Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Glastonbury was, is and probably always shall be a town for tourists and for pilgrims. It was once known as the isle of apples because it was literally an island amongst the flat marshes and rivers. As the romanticised ideas of Arthur and his court developed in southern france and amongst the Norman lords so did the myths of Avalon and the fae (from the twelfth to the fourteenth century).
For Henry II, King Arthur was a liability. He had no problem with the poets reciting stories of valour, of chivalry or the newly developing concept of courtly love, nor did he have issue with tournaments and dressing up in the image of Arthurian legend. What he did have the problem with was that the bloody Welsh wouldn't stay down, believed K.A. would come back to rescue them one day and that they weren't overly thrilled about their overlords appropriating their myths. He felt, as any decent tyrannical overlord would, that they ought to be taught a lesson.

Meanwhile, Glastonbury was having problems. Their income relied upon the tourist trade and a recent fire had destroyed both their home within the monastery and also their saintly relics. Conveniently, a letter arrived from the King telling them that a wandering bard had told him that King Arthur's tomb was at Glastonbury and wouldn't it be awfully convenient if they could find his bones....

A few years later they did - along with Mordred (but he soon disappeared as it seemed impolitic for him to be buried with K.A.) and Queen Guinevere (even a golden lock of hair remained). Thus could the king loudly pronounce that Arthur was dead and his bones available to be revered.

King Edward also saw the political adavantages of having a clearly dead Arthur. He even, with great pomp and splendour, had a new tomb built inside the church and a state funeral/ceremony to see the bones safely moved.

Conveniently, the monks had also rediscovered 'lost relics' that had been tidied away into broom closets and such to 'preserve' them and thus soon had a bustling pilgrimmage trade again.


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