How reliable is Geoffrey of Monmouth's account of King Arthur? Why is he considered the founder of the legend?

Essay by chibachibaHigh School, 12th grade July 2005

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For thousands of years the tales of King Arthur's exploits have enthralled people from all over the world. Arthur is undoubtedly one of the greatest legendary figures ever created and he has provided England with a heroic icon; a symbol of a glorious past rival to that of say Greece or Rome.

He has been reborn to the world century after century from the pen and imagination of numerous writers and poets; however Arthur can also claim an official history, which perhaps sets him apart from other mythological heroes. The responsibility for this falls almost entirely upon the shoulders of one wayward genius, Geoffrey of Monmouth. It is Geoffrey's work the Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Briton) became the foundation upon which all later stories of King Arthur were constructed.

Geoffrey lived in the first half of the twelfth century, however very little is known about his early life.

While his family was probably Welsh, it is possible that he was a Breton. Geoffrey had been educated under the Norman system and he was fully comfortable in their world, but when you get down to it, he was a Welshman at heart. This affinity for the Welsh made him sympathetic to the plight of the Celtic people still living in Britain. In 1151 he moved to London and was made bishop of St Asaph of Wales, although the turmoil of the country prevented him from ever taking up his appointment. He died in about 1155.

The crowning glory of Geoffrey's life is the History of the Kings of Britain and it defines, among much else, the career and life of Arthur. It is one of the great books of the Middle Ages and is the source of a number of famous stories including Arthur's.

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