234. The History of the Kings of Britain, by Geoffrey of Monmouth, 1136

[Read this three weeks ago so the memory is a little faded]

Perhaps more imagination than historical record, this chronicle of two thousand years of British history is rife with feuding and battles over the crown of Britain. From the arrival of Brutus (a descendant of the Trojan Aeneas) on this island “uninhabited except for a few giants”, through the invasions and departure of the Romans, and the repeated waves of Saxons and Angles, the threat of the Men from the North, to the legends of Merlin and Arthur; Geoffrey of Monmouth’s work is more a sourcebook for inspiration of poems, plays and songs for centuries to come.

My copy was the Penguin Classic translated by Lewis Thorpe (ISBN 0140441700)

Thoughts : Some of the more interesting personages and stories along the way:

The appearance of King Leir (Shakespeare’s Lear) and his three daughters.

Merlin supervising the construction of Stonehenge using the massive stones brought across from Ireland, and transforming King Uther into the likeness of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, so that he can seduce Gorlois’ faithful wife Ygerna and hence father the future King Arthur (who Merlin never actually meets in Geoffrey’s account)

Arthur fighting in France and about to advance on Rome, when his nephew Mordred steals the crown and seduces Queen Guinevere, forcing Arthur to return to Britain and regather what he has lost (not quite the Camelot I imagined)

Personal rating: 5/10


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