Saxons, and that Arthur never became “King”, as he was “slain… in the battle of the Miathi”. [1]

The Irish Annals of Ulster reports an almost identical description of the event of the death of Arthur, calling it the “battle of Manann”, fought against the Picts who lived in Miathi. This explains why the same battle was alternatively called the “battle of Miathi” in the Scottish record.

Official royal records of Scotland have revealed that when Columba (a Catholic priest) performed the induction ceremony for the coronation of King Aidan of Dalriada in 574 AD, Aidan’s eldest son was Arthur, indicating that he was born in 559 AD.

The second reference to Arthur in a historical context was in a 9th century Latin text, the Historia Brittonum, which reported Arthur as “dux bellorum” (war commander), fighting “alongside the kings of the Britons” against the invading Picts and Saxons. In this work, the chronological order of the appearance of Arthur in between other dated events indicates the peak of Arthur’s notable activities as during the early to middle 6th century AD. [2]

The third reference in the historical record to Arthur (using the Celtic spelling “Artuir”) was in the 11th century Irish Annals of Tighernac, which reports: “Death of the sons of Aidan” including “Arthur at the battle of Chirchind, in which Aidan was victorious.” This account confirms that Arthur was the son of the Scottish King Aidan, and that he died in a battle allied with Briton kings fighting against the Picts and the Saxons. [3]

Arthur Fighting the Saxons (c.1315-23 AD) in 'Rochefoucauld Grail' manuscript at Sotheby's Auction House, London

Arthur Fighting the Saxons (c.1315-23 AD) in ‘Rochefoucauld Grail’ manuscript at Sotheby’s Auction House, London

The fourth reference to King Arthur was found in the 12th century copies of earlier 10th century manuscripts, called Annales Cambriae. These detailed historical chronicles reported his military victory while carrying “the cross of our Lord”. [4]

Other manuscripts mention that Arthur was appointed “Commander” in 575 AD, at the age of 16. This confirms the interpretation that his first battle would be 576 AD, one year after becoming Commander. That corroborated time frame also confirms the date 589 AD as the approximate year of his death.

The fifth reference to Arthur as a historical figure did not appear until a 12th century Latin text, the Historia Regum Britanniae by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who described the materials as being his Latin translation from “a very ancient book in the Breton toungue” which came “out of Brittany”, suggesting that its source was older Celtic Gaelic writings. [5] [6]

While the existence of the landmark work Historia Regum Britanniae is part of the historical record, it is not generally considered a chronicle of factual history. These were the first documents to ever call the royal warrior “King” Arthur, although he was actually a Prince. Nonetheless, it is a fact of medieval royal protocols that “King” is technically a “title of office”, and all kings were also princes and often alternately used the title of “Prince”. Certainly, a Prince who was leading a group of kings in battle could fairly be assumed to himself also be a “King”.

Mostly, this work was historically significant because it is attributed with inspiring and leading to most of the later Arthurian legends telling various symbolic tales of “King Arthur” and the Knights of the Round Table, and their Quests for the Holy Grail.

Arthur and his Knights Riding Back to Camelot (early 14th century) in 'Lancelot du Lac' French manuscript

Arthur and his Knights Riding Back to Camelot (early 14th century) in ‘Lancelot du Lac’ French manuscript

The connection between the historical Prince Arturius Aidan and the legendary “King Arthur” is confirmed by an 8th century manuscript, The Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee. That historical record contains a clear reference to “Morgan” as the daughter of King Aidan, being the half-sister (same word as for ‘sister’) of Arturius. This matches the legendary King Arthur having a sister “Morganna” (the feminine grammar for Morgan as a woman’s name), also known as “Morgan Le Fey” (simply adding “The Fairy” as a title of honour after the same name Morgan).

Arthur Aidan’s mother was reported to be Ygerna del Acqs (better known as “Igrain”), the High Queen of the Celtic kingdoms. Accordingly, Arthur’s grandmother was Vivien del Acqs, the Queen of Avalon and a High Priestess of the ancient Celtic religion. Arthur’s father King Aedan was the son of King Gabran and Lluan of Brecknock, and Lluan was reported to be a direct descendant of the Biblical Joseph of Arimathea, thereby entitling King Aedan mac Gabran to the title of “Pendragon” (which meant “Chief Warrior”, being a King higher than other kings to unite them).

