Would the real King Arthur please stand up

With the BBC's family drama Merlin on our screens over the last few months, we've seen another new take on the Arthur story. Simon Young considers what we really know about the Arthur behind the legends

King Arthur addresses his knights in a 12th-century Arthurian manuscript now held in Rennes, France. (Photo by: Leemage/UIG via Getty Images)

This article was first published in the December 2008 edition of BBC History Magazine

In the last 20 years the ‘true’ King Arthur has been spotted by avid fans in almost every corner of the world. Fragments of his gravestone were, for example, noticed in the wall of a church in Croatia. Enthusiasts dug up his sword in Connecticut thus proving that the ‘once and future king’ had beaten Columbus to the New World. There were rumours about a visit to a fairyland in the Pacific – it was recently ‘proved’ that the Celts had colonised New Zealand. A group of Slavic nationalists determined that Arthur was really a Russian Tsar and that all his subsequent history had been faked by the dastardly English.

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