Kids like King Arthur and kids like wearing things on their heads. So here’s King Arthur’s crown to make when reading about King Arthur.
King Arthur’s Story
Some people say Arthur was nothing but a story, a mythical make-believe person. Others think he was totally real, though obviously embellished. Whether there was a King Arthur or not, the facts behind the story are this: Britain was being overrun in the 5th century after Christ by Viking and Germanic tribes and the Picts from Scotland.
Before this time Britain had been ruled by Rome for about four hundred years. Then suddenly, as Rome fell apart the legions were recalled and Britain was abandoned. When the British called for help as Roman citizens, they were told to look to their own defense; Rome could do nothing for them. There was a power vacuum and several of the more powerful nobles filled it, creating tiny kingdoms. But the tiny kingdoms were no match for the Picts who came pouring down from Scotland or the Norse who sailed in raiding seaside towns. They had to band together or die. They chose to die as they could not bury their petty power struggles or their pride to take orders from another. Enter the high king. Finally someone gained enough of a following to compel the lesser kings to bow down before him as the high king. Arthur supposedly came of this line of high kings. And Arthur was the greatest of the high kings of Britain. For decades Arthur solidified his reign, held off the invaders, and established peace and the rule of law based on Roman and Christian principles.
The Romans in Britain as well as other places had adopted Christianity. Arthur was one of these early Christians of the Celtic variety. That is why there are Christian references sprinkled with magic throughout the Arthurian tales. Their religion was really a blend of the old and new.
Eventually Britain was overrun by the Saxons and Angles from Germany, then the Danes and finally the Normans. Celtic Christianity was wiped out in favor of the old pagan religions only to be replaced later by Roman Catholic Christianity.
- Today’s Arthurian legends are based on Sir Thomas Malory, an English knight from the 1400’s, who wrote the stories while a prisoner in someone’s drafty castle. The oldest Arthurian references in existence though go back much further to monks who wrote the history of England before 1000 AD.
- When reading a story about Arthur talk about the moral codes the court lived by. How are they different and how are they the same as the moral codes in your culture?
- Discuss myths and legends. Sometimes perhaps they are nothing but fancy, other times they are based on truth. They are nearly always embellished through time.
- Art based on the Arthur legends is plentiful. Take a tour through some artists who painted in this theme.
- Try our King Arthur Mini Unit