Arthurian legend

Voici le contexte de la legend arthurienne.

Arthurian legend

Context of the Arthurian legend

The political situation:
Au cinquième siècle, les romains sont installés en Grande-Bretagne et dominent l’île, même si les Scots (peuplade Celtic venue d’Irlande qui finira, au sixième siècle, par s’établir sur la côte ouest de l’Scotland) et les Picts (peuple préceltique d’Écosse), entre autres, restent insoumis.

But, from 486, with the conquests of Clovis and the invasions of the Vandals, Visigoths and Ostrogoths, the Roman Empire weakens strongly in its western part. The Romans then lose interest in Great Britain to focus on the defense of the Empire, which will not prevent its fall in the 490s.

Les Saxons (ancien peuple Germanic qui s’était étendu vers le sud et avait mené des raids en Gaulle, tout nouvellement arrivé en Grande-Bretagne) en profitent pour essayer de s’emparer de toute l’île. 

Internal conflicts:
Les divers chefs Bretons and Welsh sont alors divisés par d’incessantes querelles, et passent leur temps à guerroyer entre eux, sans grand succès.

All these kings, postulants to a unifying throne, suffer from a problem of legitimacy: the various invasions have brought about a great diversity of peoples and cultures in the kingdom. No leader succeeds in being recognized throughout the kingdom, and by all peoples. There is, therefore, no supreme leader, much less a king who commands all the inhabitants of Great Britain.

But in front of the important threat of invasion of the Saxons they all line up under the banner of a named Artorius.
Ce guerrier, probablement né vers 470-475 en Cornwall, est le chef d’une bande très mobile de cavaliers mercenaires. Tous voient en lui la seule personne capable de tenir tête à l’envahisseur. 

Artorius in power:
Artorius was therefore appointed commander-in-chief of the new army and, all united, the Breton and Welsh kings won, somewhere in the southwest of England around 500-518, a great victory which stopped the invader for about forty years. This is the Battle of Mount Badon (or Bath, or Badbury).

When Artorius died in a great battle, near Camelford in Cornwall, around 540-542, it was the end of Breton independence: at the end of the century, the Saxons occupied three quarters of the island .

The body of Artorius is secretly buried in Glastonbury by his lieutenants, who are anxious to hide his death so as not to demoralize the troops. 

The results :
Devant l’invasion, des milliers de Bretons ont traversé la mer pour s’établir dans la péninsule armoricaine, à laquelle ils donnent le nom de Brittany. Ils y retrouvent des compatriotes arrivés depuis le quatrième siècle. Ils restent en contact très étroit avec les Bretons demeurés dans l’île. Les uns et les autres gardent vivant le souvenir d’Artorius et en font un roi, ce qu’il n’a jamais été dans la réalité.

On the other hand, the problem of legitimacy always arises, and even more so, after the seizure of power by William the Conqueror (1027-1087), Duke of Normandy, in 1066. The king is a Norman, a minority people. And this situation is all the more boring as the rival dynasty does not have this problem: the Capetians present themselves as the descendants of Charlemagne.

To overcome this great disadvantage, the Normans encouraged the clerics to disseminate what is already the legend of Arthur (Roman name for Artorius), and more particularly the myth of his dormition and his imminent return, with the aim of s' ally the Welsh and defeat the Anglo-Saxons. 

The creation of the myth:
At first, therefore, the legend says that Arthur is not dead. Seriously wounded during the battle of Camlann, he was transported by his sister, the fairy Morgana, to the island of Avalon, where he is being treated, waiting to be able to return to take the head of his people: it is Breton hope.

Mais Henri II (1133-1189) va finalement confisquer la légende d’Arthur, en se présentant comme son héritier légitime, et mettre un terme à l’espoir breton. A des fins de propagande, il demande une mise en langue romane de l’Historia Regum Britanniae, commandée en 1138 par son père, dans le même but, à Geoffroy de Monmouth.
The king, inside his kingdom, needs the support of the Bretons against the Saxons who do not accept Norman domination. But the Bretons are not ready to rally to the Plantagenets banner because of Breton hope.

The novel, in three parts, ends with the description of Arthur's reign: his accession to the throne, his marriage, the creation of the Round Table, until the death of the sovereign.

Finally, in 1191, we discovered the tombs (and the skeletons) of Arthur and Guinevere in the cemetery of the abbey. As for the Isle of Avalon, she is identified with Glastonbury Abbey. This puts an end to Breton hope. 

The extension of the myth:
Vers 1100, la légende est tellement présente et forte que les bardes y greffent myths folkloriques, particularités géographiques, traditions chrétiennes et petit héros locaux postérieurs (Yvain par exemple), …

In two or three centuries, therefore, Arthur has become the pivot around which revolves a whole system of independent stories originally, and this set ends up forming a vast and rich reservoir, an immense and inexhaustible myth.

It was Robert Wace, in his Roman de Brut, in 1155, who gave the myth a courteous color. Arthur becomes the ideal monarch, a model of humanity, valor, generosity and delicacy. He was also the first to mention the Round Table, a political symbol of courteous society.

The Arthurian legend is, from the end of the eleventh century, disseminated throughout Europe, and even beyond, by the professional storytellers who accompany the armies leaving for the Holy Land on the occasion of the first two crusades.