Broadway’sHistorical detective and best-selling author Graham Phillips has been researching the history of King Arthur for decades. He, as well as many others, believe that the legendary Welsh king was real and that he is buried in one of two places in England.
This is interesting because a historical marker places King Arthur’s burial place at Glastonbury Abbey. In 1191, monks at the abbey claimed to have discovered a grave with an oak coffin holding the remains of a gigantic man who had been severely wounded in the head. Buried beside him was a woman with a plait of golden hair. Also found was lead cross bearing the inscription, “Here lies buried the famous King Arthur with Guinevere his second wife, in the Isle of Avalon.” The site had become a place of pilgrimage, though there were doubts about the identity of the remains. The monks had financial problems and the site brought in much needed income. The royal family had political reasons for agreeing that the gravesite was real.
A 1962 archaeological dig, however, found evidence that the tomb had been disturbed. Since then, other burial spots have been claimed to hold the remains.
Phillips is convinced that one of two sites actually hold the royal remains. One location is in the earthworks outside of the village of the medieval village Baschurch in Shropshire. He explains,
From my research, he came from Shropshire, not south-west of England as everyone else says. In the Oxford University Library there is a poem from the Dark Ages which refers to the kings from Wroxeter (a Roman fortress) who were buried at the Churches of Bassa – and when you think about anywhere in Shropshire that sounds similar, you think of Baschurch. There is a place that matches the description just outside the village, an earthworks known as The Berth, which were two islands in a lake, though obviously the lake has gone now.
Phillips said that excavations have not yet taken place but that the grave pit shows an outline and a large piece of metal, be believes is Arthur’s metal shield, as monarchs at the time were buried with their shield. He says,
At the moment I’m trying to get permission from English Heritage for an archaeological dig, but they don’t often give that because they want to protect the site. With technology moving forward, in the not-so-distant future, we may be able to see what is in there without digging. But I believe it is absolutely necessary because otherwise other people might go there and destroy the site.
Another site also on Phillips’ radar is down a country lane in the village of Birch Grove, where evidence of an old chapel were discovered in the 1930’s. He says,
In some versions of the tale of King Arthur, he died on an island, but was brought back to shore for burial. So it is possible and when they found the remains, they found part of a gravestone with Latin writing that appears to translate to “Here lies.” It would be easier to get permission to dig there because it is not protected, so that could take place very soon.
The thought of finding King Arthur’s burial site is exciting. However, some scholars would argue that you cannot locate the burial site of someone who never existed, except in the imaginations of folklore. After all, King Arthur is not mentioned in any documents written between 400 and 820, nor in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
However, two old journals, History of Britons (Historia Brittonum) and Welsh Annals (Annales Cambriae) mention King Arthur as a real Romano-British leader who fought against the invading Anglo Saxons in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. It is also mentioned that during the 9th century, he fought in 12 battles, including the Battle of Mons Badonicus.
Archaeologists have also uncovered sites that may show evidence of his existence. A slate engraved with the word “Artoghou” was found at Tintangle Castle, long thought to be Arthur’s birthplace, in 1998. Silchester, the supposed site of his coronation bears the Roman name of Calleba, similar to the name Excalibur, his famous sword.
Archaeologists also excavated the site of battle at Heronbidge, revealing an amphitheater that was fortified with a shrine to a Christian Martyr in its center. This find fits the description of Arthur’s round table, which is said to have been large enough to seat 1,600 of his warriors.
Time will tell whether the recent discoveries of burial places prove the existence of the legendary king and his beloved wife. Either way, Camelot exists in myth even if not in reality.