The name “Merlin” was also a title, which meant “Seer to the King”, a position which was reserved for a High Priest of the Celtic religion. One person (of many at different times) who held the title “Merlin” was Emrys of Powys, the son of Aurelius, and Emrys was an elder cousin to King Aedan, Arthur’s father. Arthur did have three brothers, Eochaid Find, Eochaid Buide, and Domingart. Since Arthur was the eldest son and Crown-Prince, however, “Merlin” was assigned to mentor, guide and train Arthur. Therefore, although Arthur was not an only child and not without a living father, the legendary accounts in stories that Merlin “raised” Arthur from childhood is a fair description, which does not contradict the historical record.

These facts placed Prince Arthur Aidan in the unique position of being both ancient Celtic royalty, as well as Biblical and Catholic royalty, simultaneously. This made Arthur the embodiment of balance and reconciliation between the developing Catholicism and the ancient Celtic religion, resulting in their effective “merger” into the medieval form of the “Celtic Church”.

The battle in which Arthur died was variously called the battle “of Miathi”, “of Manann”, “of Chirchind” and “of Camlann”. None of the four historical accounts specify the location, but all of them describe the same royal Arthur leading the same battle against the same invaders, thereby confirming that it happened in the same place. The varied historical references to King Arthur’s death at this battle are reasonably close considering the prevailing practices of mostly “oral history” during that time period, averaging ca.589 AD.

Arthur’s birth in 559 AD, becoming Commander at age 16 in 575 AD, and beginning of active battles at age 17 in 576 AD, would make him 30 years old at the time of his death ca. 589 AD, having a total of 14 years of military experience by that time. That timeline and resulting level of experience would explain how that last battle he led was victorious, despite his being killed in the process.

Therefore, reliable and verifiable historical evidence does establish that in fact, the legendary “King Arthur” was the Celtic Crown-Prince Arturius Aidan of Scotland, ca. 559-589 AD, who facilitated establishment of the Celtic Church which integrated Catholicism with ancient Celtic spirituality.

All of the above facts and references are further supported by the scholarly works of Norma Lorre Goodrich, Ph.D. (1917-2006), Professor Emeritus at Claremont Colleges in California, who is credited with developing the most reliable modern translations of the relevant ancient and medieval manuscripts. As a result of her work, archaeologists have successfully found evidence of several key conclusions on these interrelated topics of the historical figure of Arthur. [7]

 

The Arthurian Kingdom & the Isle of Man

 

Book of Taliesin, page MS2, (C) National Library of Wales (academic 'fair use')

Book of Taliesin, page MS2, (C) National Library of Wales (academic ‘fair use’)

T (100) Knights Templar Illuminated Letters www.knightstemplarorder.orgThe land of the Arthurian legends was known as “Avalon”, described as an island. Avalon was most notably described by the renowned British-Welsh poet, “Bard Taliesin”. He was the author of 56 Welsh manuscripts from the 6th century, which were later published as the 14th century manuscript called the Book of Taliesin, which is preserved in the National Library of Wales.

It is interesting to note, that from the 12th to 16th century Bard Taliesin himself became a legendary “mythic hero”, reportedly a contemporary companion of Bran the Blessed and “King Arthur”.

Most scholars who translated these 6th century manuscripts assumed (since they were re-published in the 14th century) that they were written in “Old French”, instead of the “Old German” Celtic languages they were originally written in. Thus, Bard Taliesin’s description of Avalon as “Insula Pororum Fortunata” was mistranslated as Old French for “Island of Apples”, even disregarding the significance of the third word which was omitted from translations.

However, since Taliesin in his time spoke ancient Celtic, his words “Insula Pororum Fortunata” originally meant an “Island by the Sea”, one characterized by “abundance” (“Fortunata”). This full and more accurate translation is additionally supported by various accounts of the profuse vegetation on the island of Avalon, and the inhabitants accordingly living long life spans.

Peel Castle on St. Peter's Isle at Isle of Man ('Ellin Vannin'), believed to be the historical site of the legendary Arthurian 'Avalon'

Peel Castle on St. Peter’s Isle at Isle of Man (‘Ellin Vannin’), believed to be the historical site of the legendary Arthurian ‘Avalon’

The ancient Celtic name for the Isle of Man, in its native Manx language, is “Ellin Vannin”, literally the “Island by the Sea”. This indicates that the Isle of Man was exactly the same place with the same ancient name as described by Bard Taliesin in his own native language, thus being the true historical location of Avalon of the Arthurian legends.

