The real King Arthur was not from Cornwall or Wales – he was actually a northerner. That’s the verdict of a new book, Pennine Dragon: The Real King Arthur of the North.
Simon Keegan, 36, who lives in Hyde, has spent years researching the ancient texts and says he can prove Arthur was from the Lancashire-Yorkshire area.
And the timing could not be more fitting as 2016 is the 1,500th anniversary of Arthur’s “Waterloo” – the Battle of Badon in which he defeated the Saxons in 516AD and stopped their invasion for a generation.
Many people know King Arthur as a medieval ruler of an army of knights in shining armour with magic swords and wizards, but he was actually recorded much earlier as a warleader who battled the Saxons in the 6th century.
He ruled in the Dark Ages – the time after the Romans withdrew and before the Saxon invasion was complete. Arthur rallied the kings of Britain in a dozen pitched battles and sieges.
Keegan, who used to live in Heaton Moor and worked at the Stockport Express, said: “The earliest surviving reference to King Arthur is a history book by a monk named Nennius who lists 12 of Arthur’s battles.
“They can be located from as far north as Scotland – “Celidon” and “Mount Agned” are Caledonia and Edinburgh – and I identify “Dubglas” with the River Douglas in Lancashire.
“Arthur’s most illusive battle however is Mount Badon. Typically it is located as being Bath, but you will see I have found a more likely northern location.”
The book identifies the legendary King Arthur with a historical ruler called Arthwys ap Mar whose father was King in the York area and whose kingdom stretched from Hadrian’s Wall down to Lancashire.
Keegan said: “Although the original manuscripts don’t survive, the works of northern bards are perhaps the oldest mentions of Arthur.
“These men actually lived around the time of Arthur and would place him in the north.”
Another tantalising piece of information is the placement of Arthur’s Camelot. A small village called Slack in Yorkshire used to be called Camulod in Roman times and was home to a large and palatial amphitheatre.
But there is much more to this study than placing Arthur in the Pennines – every member of his legendary family tree is identified within the family of Arthwys.
We meet the real Merlin, the real Guinevere, the real Mordred and a host of other characters. In total 50 legendary Arthurian characters are identified in the one book.
Keegan insists it was only later that romantic writers shifted Arthur to Cornwall.
He said: “Nowadays we think of the British ‘Celts’ as being confined to Scotland, Wales and Cornwall but in Arthur’s time the whole country was ‘Celtic’ or British.
“The invasion of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes had not fully taken hold. Arthur was fighting the enemy on the front line – the northern frontier and the east coast. He would have been wasted if he were based in Cornwall.
“He had to be further north and further east to keep the invasions at bay. Arthur held a position of Dux Bellorum – Duke of Battles – that was always garrisoned in the north.
“Many of the later characters like Lancelot, Mordred and Merlin were based on much earlier figures – and I have tied them all together and found many of them were part of the same dynasty.”
Pennine Dragon is to order in both hardback and paperback at Amazon and Waterstones