Malory’s Divided Wales

  • Cory James Rushton
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


When Malory’s Merlin prophesies that the young Arthur will “… be longe kynge of all Englond and have under his obeyssaunce Walys, Yrland, and Scotland, and moo reames than I will now reherce,” he is reinforcing Malory’s adherence to a long-standing English tradition: Arthur, originally a Celtic king and a Briton (admittedly a loaded and ambiguous term), is now a king of “Englond” who dominates England’s Celtic neighbors.1 Many scholars of Malory’s text are relatively content to leave the matter there: whatever Malory says can either be traced to some other and earlier text, or if it cannot be so traced, the absent text can be assumed. It is true that Malory is a repository of earlier traditions, but he also has a mind of his own. While this chapter will focus on Malory’s view of the Welsh (and, by association, the Cornish), Malory’s method can be seen at work in his depiction of Camelot’s Scottish faction; Malory emphasizes the Scottish nature of Gawain’s followers in his final two books, an emphasis probably meant to echo earlier depictions of the dangerous Scot: the rebel king Lot, nearly the ruler of Britain, and the treacherous and ambitious Scots of the Tristram.2 Malory’s Welsh are more difficult to track, in part because the Scots are emphasized in exactly those sections of the Morte Darthur that seem the most creatively independent of earlier tradition, where Malory makes the largest number of idiosyncratic changes. An outline of Malory’s view of the Welsh can nevertheless be discerned, although one must begin with that loaded term used earlier: the “Briton.”


British Isle Round Table South Walis Southern Walis British History 
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Copyright information

© Ruth Kennedy and Simon Meecham-Jones 2008

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  • Cory James Rushton

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