In the Arthurian legends, Guinevere’s father was named “King Orry”. The French historical writers and poets Chretien de Troyes (a Templar) and Marie de France found the name “Orry” to come from the Manx word “Gorrie”, clearly identifying the Isle of Man. That fact also explains the otherwise strange spelling of the name Guinevere, which is actually a Pictish name. During the historical time period of Arthur, the Picts were ruling the Isle of Man.

The prominent British historian Sir John Rhys (1840-1915 AD), founding fellow of the British Academy and first Professor of Celtic Studies at Oxford University, and other authoritative scholars, have translated the old Celtic languages with supporting documentation, establishing that “Avalon”, the “Grail Castle”, and Arthur’s third castle “Galoches” were all in fact on the Isle of Man. [8]

Isle of Man official '3-legged' heraldry, labeled 'Whichever Way You Throw It, It Stands' in Latin

Isle of Man official ‘3-legged’ heraldry, labeled ‘Whichever Way You Throw It, It Stands’ in Latin

This was further confirmed by the British lawyer, scholar, Vatican ecclesiast and Canon law advisor to King Henry II, Gervase of Tilbury (ca.1150-1228 AD), who described “King Arthur” in a royal establishment, explaining that the palace was located on a “three sided, three legged Island”. The national symbol of the Isle of Man, from its most ancient Celtic times, is three legs joined at the thighs.

It is also relevant and interesting, that all factual historical data for the real Prince Arthur Aidan (who later became the legendary “King Arthur”) was recorded primarily only in Ireland and Scotland, equally. This fact is significant, because the Isle of Man is located in the sea at equal distance between Ireland and Scotland, and was the only part of the modern United Kingdom that experienced several millennia of mixing Irish and Scottish culture, while alternating Irish and Scottish rule, before the British later got involved with the territory. This context of sources of the historical record further supports the conclusion that the location of the Arthurian “Avalon” was in fact on the Isle of Man.

 

Arthurian Legends & the Knights Templar

 

T (100) Knights Templar Illuminated Letters www.knightstemplarorder.orgThe historical record has established that “the very first Grail Story, written by Chretien de Troyes, in about 1188 AD, was produced in the very city where Templarism was born, Troyes.” It was at the Council of Troyes (France) in 1127 AD where Bernard de Clairvaux established the Roman Catholic Cisterian Rule of the Templar Order. Historians confirm that: “Subsequent Grail stories emanated from various parts of Europe, and many of them mentioned Templar, or Templar-type knights, and espoused their virtues as… Holy knights. It is more than probable that, from first to last, Templars… either wrote or sanctioned many of the Grail stories.” [9]

It was the very same Chretien de Troyes whose translations from ancient Celtic Gaelic identified the Isle of Man as the historical location of the legendary “Avalon” of “King Arthur”. Accordingly, it was one of the original “second generation” Knights Templar, Chretien de Troyes, who began the 12th century tradition of Arthurian legends embodying ancient mythology and sacred wisdom, possessing a connection to factual academic knowledge of the true historical Prince Arthur Aidan of the 6th century.

Legends of the “Holy Grail became popular at the end of the Crusades, and though it came to be associated with the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper, its origins were lost in the mists of prehistory, as a sacred cauldron.” [10] The concept of the “sacred cauldron” was essentially a Celtic metaphor for true esoteric spiritual alchemy, tracing back to the ancient Pharaonic Egyptian priesthood and simultaneously the ancient Celtic Druid civilization of Western Europe.

Arthurian Knights of the Round Table (15th century) in 'Lancelot and the Holy Grail' manuscript

Arthurian Knights of the Round Table (15th century) in ‘Lancelot and the Holy Grail’ manuscript

The British folk historian Alfred Nutt published a landmark cultural work, The Legends of the Holy Grail (1902), which developed and maintained “the earlier belief that King Arthur’s knights were Templars, but insisted they were also Celtic priests who predated Christianity.” Jessie L. Weston of the Folklore Society supported this conclusion in his research work The Quest for the Holy Grail, which helped to “link the pre-Christian Knights of the Round Table to the Gnostic heretics of the fourth century, who managed to “pass on their secret knowledge to the medieval Templars.” [11]

The ancient spiritual alchemy behind the later Arthurian legends of the Holy Grail was most visible in a landmark work published in 1616 AD, that historians “consider to be one of the most intriguing documents ever to surface in Europe,” called The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rozenkreutz. With its very title referring to the old English word for “alchemy”, and the name of the main character referring to the “Rosicrucian” tradition derived from the Templar’s “red cross”, the story is essentially about “a ‘magical wedding’ of a king and queen in a mysterious land. The story is couched in alchemical symbolism”.

