Sadly, there is little evidence to prove his kingly existence but it is a commonly held belief that a warrior given the name of Arturus did exist and the stories grew up around him and his heroic bravery. But how did Arturus become King Arthur Pendragon of Britain and how did his legend endure to the modern day?
The first we hear of Arthur is in a 9th century manuscript titled Historia Brittonum which was written by Nennius, and a Welsh document titled Annales Cambriae. Historia Brittonum makes reference to Arthur being a warrior who led his troops into battle against the invading Saxons, he was considered brave and fearless, intent on defending his country and its people.
It was from Historia Brittonum the cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his own history of Britain, Historia Regum Britanniae, which was published in the mid-1130s. In it, he describes how Arthur defeated the Saxons and the Romans and then went on to conquer much of northern Europe enabling him to build a vast empire. It is the first time we hear of Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, Merlin and Excalibur. It is also the first mention of Arthur’s wife Guinevere although it is not until the 12th century when the French writer Chrétien de Troyes wrote his version of Arthur’s life that the famous Arthurian knight and lover of Guinevere, Sir Lancelot and the Holy Grail appear. Arthur’s fateful return to England is also documented describing how he was wounded at the Battle of Camlann, from the battlefield he is taken to the mythical island of Avalon to recover but is never seen again. Where Avalon was remains a mystery to this day although there have been many debates over it exact location. At this stage in history Arthur is a popular figure, a man to be revered and respected, Historia Regum Britanniae takes the story of Arthur to Europe and makes him more popular than he had ever been.
In 1485, English writer Thomas Malory published Le Morte d’Arthur which has become one of the most popular retellings of the Arthurian Legend. Its popularity lies in the fact it brings together all the legends in to one single retelling, He too talks of the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Lancelot and Excalibur.