One of the key figures associated with the Middle Ages in England has been King Arthur, the legendary ruler who was made popular in medieval romances and chronicles. But in a recent lecture, Professor Henrietta Leyser argues that the Arthurian legend declined sharply in the later Middle Ages, replaced by a new hero emerged for the English people – St.George the Dragonslayer.
Leyser, Emeritus Fellow at the University of Oxford, spoke at the University of Toronto last month, where she is serving as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar. Her paper “Why Arthur is Never Enough: Identity Myths and Crises in the English Middle Ages”, was given to a large audience on the campus. In it, Leyser examines the role of Arthur during the High and Later Middle Ages, from the accounts by Geoffrey of Monmouth to Henry VIII, who reportedly hated the idea of King Arthur. In it she asks, “Why did the legend of Arthur tarnish?”
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