“Alchemy was a popular study and owed little to the modern conception that it existed merely to turn base metals into gold. In fact the true search of the alchemist was a sort of spiritual enlightenment that lay at the heart of the ‘Utopian’ ideals of whoever wrote The Chymical Wedding. … But what is even more interesting… is the fact that the book has all of the hallmarks of the much earlier ‘Holy Grail’ stories.” Indeed, this work of esoteric alchemical folklore “seems to be the Holy Grail brought up to date.” [12]

The medieval understanding of the ancient tradition of alchemy, was the Quest (or search by scientific or spiritual exploration) for the “philosopher’s stone”, which would give enlightenment. The connection of medieval alchemy and the “philosopher’s stone” to the fabled “Holy Grail” of the Knights, is demonstrated at Chartres Cathedral in France, which was built by the 12th century Templars of the Order of the Temple of Solomon.

In Chartres Cathedral, a scene of Melchizedek presenting the Communion sacrament (which by biblical definition is supposed to be “bread and wine”) to Abraham [13] is depicted as a statue at the northern entrance, called the “Gate of the Initiates”. In this sculpture, Melchizedek is presenting a “stone” within a sacred “Grail” chalice, thereby clearly signifying that the knightly “Holy Grail” is in fact the “philosopher’s stone” of alchemy. [14]

While thinly veiled in well-known symbolism of the time, this association of the Holy Sacrament with the Holy Grail as the alchemical Quest for the philosopher’s stone would be considered “heretical” at the time. Nonetheless, this evidence demonstrates that this concept was in fact part of the core Templar beliefs and secret teachings of the middle ages.

'The Attainment, The Vision of the Holy Grail' (ca.1895 AD) in 'Holy Grail Tapestries' at Birmingham Museum

‘The Attainment, The Vision of the Holy Grail’ (ca.1895 AD) in ‘Holy Grail Tapestries’ at Birmingham Museum

Evidence confirms that the ancient Gnostic esoteric knowledge of the Cathars (which is traditionally an integral part of Templarism) was itself central to the alchemical enlightenment associated with the “Holy Grail”. One of the Arthurian legend stories tells of a lady “Esclarmonde”, who assumes the form of a “white dove” which “escaped and flew over the walled crest”, in order to carry the Holy Grail away from the persecutors of the Gnostic Cathars. This legendary figure was identified and confirmed by historians to be Esclarmonde de Foix (ca.1151-1215 AD), a Saint of contemporary Gnostic Churches. [15]

 

Direct Arthurian Connections to the Modern Templar Order

 

King Godred Crovan of Mann at Tynwald Court (ca.1079 AD) Isle of Man

King Godred Crovan of Mann at Tynwald Court (ca.1079 AD) Isle of Man

T (100) Knights Templar Illuminated Letters www.knightstemplarorder.orgThe Isle of Man, the historical site for the location of Avalon of the Arthurian legends, and the historical site of Arthur’s final battle where he died, was re-established as a Celtic kingdom in 1079 AD by the Celtic warrior King Godred Crovan, who was also King of Dublin and the Irish and some Scottish isles. Thus, 490 years after the death of the Prince Arthur, Godred Crovan reclaimed and ruled the Isle of Man for the Celts (from 1079-1266 AD).

In 2007 AD, Queen Elizabeth II of the British Crown recognized and legalized the Royal House of modern heirs of the Templar King Fulk of Jerusalem as the “Independent Kingdom of Mann”. Official genealogy by the Anglican Church proved that the Royal House of Mann descended from the Celtic Godred Crovan line through King William de Montague of Mann, and also from the Stanley Kings of Mann.

The British Crown remains the Head of State of the Isle of Man, which retains the status of a British “crown dependency” without its own sovereignty. However, the Royal House of the King Fulk line holds full sovereignty of the ancient historical Independent Kingdom of Mann of its ancestors, and it legitimately represents and continues the medieval Celtic traditions from the Isle of Man, the original territory of the legendary “King Arthur”.

Prince George Stanley (1460-1503 AD) of the Stanley Kings of Mann

Prince George Stanley (1460-1503 AD)

In addition to embodying the original Celtic Kingdom of Mann of the historical Arthur of the Knights of the Round Table, the Independent Kingdom of Mann also carries forward the founding sovereign authority from the first Knights Templar, of the original Order of the Temple of Solomon.

