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Digital Subscriptions >  Blog > Was King Arthur actually Scottish?

Was King Arthur actually Scottish?
History Scotland

Was King Arthur actually Scottish?

Posted 24 August 2015   |   4417 views   |   General Interest   |   Comments (0) Controversial research by the author of 'Finding Arthur' suggests that the fabled king of English legend was actually a Scottish warlord.

The legend of Arthur is the foundation myth of the English speaking peoples, if not the Western World, writes Adam Ardrey.  Many believe that legend is all there is, but this is only because they insist on looking in the wrong place at the wrong time: that is, in the south of Britain at… well, at any time.

Look in the right place at the right time – Scotland in the late sixth century – and Arthur steps from legend, back into history. Unlike the south of Britain, Scotland has an historical Arthur: Arthur Mac Aedan, son of the king of Scots.

The 'litmus test' for the historical Arthur is Nennius’ list of twelve Arthur-battles, the most famous of which is the battle of Badon. Professor Alcock’s map of Arthur’s battles, in his 'Arthur’s Britain', omits some of the twelve and shows others with several possible locations: he has six possible battlefields of Badon. I believe that none of Professor Alcock’s Arthur-battles are set within a sensible geographical or historical context, far less do they have an historical Arthur attached.

In the age of Arthur, Arthur Mac Aedan, things are different. The earliest historical reference to ‘Merlin’ has him at the battle of Arderydd, fought on the River Esk, the modern Scotland-England border, in 573CE. The following year Arthur, Arthur Mac Aedan was at the hillfort Dunardry, Argyll, two miles south of the hillfort Dunadd, where his father was inaugurated king of Scots in 574CE.
‘Merlin’ and Arthur; 573 and 574; Arderydd and Dunardry: these are not simple coincidences.

The land between the hillforts Dunardry and Dunadd is still, even today, called Badden, which, like Badon is a corrupt form of Baodan, a relative of Arthur Mac Aedan’s.
Stained Glass window at Stobo Church, Scottish Borders
In 574 CE Arthur Mac Aedan was inaugurated his father’s tanist (akin to vice president) on Dunadd. He placed his foot into the footprint cut into the stone on Dunadd’s summit and was given a sword to hold, just as the British queen was given a sword to hold at her coronation: when he stepped out of the footprint holding the sword, he literally took a sword from a stone. This simple step gave rise to the wonderful story of the sword and the stone.

The mysterious island of Avalon, said to be set in the western sea and where the legendary Arthur was taken after he was killed at the battle of Camlann is Iona, Argyll, the burial place of kings and more, the burial place of Arthur Mac Aedan’s family.
Oran's Graveyard Iona / Avalon where Arthur, Arthur Mac Aedan was buried
The round table and Camlann

In 2011 archaeologists discovered a round mound buried in the shadow of Stirling Castle. This find was reported under the newspaper headline 'Find Unearthed in Hunt for King Arthur’s Round Table' because Stirling is where local tradition and the written record since the 12th century CE had placed it. Stirling is only ten miles north of Camelon, Falkirk; where Arthur, Arthur Mac Aedan, fought his last battle, the battle of Camlann.

 If Arthur Mac Aedan was Arthur all twelve of Nennius’ Arthur-battles can be set in a sensible geographical, historical, context, as can Ben Arthur, Argyll, and Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh.Merlin

Merlin was not the avuncular wizard of legend, but a scholar and politician. One twelfth-century record has him standing on Glasgow Necropolis Hill (pictured) shouting down, across the still-extant Molendinar Burn, at St. Mungo. You could not get a more precise place and time. He was assassinated by St. Mungo’s Christians at Drumelzier [sic] thirty miles from Glasgow.   (Blaise, the fictional Merlin’s mentor was in reality Cathen the Druid: known to his Christian enemies as the Blasphemer – Blaisbheum in Gaelic).

About the author
Adam Ardrey is the author of Finding Arthur published by Duckworth, London, UK & Overlook, NY, USA.
To find out more about the historical Arthur, Arthur Mac Aedan, visit Adam Ardrey’s website.

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About History Scotland

History Scotland is Scotland's premier history magazine, providing fascinating features on topics from all branches and periods of Scottish history and archaeology, written by leading historians, archaeologists and museum curators. The magazine is

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