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ARTHUR

noted, rides on purely chivalric ventures, such as aiding distressed damsels, seeking the Grail, &c. His expeditions are all more or less warlike. The story of his youth belongs, as Alfred Nutt (Folk-lore, vol. iv.) has shown, to the group of tales classified as the Aryan Expulsion and Return formula, found in all Aryan lands. Numerous parallels exist between the Arthurian and early Irish heroic cycles, notably the Fenian or Ossianic. This Fenian cycle is very closely connected with the Tuatha de Danaan, the Celtic deities of vegetation and increase; recent research has shown that two notable features of the Arthurian story, the Round Table and the Grail, can be most reasonably accounted for as survivals of this Nature worship, and were probably parts of the legend from the first.

Romantic.—The character of Arthur as a romantic hero is, in reality, very different from that which, mainly through the popularity of Tennyson’s Idylls, English people are wont to suppose. In the earlier poems he is practically a lay figure, his court the point of departure and return for the knights whose adventures are related in detail, but he himself a passive spectator. In the prose romances he is a monarch, the splendour of whose court, whose riches and generosity, are the admiration of all; but morally he is no whit different from the knights who surround him; he takes advantage of his bonnes fortunes as do others. He has two sons, neither of them born in wedlock; one, Modred, is alike his son and his nephew. In certain romances, the Perlesvaus and Diu Crône, he is a veritable roi fainéant, overcome by sloth and luxury. Certain traits of his story appear to show the influence of Northern romance. Such is the story of his begetting, where Uther takes upon him the form of Gorlois to deceive Yguerne, even as Siegfried changed shapes with Gunther to the undoing of Brünnhilde. The sword in the perron (stone pillar or block), the withdrawal of which proves his right to the kingdom, is the sword of the Branstock. Morgain carries him off, mortally wounded, to Avalon, even as the Valkyr bears the Northern hero to Valhal. Morgain herself has many traits in common with the Valkyrie; she is one of nine sisters, she can fly through the air as a bird (Swan maiden); she possesses a marvellous ointment (as does Hilde, the typical Valkyr). The idea of a slumbering hero who shall awake at the hour of his country’s greatest need is world-wide, but the most famous instances are Northern, e.g. Olger Danske and Barbarossa, and depend ultimately on an identification with the gods of the Northern Pantheon, notably Thor. W. Larminie cited an instance of a rhyme current in the Orkneys as a charm against nightmare, which confuses Arthur with Siegfried and his winning of the Valkyr.

Fairy.—We find that at Arthur’s birth (according to Layamon, who here differs from Wace), three ladies appeared and prophesied his future greatness. This incident is also found in the first continuation to the Perceval, where the prediction is due to a lady met with beside a forest spring, clearly here a water fairy. In the late romance of La Bataille de Loquifer Avalon has become a purely fairy kingdom, where Arthur rules in conjunction with Morgain. In Huon de Bordeaux he is Oberon’s heir and successor, while in the romance of Brun de la Montagne, preserved in a unique MS. of the Bibliothèque Nationale, we have the curious statement that all fairy-haunted places, wherever found, belong to Arthur:—

“Et touz ces lieux faés
Sont Artus de Bretagne.”

This brief summary of the leading features of the Arthurian tradition will indicate with what confused and complex material we are here dealing. (See also Arthurian Legend, Grail, Merlin, Round Table; and Celt: Celtic literature.)

Texts. Historic:—Nennius, Historia Britonum; H. Zimmer, Nennius Vindicatus (Berlin, 1893), an examination into the credibility of Nennius; Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia Britonum (translations of both histories are in Bohn’s Library); Wace, the Brut (ed. by Leroux de Lincey); Layamon (ed. by Sir Fred. Madden).