A parallel line of ancestry of the Kings of Mann comes from Count Fulk of Anjou (ca. 1090-1143 AD), the King of Jerusalem (succeeding Baldwin II). King Fulk was one of the original founding knights of the Order of the Temple of Solomon in 1118 AD, and was part of its original sovereign patronage of the Order from the Kings of Jerusalem. The descendants of King Fulk flowed through several lines of British Kings, including King Henry II of Anjou (1133-1189 AD), and later King Edward III (ca. 1333 AD), who was succeeded 7 generations later by Prince George Stanley (1460-1503 AD) of the “Stanley Kings” of the Isle of Man. The source of Magistral Succession of the modern Templar Grand Mastery holds direct lineal descent from the Stanley Kings of Mann, and thus carries dynastic succession from King Fulk of Jerusalem.

King Henry II - National Portrait Gallery

King Henry II – National Portrait Gallery

It is interesting to note that one of the most prominent scholars to establish that “King Arthur”, “Avalon” and “Camelot” were all located on the Isle of Man, the British lawyer Gervase of Tilbury, also served under King Henry II of Anjou (1133-1189 AD) as a royal advisor. King Henry II, through his father Count Geoffrey V of Anjou, was directly related to his grandfather King Fulk of Anjou.

The knowledge that the historical Prince Arthur was based on the Isle of Man was established by research of the prominent Templar Chretiens de Troyes, who authored many of the Arthurian legends starting in 1188 AD. That conclusion was further confirmed by his contemporary Gervase of Tilbury as an advisor to King Henry II of the Templar House of Anjou.

This earlier Templar knowledge (from ca. 1188 AD) that the Isle of Man was the actual headquarters of the real historical Prince Arthur is what motivated King Edward I to acquire the island (102 years later in 1290 AD). After several transfers of the Isle of Man to Celtic nobility, this also motivated King George III to re-acquire the island by conquest (577 years later in 1765 AD), to claim its legendary Arthurian history as part of British Templar heritage.

King Arthur Tapestry

King Arthur Tapestry

In 2007, the descendant of King Fulk of Jerusalem re-vested Magistral Succession of the Templar Grand Mastery, and in 2013 granted it full Tutela protection autonomous sovereignty. The modern Knights Templar, of the original Order of the Temple of Solomon, are thereby directly connected with their founding ancestral line of King Fulk, and thus also with the “Arthurian” Royal House from the Isle of Man which preserved that dynastic line.

As a result, the modern Knights Templar are directly connected to the historical location of the real “King Arthur” and the “Knights of the Round Table”, and to the earliest historical foundations of their own Arthurian legends of the “Holy Grail”, which were created and promoted by the original Templar Order throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

 

 

Academic Source References for this Topic

 

[1] Adomnan (Scottish monk), Vita Columba, 7th century manuscript, Town Library Archives, Schauffhausen, Switzerland.

[2] Nennius (Welsh ecclesiast), Historia Brittonum, 9th century Latin text (820 AD).

[3] Tighernac (Irish monk), Annals of Tighernac, 11th century manuscript.

[4] Annales Cambriae, 10th century manuscripts, preserved in 12th century copies.

[5] Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Regnum Britanniae, 12th century Latin text, translated from Celtic Caelic writings provided by Walter the Archdeacon of Oxford, compendium of 215 manuscripts (ca. 1136 AD).

[6] Andrew Lang, History of English Literature, Longmans (1912), Vincent Press, p.45.

[7] Norma Lorre Goodrich, King Arthur, Harper & Row (1989); Merlin, Harper Perennial (1989); Guinevere, Perennial (1992); The Holy Grail, Harper Perennial (1993).

[8] Sir Jonh Rhys, Studies in the Arthurian Legend (1891).

[9] Alan Butler and Stephen Dafoe, The Warriors and the Bankers, Lewis Masonic, Surrey, England (2006), pp.56-57.

[10] Ibid., p.56.

[11] Frank Sanello, The Knights Templars: God’s Warriors, the Devil’s Bankers, Taylor Trade Publishing, Oxford (2003), p.278.

[12] Alan Butler and Stephen Dafoe, The Warriors and the Bankers, Lewis Masonic, Surrey, England (2006), pp.56-57.

[13] Bible: Old Testament, Genesis 14:18-20.

[14] Louis Charpentier, The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral, Research Into Lost Knowledge Organization with Thorsons Press, Wellingborough (1972), Chapter 18, p.147.

[15] Norma Lorre Goodrich, The Holy Grail, Harper Perennial (1993), p.272.