The question that has been put to The History Maintenance Commission is What if B & Q (or the fifth century equivalent hardware store) were out of round tables when King Arthur visited?
This conundrum will be addressed in three parts. The first, today, will examine the history of King Arthur and then conjure with the possibilities that alternatives to round tables would have impacted upon Arthurian legend. The second part will focus upon what life would be like without King Arthur and the final part will concentrate on ways to ensure that King Arthur isn’t ever diverted from the path of obtaining a round table.
It has to be taken into account that many historians are sceptical that King Arthur ever existed as there is no mention of his name in any surviving documents between 400-840 AD. Although this could simply be because Arthur took advantage of data protection rules prevalent during this period.
King Arthur Timeline
(Dates appearing with an asterix are approximate)
The Romans leave Britain after nearly 370 years of occupation.
It’s estimated that 2.5 million Christmas cards in Britain have to be dumped due to the Romans leaving no forwarding address.
The native Britons have to fight to defend their island from increasing raids from Saxon hoards. This isn’t to be confused with Samuel Peterson of Norfolk, England who in the 1970’s collected vast quantities of salt from one specific company which he then stored untouched in a series of warehouses in Great Yarmouth. He was the Saxon hoarder.
On Christmas Day King Arthur is conceived at Tintagel by King Uther Pendragon and Queen Igerna, wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall. It is believed that Uther Pendragon missunderstood the message that two families could mix over the festive period during an outbreak of the plague.
King Arthur is born to the high king of Britain, Uther Pendragon. Anything below that and he would’ve been called Low Art instead.
After the death of his father, Arthur is hidden somewhere in the countryside to protect him from enemies of the Pendragons. He befriends the wizard Merlin which he considers a wise move in the power struggles that lie ahead. This would explain why Paul Daniels was never short of friends at school, although when it came to his birthday he always knew what card they had chosen.
With leaderless Britain facing the threat of Saxon invasion, Merlin stages a contest to determine who shall be king. Whoever extracts the sword from the stone shall be pronounced the rightful monarch. Many great warriors attempt the feat but fail. The teenage Arthur steps forward and accomplishes the task with ease to prove his birthright and is pronounced King of Britain. (Extracting a sword from a stone is considered the 6th century version of a nigh on impossible task. Today’s equivalent would be trying to part a teenager from their smartphone.)
King Arthur receives the magical sword Excalibur from The Lady of the Lake. When he arrives she holds it out of the water and offers it to him on condition that he promises to fulful any subsequent request that she makes. Arthur agrees but secretly wishes he had simply had the sword delivered rather than opting for Click and Collect.
Arthur marries the young Princess Guinevere. He is slightly browned off by the amount of toasters the couple receive as wedding presents that burn the toast in the shape of a sword that then pops out from the stone shaped toaster.
To celebrate the half millennium Arthur establishes Britain’s capital at Camelot.
Arthur visits his local hardware store and purchases a giant round table. He sits his most trusted knights around it. They all feel equal due to the shape of the table. For that reason the king is glad he didn’t order the long rectangular one with the circular drop down attachment at one end as they would then have felt like pricks. They pledge an oath to uphold a new chivalric code. Though several of the knights think the pledge should’ve been used on the table itself which is dull and lacking lustre.
After repelling the Saxons in battle King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table march on Rome where he is crowned as the Western Emperor.
Sir Lancelot becomes Arthur’s best knight. When she hears this, Guinevere is enraged as her husband had always told her that their honeymoon was his best night. This leads to disenchantment and Guinevere turns her attentions to the dashing Sir Lancelot.
Guinevere finally catches up with Sir Lancelot after a cruciate ligament injury incapacitates his abilities to dash about. They make adulterous love in the same Tintagel hotel where Arthur was conceived. (The hotel proprietor was known to turn a blind eye to it.)
