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Dr Sarah Peverley: “Geoffrey’s narrative presents history as it should have been, not as it really was”
Researchers at the University of York have found evidence to suggest that Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain, which details the story of King Arthur, was written in St George’s chapel before it was demolished for the construction of Oxford Castle.
Charters and deeds signed by Geoffrey in the 12th century suggests that he was a canon at the church at the time he was writing the chronicle. Only the crypt and tower of St George’s remain today.
Dr Sarah Peverley, senior lecturer in the School of English, commented on the find: “Scholars were already aware that Geoffrey spent a great deal of time at Oxford, studying and teaching there, but the new attention given to documentary evidence linking him to the city is fantastic; it will help us to re-evaluate his social milieu and the cultural influences at work on him as he was composing the Historia.
“Though the British fascination with Arthur dates back much further than Geoffrey’s Latin chronicle, Geoffrey is ultimately responsible for the enduring popularity of King Arthur’s story today.
“His narrative presents history as it should have been, not as it really was. The chronicle’s influence was far-reaching in the Middle Ages, and the Arthurian tales that Geoffrey inspired went onto influence Arthuriana in every subsequent age.
“King Arthur’s appeal is timeless because he’s a touchstone for greatness: he answers society’s desire for strong and just leadership.
“His story is easily adapted to accommodate different political and cultural ideals as evidenced from Sir Thomas Malory’s use of Arthur’s story to reflect the conflict blighting England during the Wars of the Roses, right down to the BBC’s popular TV series Merlin, which used the Arthurian kingdom to tackle issues of racism and social exclusion, by setting Arthur’s court in a land where magic is banned.
“People from every age can see something in the myth that is applicable to them – love, hate, ambition, betrayal, war, and, in the prophecies surrounding his return, hope for another golden age – the legend has it all.”
For information on the news story, visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-22311399
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