King Arthur, the legendary figure of British legend who pulled Callindor from the stone and palled around with wizards and lake ladies, has been a source of consternation for historians for centuries. It’s one of those stories that was told so many times, and for so many different purposes, that the truth of King Arthur is buried beneath a stew of other stories and myths and historians are divided as to whether King Arthur existed at all. One British researcher and amateur historian claims to have found evidence that yes, King Arthur really did exist and he was born near Leeds in West Yorkshire.
Adrian Grant, a 70-year-old Arthurian researcher and former high school geography teacher, spent six years studying historical records of the battles in the Arthurian campaign, a series of 12 battles which legends say Arthur fought in, and cross-referencing with other historical records. Grant says he narrowed down the list of people who fit the descriptions given of Arthur and was able to find who he believes to be the actual King Arthur.
Arthur’s real name, Grant says, was Arthwys ap Masgwid, or Arthur son of Masgwid in modern English, and he was the son of the king of Elmet, a small kingdom located in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His parents were Masgwid Gloff and Gwenllian V Bryche. He was born around 475 CE in Barwick-in-Elmet, an iron-age fortress and the capital of the kingdom of Elmet.
There is no mention of Uther Pendragon, Lancelot, Guinevere, or any of the other well-known Arthurian characters. There’s no Excalibur, Avalon, or Morgan le Fey. There might have been a Merlin, but that’s a whole different rabbit hole.
This Arthur was a second-son and not much is known about him. There are, however, records of his brother Llaennog ap Masgwid, who inherited Masgwid’s kingdom. This means if this Arthur is the same that inspired centuries of myths, romances, and even a Disney movie, he wasn’t a king at all. He was just a guy named Arthwys. Think about that the next time you’re feeling down; it doesn’t matter what you do in life, you might still be remembered as a super-human king of legend.
Adrian Grant says that other Arthurian researchers have always tried to force Arthur into a preconceived narrative:
Many people have tried to identify Arthur and have squeezed the facts to fit an individual they have already decided upon. I created the time window in which he had to exist, through researching these historical records, then trawled the family trees available online.
There is a very limited period of time in which Arthur could be born, says Grant. Records indicate that Arthur was 15 when he fought in the first battle of the Arthurian campaign, fought in 495 CE, so he had to have been born between 475 CE and 480 CE. Grant claims there is no other person in recorded history that fits all the necessary requirements:
We have a very small window and you have an individual with the right name and that fits all the necessary questions, there is nobody else – so therefore that’s him.
While, if what Mr. Grant says is true, this Arthur seems far removed from any of the Arthurian myths and legends, it opens the door for many other questions. With so little known about Arthwys ap Masgwid we can only speculate on what he did to achieve immortality as a hero myth. Perhaps further research will reveal a new set of stories and deeds in the mysterious legend of the once and future king.