King Arthur champions the Quest for the Holy Grail. This being the name given to the vessel that Jesus served wine from at The Last Supper. Although, when he originally bought it it was simply called The Argos Home Basics Drinks Dispenser. Over the next five years several Round Table knights embark on the quest and fail, including Sir Lancelot, until the virtuous, young knight Sir Gawain succeeds and brings the precious, sought after chalice to Britain for the first time.
Arthur learns of Guinevere’s adultery with Sir Lancelot (the postcard she had sent from Tintagel saying ‘Glad you weren’t here’ had only just arrived). He banishes Sir Lancelot from the round table and orders that Guinevere be burned. His errant, fair-skinned wife realises this likely means she won’t be allowed to pack the Factor 50 for their forthcoming holiday to the coast of Brittany, so leaves him for Sir Lancelot.
In the subsequent war between Sir Lancelot and King Arthur, Arthur’s son, Mordred, seizes the throne of Britain. What Arthur found particularly unforgivable was that the ungrateful bastard did it on Father’s Day too.
At a final battle, Arthur kills Mordred but is gravely wounded in the process. He is taken to Avalon to die, mainly because due to another flu epidemic there were no beds available at the Camelot Royal Infirmary. His sword Excalibur is cast away, a shame really as with a bit of polishing and sharpening it could’ve fetched a few quid.
Geoffrey of Monmouth includes Arthur in his History of the Kings of Britain
Thomas Mallory writes Le Morte d’Arthur from his cell in prison where he has been incarcerated for his part in a plot to overthrow Edward IV and for his deliberate use of French instead of English.
A new code of ethics for the English Gentleman is shaped around the chivalric deeds of Arthurian romance.
The English Gentleman is finally located and says that he isn’t interested but thanks anyway.
The Lady of Shalott a poem based on Arthurian legend is written by Alfred Tennyson further establishing the chivalric code 19th century gentlemen are expected to live by, added to by his later verse The Idylls of the King.
Mark Twain writes the popular comedy novel A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court.
It stands to reason that the acquisition of a round table was a pivotal point in the King Arthur narrative. The shape of this piece of furniture his knights gathered around promoted a feeling of togetherness and equality and this loyalty and general bonhomie created the winning atmosphere which enabled Saxons to be repelled, chivalry to be prevalent and Holy Grails to be sought and obtained. Until, of course, Sir Lancelot strayed from this circular inspired idyll to betray his king.
So what of the other alternatives to a round table that King Arthur could have chosen in the absence of his first preference. Here are some of those other possibilities and the consequent effect they would have had upon certain aspects of the Arthurian legend:
A Nest of Tables – Instead of seeking the Holy Grail the Knights would’ve been encouraged to look for worms to bring back to Camelot.
A Card Table – Sir Lancelot wouldn’t have become King Arthur’s most prominent knight as that distinction would befall Sir Bluffalot.
A Folding Table – This wouldn’t have inspired much confidence from potential financial investors.
A Side Table – More likely to attract comedians/court jesters than bona fide knights.
A Metal Table – It’s magnetic properties would’ve ensured that knights from all around were attracted to it, and once they’d attached themselves to it could unfortunately never leave it.
A Dining Table – Would’ve attracted the wrong sort of knight. Ones motivated by gluttony rather than engaging in heroic, chivalrous deeds. Camelot would’ve disparigingly become known as Cramalot instead.
A Bedside Table – Sir Lancelot would develop a complex in which he thought he was a lamp, because he kept being turned on by Guinevere.
A Coffee Table – At important meetings some of the knights would invariably be latte and make the proceedings a mochary.
A Water Table – If the wet stuff is on the cold side the Knights are more likely to obey a code of shivery instead.
A Football League Table – The Knights of the Football League Table will only be happy if they are five points clear at the top at Easter, anything less and they’d be asking Arthur to fall on his sword. Although, because Excalibur is a magic sword they could request it to fall on Arthur instead.
NEXT UP……LIFE WITHOUT KING ARTHUR
Categories: King Arthur