The Grail Cypher: A radical reassessment of Arthurian history
Walter Kayo sat at his desk in the scriptorium, the cold chill of winter half broken by a flickering fire in the hearth. The velum page before him was still not finished, yet already his eyes felt heavy and refused to focus. As he dipped his quill to begin the final paragraph there was a commotion outside, accompanied by the tramp of heavy boots. Three burly men strode in bearing armor and arms, their white mantles emblazoned with large splayed red crosses. They introduced themselves as being ambassadors of King Baldwin of Jerusalem, and deposited a large manuscript on his desk.
Kayo wafted away the large cloud of dust they had disturbed, and looked balefully at the enormous volume before him. He had no idea what it was about, but it obviously meant a lot more work for his small understaffed scriptorium. The officer in charge pointed to some marked pages, so Kayo hefted the manuscript open and started to slowly read. But the text was old, tattered, often illegible, and in Aramaic, which was not his favorite language. Half way down the page his eyes started to widen and his jaw took it upon itself to drop down. He looked up bearing an expression that clearly stated: “what the hell is this!”
The officer understood Kayo’s perplexion and returned a wry smile, which was reinforced by muffled laughter from the two soldiers behind. The officer approached more closely, disturbing some sheaves on the desk and creating another cloud of dust. He lowered his voice to a whisper and said: “King Baldwin wants you to turn this into an interesting story.” Kayo’s jaw was now beyond control, but he managed a small nod in acknowledgement.
Count Baldwin liberates Christian Edessa from Muslim control, during the First Crusade. Public domain.
The story of King Arthur and his gallant knights that this semi-mythical Walter Kayo eventually crafted is complex, frustrating and fraught with contradictions and impossibilities. In the hands of subsequent Arthurian authors it became a compilation of two histories blended together in such a clumsy manner that it betrays confusion in both its broad outline and ﬁner detail.
Very few of the names and events recorded in these chronicles exist in the historical record, and so the text represents a huge historical crossword puzzle that is almost impossible to crack. But how can we derive an answer for two-down in this puzzle, if we have not discovered the solution for ﬁve-across? That is the central problem that has faced all previous researchers of Arthurian history, because starting this decipherment is next to impossible. Happily, Tyche-Fortuna has smiled upon these endeavors, because the previous historical analysis in the King Jesus Trilogy has already answered the question for ﬁve-across, and so we can now conﬁdently begin to ﬁll in the rest of the crossword. And the result will be a latticework of answers and conclusions that will be both controversial and challenging.
Arthurian history is traditionally set in the fifth or sixth centuries, the era of the Dark Ages. This is a period in British history that is not simply ‘dark’ because of an economic and social collapse following the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire, it is also ‘dark’ because it lacks any historical records. This makes it difﬁcult to decipher what was happening in this era, and it is this lacuna in British history that has enabled the life of King Arthur to remain enigmatic and semi-legendary for so long. Had Arthur been a king of the fourth or ninth centuries, we could easily have determined if these legends were fact or ﬁction, but Arthur has managed to slip into a historical crevasse where there are many known unknowns and several unknown unknowns.
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- British Police Join Search for Legendary Holy Grail
But this simple observation is interesting, and begs two obvious questions. Did a real King Arthur become semi-legendary simply because he lived in a Dark Age era of historical phantoms? Or did a mythical King Arthur get deliberately placed into this historical lacuna, because Walter Kayo and the other 12th and 13th century scribes and chroniclers knew that they could hide a semi-ﬁctional legend in the poorly documented confusion of the Dark Ages?
The earliest known image of King Arthur - on Modena Cathedral in Italy. Credit: Ralph Ellis
At the end of the Western Roman Empire there were two revolts against Rome organized by strong leaders who were based in or came from Britain. The first of these was Magnus Maximus of the late fourth century, and then there was Constantine III in the early fifth century. Both of these ‘British’ kings became emperor of Rome for a short while, but their revolts ultimately failed and they were executed.