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The Myth of the Downfall of Camelot

Dirk Vander Ploeg is 
the publisher of and
editor of
He has worked as a 
writer and publisher
for travel related and
other magazines.

He is the author of 
Quest for Middle-earth
and is a freelance writer.

By Dirk Vander Ploeg

There is a myth concerning King Arthur and Camelot that has been perpetuated by the Roman Church. Many of you have seen movies and read books concerning Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and how the king and the land suffered as a result of an indiscretion.

But what was the indiscretion?

Legend informs us that Guinevere had an affair with Lancelot and because of this infidelity Camelot was plunged into darkness (metaphorically) and Arthur lost his will to govern.

But was this indiscretion really the cause of the downfall of Camelot?

In 2002, I went to England with my wife Carolyn to follow in the footsteps of many historians and enthusiasts of the King Arthur legend. We began our quest at Tintagel Castle situated on Tintagel Head, which some say was the original birthplace of Arthur and the strongholds of the Earls of Cornwall.

In the movie Excalibur, it is my belief that Tintagel was the castle depicted, where Merlin transformed Uther Pendragon into the likeness of Gorlois, the duke of Cornwall, who subsequently made love to his wife, the beautiful Queen Igraine. It was as a result of this union that Arthur was born nine months later.

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Tintagel Castle is also the place where the Arthur stone was found. This 6th century artifact is a broken piece of slate that was found during excavation the eastern terrace of Tintagel. The slate was inscribed with the name Artognov, which in Latin means the name Arthnou, and like Arthur is derived from the Celtic word arth, which means 'bear'. It is likely that the Arthur Stone was built into a wall of the building, where it remained buried for over 1400 years.

Getting back to the indiscretion that really the cause of the downfall of Camelot. There was the traditional in England concerning the spring rites of fertility, where the King of the Forest, the mighty Stag of the Seven Tines, made love to the Virgin Huntress. Both participants in this reenactment are masked and were not to know the identity of the other person. The union between the two is called "The Great Marriage" and the passing of the stag's sperm to the virgin huntress' womb is the genesis of the spring planting season.

Arthur prior to being married to Guinevere participated in the foregoing spring rite of "The Great Marriage". The stories point to the fact that Arthur was tricked, manipulated into making love to his sister Moraine le Fay, who was portraying the Virgin Huntress. As a result of this one mating a son, Mordred, was born.

The seed planted by Arthur would one day come back and not only plunge Camelot into drought and famine, but also doom Arthur's reign and eventually claim his life. Mordred, as the product of incest, would challenge Arthur for the throne.

The obvious indiscretion demonstrated here is that Arthur had sex with his sister. The Church, I believe, influenced the story and the outcome by decrying this mortal sin. But there is much more to this story than you think.

Consider the following: Arthur had been married to Genevieve for some time and they didn't produce an heir to the throne. Apparently, she was infertile and unable to bear children. Even when she mated with Lancelot no child was conceived.

Arthur was a king due to his ancestry. He inherited his position through his father Uther Pendragon. The legend informs us that Arthur freed Excalibur (magical sword) from a stone, proving his right of kingship. Ironically, Arthur's royal blood came to him through his mother's matrilineal DNA. His mother was Igraine wife of the duke of Cornwall.

This is the element that is missing from the legend of King Arthur. The gods can only bestow true kingship. The church desired this power of the gods, so it claimed the power to bestow kingship through the document known as the Donation of Constantine. In it the Emperor Constantine states that God passed this right exclusively to the Church and that it alone had the authority to anoint kings and bishops.

Story continues here.

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