Arthur, a British prince who, according to various legends, made a gallant struggle against the Saxon invaders in the sixth century. It has been doubted whether there is the slightest substratum of fact in his story, but looking to the fictions that have attached themselves to such undoubtedly real personages as Charlemagne, The Cid, or even Napoleon I., we may, perhaps, assume that Arthur in some form or another did exist, and played a part in the obscure events that preceded the establishment of a Teutonic race in England. The record of Arthur's exploits cannot be traced farther back than Geoffrey of Monmouth's Chronicle, written in Latin about the middle of the twelfth century, and translated by Wace into French, and by Layamon into English. The materials were professedly gathered from old Breton traditions, and to these little by little additions were made until Sir Thomas Malory brought them all together in his Morte d'Arthur, which Caxton printed in 1485.
Arthur is said to have been the son of a Romanised Kelt, who, revolting against Vortigern, made for himself an independent principality in Hampshire and Wiltshire, but was killed at Amesbury by the Saxon invaders under Cerdic. Arthur, his son, held Camelot or Cadbury against the foe for years, fought several battles, the most important of which took place at Badon or Bath, and became the acknowledged head of the Britons. He was killed in a war with his nephew Modred, who had carried off his wife, and was buried at Glastonbury Abbey. According to more romantic accounts, Caerleon on the Usk was the seat of his court, where his chosen knights gathered about the Round Table, and sallied forth to redress wrong throughout the world. The faithlessness of Guinevere, his queen, with Lancelot his trusted friend; the weird existence of Merlin, and his ruin by the wily Vivien; the mystery of the sword Excalibur; the search for the Holy Grail, with many other episodes and adventures, ending in Arthur's passing away to the Isle of Avalon, belong to poetry rather than history, and have been worthily enshrined in Tennyson's Idylls of the King.