Camlan (Camlann) and Camelot


King Arthur was killed at the Battle of Camlan (sometimes spelt Camlann). This bare fact is stated in the Annales Cambriae in its entry for 538CE.  Commentators have for decades searched the length and breadth of Britain for the location of Camlan, striving to decipher at which enclosure or church (lan) on which bend (cam) Arthur fell.

All the while they have missed what is hidden in the open. Re-parse the name from Cam lan to Caml an; recall that, for the Druid faith, “An” is a name of the Supreme Being, the Goddess, the Queen of Heaven; then all that remains is the translation into English: Queen Camel.


Queen Camel

Queen Camel is at the foot of Camel Hill; two miles to the west, encouragingly for this connection, is Annis Hill. The River Cam, which flows through Queen Camel, rises a few miles to the north-east on God’s Hill (the only place so named in Britain).

Queen Camel is also just two miles west of Cadbury Castle, the hillfort proved by Alcock’s archaeologists to have been a major timber-built kaer (royal banqueting centre and defensive citadel) during the late fifth and/or the sixth centuries, its principal hall twice the size of any other in Britain known for this period. Its name is indicative of it having been built or rebuilt by Cador (the Governor of Lindinis in the third quarter of the fifth century – see my post here of 9th March 2013). If Arthur was King of Lindinis, Cadbury Castle would certainly have been one of his residences, and quite possibly the most sumptuous one at which he fulfilled his political/diplomatic responsibilities to other kings of Britons as a giver of feasts[1]. Cadbury Castle is only six miles from Ilchester and therefore can be reckoned to have been the place to which the greatest proportion of Lindinis’s ruling class decamped when they vacated the Roman city during Cador’s governorship. If the battle of Camlan was indeed, as legend portrays it, an internal struggle in which somebody (Medraut?) challenged Arthur, by then an old man, for his kingship, the Queen Camel area below Cadbury Castle is a most rational location for such a battle.


Camelot – South Cadbury

There is, of course, no solid proof that King Arthur lived at Cadbury Castle. It is, though, most curious that in the earliest “Arthurian” tale to name a castle, by Chrétien de Troyes written in c1170, it is called Camaalot. Close variants of this name have been used in many later Arthurian tales. Perhaps Chrétien drew the name, along with some of the rest of his storylines, from Breton minstrels who sang of the achievements of Arthur and kept a true tradition of the Camel name from this district of south Somerset. And there is no other genuine contender for the location of King Arthur’s primary residence – the only other place so designated in medieval story, Caerleon in Monmouthshire where he is placed in other legends, is wholly spurious.

[1] There is a poem attributed to Taliesin, but known only from a text 1000 years later than Taliesin’s time, in which Arthur the victor of Badon is referred to as “Chief giver of feasts”, a praise totally apposite to a successful sixth-century British ruler.


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