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The Origin of King Arthur


Professor Alice Roberts and Medieval manuscript curator Julian Harrison discover the beginning of the legend of King Arthur.


So this is Geoffrey.

This is one of the earliest copies of Geoffrey of Monmouth'''s History of the Kings of Britain.

It'''s a copy of a 12th-century bestseller.

The writing on the animal-skin parchment is still crystal clear.

The script is so beautiful it'''s so regular.

That'''s fantastic. 900 years ago, a Welsh monk, Geoffrey of Monmouth, wrote his own account of the history of Britain.

His chronicle told of a King Arthur who ruled six hundred years before Geoffrey'''s time.

Here we are, here'''s the page I want to show you.

Geoffrey'''s manuscript is in Latin, the written language of medieval Britain.

I can recognize the odd word here.

I can see concept-something and then eadem nocte.''' Eadem nocte.''' So, this tells you that on this night was conceived, celebrated, King Arthur, Arturus,''' Arturum.''' According to Geoffrey, the mythical king has a rather bizarre conception.

Arthur'''s father asked the wizard Merlin to cast a spell to disguise him as the Duke of Cornwall, so he could seduce the Duke'''s wife.

He'''s in the appearance of her husband and he satisfies himself and as a result on that particular night, on that particular occasion Arthur was conceived.

That moment as those words appear on the page, that'''s the beginning of King Arthur as we know him.


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