Prophecy and place in the Arthurian tradition

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This chapter addresses the role of political prophecy in constructions of Britain in Arthurian literature produced in medieval England and Wales. Beginning with Geoffrey of Monmouth’s twelfth-century Prophecies of Merlin, it details the subsequent development of Arthurian prophecy from the reign of Edward III to the early Tudor period. Authors working within this tradition imagined an insular and trans-continental empire, associated with the prowess of Arthur, and future rulers after his fashion, both English and Welsh. The scope of the once and future Arthurian empire was defined by Geoffrey’s engagement with a prior Welsh legendary historical-prophetic model concerning a pristine state of British unity prior to the Saxon invasions, and prophesying restitution; combined with the extensive conquests of the Last World Emperor in prophecies mediated from the eastern Empire to the west, with particular applicability in crusading contexts. This created a familiar, and much-used, prophetic trajectory in which the conquest of all Britain was necessarily precursory to further-reaching imperial ambitions. This material possessed particular utility for Geoffrey’s patrons within England, and it saw subsequent application to English kings, not least in relation to the conquest of Wales. However, this work of ostensibly English chauvinism was re-appropriated by Welsh prophetic authors, who employed Galfridian conventions in the cause of Welsh self-rule. In the cross-border contexts of the Arthurian prophetic tradition, Britain, Britishness, and the very legend of King Arthur, presented contested ground.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Arthurian World
EditorsVictoria Coldham-Fusell , Miriam Edlich-Muth, Renée Ward
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781003255475
ISBN (Print)9780367172701
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2022

Publication series

NameRoutledge Worlds


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