Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Nights at the Round Table - Sepia Saturday

My first thought on seeing this week's prompt of the Round Table at the 1945 Potsdam Conference was of...

... King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. According to Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur Arthur was given the table by King Leodegrance on Arthur's wedding to his daughter Guinevere. Leodegrance had been keeping the table for Uther Pendragon, Arthur's father.

King Arthur's Knights gathered at the Round Table to celebrate Pentecost see a vision of the Holy Grail
 (15th century manuscript of Lancelot and the Holy Grail)

The Round Table has become a symbol for equality and just government.
Geoffrey of Monmouth (1135) made no mention of a Round Table in his history of Arthur.  A French monk Robert Wace, writing around 1155,  was the first to mention it. There are a number of supposed Round Tables sites in Britain including Caerleon, Penrith, Stirling and Winchester.

According to Wace Arthur's knights sat at a round table while Arthur sat on a dais, above the Round Table. The idea here was that the knights were all equal but Arthur was still the king. Wace didn't how many knights sat around the table.

A few years later, an Englishman named Layamon in his chronicle places Arthur's court in London. The Round Table is portrayed the result of a chance meeting between Arthur and a Cornish carpenter, who offers to make for the king a table that could seat 1,600 men and be folded up and taken anywhere.

Robert de Boron tells us Merlin ordered Uther Pendragon to construct the table based on his vision of the Last Supper Table and Joseph of Arimathea's Grail Table. Merlin instructed Uther to have the table accommodate 50 chairs.

Painted table in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle representing the Round Table of King Arthur
 ( By Martin Croft CC BY-SA 3.0)

The large wooden table in the Great Hall at Winchester dates from no earlier than the thirteenth century, when it may have been made at the command of King Edward III, who was considering a revival of the Round Table as an order of chivalry. In the end, he dropped the idea and created the Order of Garter instead. The oak table is 18 feet across and nearly 3 inches thick. It weighs nearly 1.25 tons. 

If you prefer to be in the open air then this is where you should go.

King Arthur's Round Table - a neolithic henge - Eamont Bridge, Cumbria (By David Berry)
90m in diameter. only one of the original entrances survives. The external bank is 1.5m wide, the internal quarry ditch 9m; two standing stones outside the northern entrance are no longer visible.

Of course it is not only a legendary king that had a round table, nature has its own.

Mermaid Tables - Ravenscar Beach, Yorkshire 
(By Andrew Curtis -  21 Feb 2004 - CC BY-SA 2.0)

These strange round formations on the rock shore are apparently formed and preserved from erosion by the capping of resistant rocks.

It has been a long time since Arthur's time at the end of the 6th century but today's politicians use the round table format at those 'perennial' G8 Summits.

G8 working session - May 2012
(Official White House photo - Pete Souza)

Certainly they are are a a lot more informal than that Potsdam lot who take your attention away from the 'star' of the show.

Round Table - Potsdam Conference, Cecilienhof Palace
(Presidental Libraries - Harry S Truman)

I hope Alan has reached this point because I'm sure that he will appreciate a night or two at a table like this - 

Round Table, Covent Garden
  (Ewan Munroe - 2008 - CC BY-SA 2.0)

I'm told this is at 20-27 St Martin's Court near Leicester Square tube station. However to see where others have been you should weave your way across to Sepia-Saturday-168.


Little Nell said...

A nicely rounded post. I've seen the one in Winchester. How wonderful if some of those Arthurian legends were really true! Btw your Mr Linky link isn't working.

Brett Payne said...

Interesting take on the theme. I wonder if the King Arthur legend is the first recorded use of a round table for that purpose, whetrher or not it actually happened.

Nigel Aspdin (Derby, UK) said...

That G8 image is fascinating. So much going on, being said, being thought, body language. All without a thought for the presence of a camera. A truly great photo, and it says all I wanted to say against posed photos and why I hate next weeks SepSat photo so much.

Kristin said...

I like those mermaid tables. I wonder how they use them.

Jo said...

I fell in love with Morte d'Arthur as a child in the sick bay at school. Wrote a long poem which I didn't get to keep as it was contagious, but the nurse read it to the school principle. Wish I still had it. Best stories I ever read were the Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte.

Love the pictures you chose.

Wendy said...

I enjoyed reading all about Arthur's round table - never knew there were so many versions. Ending the post at THE Round Table tavern is perfect! Isn't that the way every tour should end?

Postcardy said...

the 18 foot painted table in the Great Hall of Winchester Castle is very impressive!

John said...

I enjoyed all of the round tables, but wished there had been one or two mermaids dining at the mermaid tables.

Karen S. said...

Yes, I'm so happy you got the link working, I wouldn't want to miss this excellent and fully rounded round table post- wow, Bravo Bob for all your work on this! I like how your thoughts worked this out, and that PUB looks inviting too. A master-piece of info and great and powerful photos too!

Rob From Amersfoort said...

A round table is a great invention, it totally fits the primus inter pares principle. I'm still curious if there really has been a King Arthur like figure in the middle ages.

Jackie/Jake said...

This is why I love Sepia Saturday!! Everyone is so creative and interesting!

Emma Major said...

brilliant link to the knights of the round table, were they about peace I.wonder

Mike Brubaker said...

Great post, Bob! Tables, whether round square or oblong have such a wealth of political traditions - who shall sit where; who shall face the doorway; how will the plates and cutlery be arranged; what are the appropriate table manners. Remember the protracted negotiations of the Vietnam War Peace Talks just on the shape and size of the table?

Alan Burnett said...

Some great connections (as always) and some fascinating information (as always). Am I right in thinking that it should be a woman wearing a garter that is hanging on the wall of Winchester Cathedral?

Hazel Ceej said...

I love this post! All the interesting story details, many of them I didn't know, like how huge the table was. Mermaid Tables are quite fascinating. Thanks for showing that. I sometimes wonder how is it around the 'only rose among the thorns' at G8 summits.

Rosie said...

Ah, a round table, no one is at the head of the table at a round table! Non confrontational!

I really like the picture of the Mermaid tables!

Bob Scotney said...

@Rob - there is still a lot of discussion whether Arthur existed or not.

@Mike - I'm afraid the Vietnam peace talks did not register with me.

@Alan - The picture of the Countess of Salisbury, the former Fair Maid of Kent, would fit here or in the Round Tower at Windsor since it was in London that she is reputed to have lost her garter. King Edward picked it up and out it on saying "Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense" which has become part of the insignia of the Order of the Garter.
The Round Tower was built to house Edward's Round Table.

Jean Knill said...

Great post, Bob. Lots of fascinating facts. When I was younger, I used to visit places connected with the King Arthur myths. The farthest I got was La Fontaine de Barenton in Britanny,which took some finding. It's in the middle of a forest and is the place where Merlin met Vivian who enchanted him and kept him a prisoner so that she would not lose him as her lover.
I ashamed to say I still haven't seen the Winchester Round Table.

tony said...

I've Been To That Pub in London! &,by the end of the night,my head was going around+around..........

Joy said...

I've seen the impressive Winchester round table but never been to Eamont Bridge despite living in Cumbria. Guess it must be too near:-) A nice collection of round tables.

anyjazz said...

A fine chain of related photographs. I enjoyed following along.

barbara and nancy said...

What a fun and fact-filled post. I wonder if one of those mermaid tables could fit 1500 people!


Titania said...

Bob, excellent post, the round table has itself well established even in my home. It is so practical and one always can squeeze in on more. My choice the Meermaid tables.


From Arthur to a pub,
what's there not to like?
Great post!!