Arthur of the Britons, a very un-English King.
One of the most discussed and widely known rulers the world has known. 'Seeker of the Holy Grail', 'Wise and skilful ruler', 'Mighty chieftain' or simply a freedom fighter - the choice is yours. Today, most people know of the romantic 'Hollywood' version of Arthur but the true story of Arthur is likely to be something much more down to earth. There are no truly 'hard facts' but experts are pretty sure of a few things. 'He' was a man, not a woman dressed up.
An English King?
It is impossible for him to have been English. He was not even a Saxon (It's amazing how often English readers dispute this. England did not exist when Arthur was alive). He 'might' have been a Romano-Celt. Myth and legend aside there may not have been a single person called Arthur, it could be an amalgam of characters. The earliest mention of Arthur in any written material from the ninth century and is in Welsh, describing him as 'Our King'. It's a fair guess Arthur 's origins are ancient Celt, which we have inherited as Welsh. All we really know for sure is he was a great leader of his time.
The Sword from the Stone
Recent archeology techniques have been able to shed light on some of the myths, the possible origins. For instance, the 'Sword from the Stone' is believed to be derived from bronze casting where the art of creating a fine sword would include stone moulds the bronze is cast to. Then of course extracting and refining into a weapon for chieftains, kings.
This pre-dates the British Roman period so the possibility of linking that part of the legend with a Romano-Celt becomes less likely.
Connection: King of the Ancient Britons.
When the Danes, Angles and Saxons invaded England they drove the ancient Britons into the west, some of these were Romans who settled in Brittanium. They went into Wales and Cornwall etc. But surely there were Welsh before then. Arthur is reputed to come from Lyonesee-Avalon which lie in S.E. England or in between France and Cornwall - so how come he's linked to Wales?
Arthur's legends were first written in the Welsh Mabinogion. Almost all of the original place names were Welsh in origin as were most of the original knights. Later medieval writers added their own spins and changed, or mistranslated some of the names. King henry 7th was of Welsh descent and claimed Arthurian ancestry, as did Henry 8th and Queen Elizabeth.
Welsh was spoken throughout these isles pre Angle and Saxon times, with Gaelic and Pictish minority languages spoken in present-day Scotland.
In fact the "Welsh" (from the Saxon word wealas, meaning Romanized foreigner) were still referred to as the Britons well into the 16th century. The most convincing history of the "real" Arthur is in barber and Pykitt's "Journey to Avalon" and "The legend of King Arthur".
Note from Ed: A LOT of academics and enthusiasts have looked into the Arthurian tales for many many years and so far in my own, comparatively limited reading of this (yet I might say added together would make days of squinting at screens) the only person I can say has anything like a reasonable conclusion is Alan Wilson, speaking in the video below.
Now, I must say I'm a natural skeptic, I find many of Alan Wilson's claims somewhat hard to digest. That said, he discusses lineage (in particular to references of Arthur) and can cite factual evidence to support some of his claims. Arguably enough to open the door to further discussion.