Romantic:—Merlin—alike in the Ordinary, or Vulgate (ed. Sommer), the Suite or “Huth” Merlin, the 13th century Merlin (ed. by G. Paris and J. Ulrich), and the unpublished and unique version of Bibl. nat. fonds français, 337 (cf. Freymond’s analysis in Zeitschrift für franz. Sprache, xxii.)—devotes considerable space to the elaboration of the material supplied by the chronicles, the beginning of Arthur’s reign, his marriage and wars with the Saxons. The imitation of the Charlemagne romances is here evident; the Saxons bear names of Saracen origin, and camels and elephants appear on the scene. The Morte Arthur, or Mort au roi Artus, a metrical romance, of which a unique English version exists in the Thornton collection (ed. for Early English Text Society), gives an expanded account of the passing of Arthur; in the French prose form it is now always found incorporated with the Lancelot, of which it forms the concluding section. The remains of the Welsh tradition are to be found in the Mabinogion (cf. Nutt’s edition, where the stories are correctly classified), and in the Triads. Professor Rhys’ Studies in the Arthurian Legend are largely based on Welsh material, and may be consulted for details, though the conclusions drawn are not in harmony with recent research. These are the only texts in which Arthur is the central figure; in the great bulk of the romances his is but a subordinate rôle.  (J. L. W.) 


ARTHUR I. (1187–1203), duke of Brittany, was the posthumous son of Geoffrey, the fourth son of Henry II. of England, and Constance, heiress of Conan IV., duke of Brittany. The Bretons hoped that their young prince would uphold their independence, which was threatened by the English. Henry II. tried to seize Brittany, and in 1187 forced Constance to marry one of his favourites, Randulph de Blundevill, earl of Chester (d. 1232). Henry, however, died soon afterwards (1189). The new king of England, Richard Cœur de Lion, claimed the guardianship of the young Arthur, but in 1190 Richard left for the Crusade. Constance profited by his absence by governing the duchy, and in 1194 she had Arthur proclaimed duke of Brittany by an assembly of barons and bishops. Richard invaded Brittany in 1196, but was defeated in 1197 and became reconciled to Constance. On his death in 1189, the nobles of Anjou, Maine and Touraine refused to recognize John of England, and did homage to Arthur, who declared himself the vassal of Philip Augustus. In 1202 war was resumed between the king of England and the king of France. The king of France recognized Arthur’s right to Brittany, Anjou, Maine and Poitou. While Philip Augustus was invading Normandy, Arthur tried to seize Poitou. But, surprised at Mirebeau, he fell into the hands of John, who sent him prisoner to Falaise. In the following year he was transferred to Rouen, and disappeared suddenly. It is thought that John killed him with his own hand. After this murder John was condemned by the court of peers of France, and stripped of the fiefs which he possessed in France.

See Ralph of Coggeshall, “Chronicon Anglicanum,” in the Monumenta Britanniae historica; Dom Lobineau, Histoire de Bretagne (1702); Dom Morice, Histoire de Bretagne (1742–1756); A. de la Borderie, Histoire de Bretagne, vol. iii. (1899); Bémont, “De la condamnation de Jean-sans-Terre par la Cour des Pairs de France,” in the Revue historique (1886), vol. xxxii.

ARTHUR III. (1393–1458), earl of Richmond, constable of France, and afterwards duke of Brittany, was the third son of John IV., duke of Brittany, and Joan of Navarre, afterwards the wife of Henry IV. of England. His brother, John V., gave him his earldom of Richmond in England. While still very young, he took part in the civil wars which desolated France during the reign of Charles VI. From 1410 to 1414 he served on the side of the Armagnacs, and afterwards entered the service of Louis the dauphin, whose intimate friend he became. He profited by his position at court to obtain the lieutenancy of the Bastille, the governorship of the duchy of Nemours, and the confiscated territories of Jean Larchevêque, seigneur of Parthenay. His efforts to reduce the latter were, however, interrupted by the necessity of marching against the English. At Agincourt he was wounded and captured, and remained a prisoner in England from 1415 to 1420. Released on parole, he gained the favour of King Henry V. by persuading his brother, the duke of Brittany, to conclude the treaty of Troyes, by which France was handed over to the English king. He was rewarded with the countship of Ivry.

In 1423 Arthur married Margaret of Burgundy, widow of the dauphin Louis, and became thus the brother-in-law of Philip the Good of Burgundy, and of the regent, the duke of Bedford. Offended, however, by Bedford’s refusal to give him a high command, he severed his connexion with the English, and in March 1425 accepted the constable’s sword from King Charles VII.