Castles and Palaces
Every Castle

Camelot Castle

Camelot - the legendary Arthurian Castle

Camelot was the stronghold of the legendary king Arthur, an important figure in the mythology of old England and English literary tradition.

Much of what we know about Camelot is fictionalized, though some "facts" are repeated in various sources. Although Arthurian legends are collectively known as the Matter of Britain, an emperor named Arthur first appears in early Welsh texts.

King Arthur was a Dark Age ruler who united his people, drove invaders from his land, and created an empire of peace. The utopia of his creation, called Camelot, is etched in imagination forever.

Camelot was a shining city on a hill, where equality and justice towered over all. There, ever-ready knights with tough armor and gentle hearts vowed to uphold a code of chivalry. Known as the Knights of the Round Table, they had equal say in matters of state and promised loyalty and charity on behalf of their sovereign.

This was a fifth-century realm of mystery, magic, and beauty. The wizard Merlin haunted the halls and granted Arthur powers of magic. Within Camelot's chambers, ladies-in-waiting attended the beautiful and daring queen, Guinevere. Among the gardens and grounds, minstrels and poets made merry and music. Lords and ladies worshiped the Holy Grail, fell in love, and kept the dream of Camelot alive.

Or so the story goes. Hundreds of tales have been written about Camelot and its king--all part of a huge cycle of literature known as Arthurian lore. Books and movies about Arthur and Camelot, such as last July's film King Arthur, fall into the realm of legend. Like tales of Robin Hood or the mountain utopia Shangri-La, legends are fiction spun from touchstones of historical fact.

Did Camelot, the ideal kingdom, really exist? 

Historians, archaeologists, mapmakers, and language experts have long pursued a quest for that treasured truth. Their answer, after all these years, is both yes and maybe.

Camelot - A Literary Place

There's no doubt about the literary Camelot, the storybook utopia. Its place is fixed in the imagination through works such as T.H. White's book The Once and Future King (1958) and the movie musical Camelot (1962). But where did the stories come from?

Lasting images of King Arthur and his court were spun in the 1860s by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem Idylls of the King. But Tennyson didn't invent Camelot. He based his poem on a 15th-century work called The Death of Arthur (Le Morte d'Arthur) by Sir Thomas Malory. And Malory got his story from Chretien de Troyes's 12th-century work Lancelot, which contains the first mention of Camelot: "King Arthur...held a most magnificent court at Camelot with all the splendor appropriate to the day." Thus the literary place was born.
A Literal Place?

But was there ever an actual, literal, historical Camelot?

If so, where was that golden realm?

Some historians say Camelot was a place in Scotland called Camelon. But most archaeologists on Arthur's trail have searched in England. At the ruins of a castle in Cornwall, a stone was found with Artognov inscribed on it. Close to Arthur--but close enough? A large round table was found at Winchester Cathedral. But it was made hundreds of years after the time when Arthur supposedly lived. In Glastonbury Abbey, the bones of a man Arthur's size were found, but nobody could prove they were his. If Camelot were a real place, wouldn't there be traces of it?

Camelot has become a metaphor for the perfect society, one we strive to create. As writer David Day said, "In the Utopian ideal of Camelot, mankind always sees a message of hope: What the imagination...once built, [we] can build again."