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The rocky peninsula of Tintagel on the North Cornish coast was the site of Arthur's conception and birth.

"IT befell in the days of Uther Pendragon, when he was king of all England, and so reigned, that there was a mighty duke in Cornwall that held war against him long time.  And the duke was called the Duke of Tintagil.  And so by means King Uther sent for this duke, charging him to bring his wife with him, for she was called a fair lady, and a passing wise, and her name was called Igraine.

"..The king liked and loved this lady well, ..and desired to have lain by her.  But she was a passing good woman, and would not assent unto the king.  And then she told the duke her husband, and said, I suppose that we were sent for that I should be dishonoured; wherefore, husband, I counsel you, that we depart from hence suddenly, that we may ride all night unto our own castle.  And in like wise as she said so they departed,.. All so soon as King Uther knew of their departing so suddenly, he was wonderly wroth...

"..duke had this warning....his wife Dame Igraine he put in the castle of Tintagil...Then in all haste came Uther with a great host, and laid a siege about the castle...and there was great war made on both parties, and much people slain.  Then for pure anger and for great love of fair Igraine the king Uther fell sick.  So came to the king Uther Sir Ulfius, a noble knight, and asked the king why he was sick.  I shall tell thee, said the king, I am sick for anger and for love of fair Igraine, that I may not be whole.  Well, my lord, said Sir Ulfius, I shall seek Merlin, and he shall do you remedy, that your heart shall be pleased.  So Ulfius departed, and by adventure he met Merlin in a beggar's array, and there Merlin asked Ulfius whom he sought.  And he said he had little ado to tell him.  Well, said Merlin, I know whom thou seekest, for thou seekest Merlin; therefore seek no farther, for I am he; and if King Uther will well reward me, and be sworn unto me to fulfil my desire, that shall be his honour and profit more than mine; for I shall cause him to have all his desire.  All this will I undertake, said Ulfius, that there shall be nothing reasonable but thou shalt have thy desire.  Well, said Merlin, he shall have his intent and desire.  And therefore, said Merlin, ride on your way, for I will not be long behind...

"...And then Merlin was bound to come to the king...Sir, said Merlin, this is my desire: the first night that ye shall lie by Igraine ye shall get a child on her, and when that is born, that it shall be delivered to me for to nourish there as I will have it...Now make you ready, said Merlin, this night ye shall lie with Igraine in the castle of Tintagil; and ye shall be like the duke her husband...But the duke of Tintagil espied how the king rode from the siege..and..that night he issued out of the castle at a postern for to have distressed the king's host.  And so..the duke himself was slain or ever the king came at the castle of Tintagil....after the death of the duke, King Uther lay with Igraine...and begat on her that night Arthur...when the lady was delivered....the child was delivered unto Merlin

Sir Thomas Malory in Le Morte D'Arthur, Book 1 Chapter 1 onward


That, briefly, is the story of Arthur and Tintagel but what of the historical background?


"I shall offer conjecture touching the name of this place, which I will not say is right, but only probable. Tin is the same as Din, Dines, and Diveth, deceit; so that Tindixel, turned, for easier pronunciation, to Tintagel, Dindagel, or Daundagel  signifies Castle of Deceit, which name might be aptly given to it from the famous deceit practised here by Uter Pendragon by the help of Merlin's enchantment."--Tonkin.

Quoted in - Popular Romances of the West of England collected and edited by Robert Hunt [1903, 3rd edition]

Merlin's Cave, Tintagel, Cornwall Large Poster

Arthurian Gallery               Merlin's Cave, Tintagel, Cornwall Large Poster               All Galleries



The glass fragments  found during excavations by members of Glasgow University Department of Archaeology at Tintagel in the summer of 1998 provide, for the first time, evidence of a direct link between South west Britain and Southern Spain in the sixth century. 

"no doubt that Tintagel was indeed central to the economic activity of western Britain."  Chris Morris ( Professor of Archaeology at the University of Glasgow)

Taken together with the many fragments of amphorae, characteristic Mediterranean pottery, of this period found at Tintagel there can be no doubt that sea trade between Dumnonia (the ancient kingdom of Devon and Cornwall) and Gaul and the Mediterranean World continued long after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

"Pottery was brought from Alexandria & Carthage to these areas(Wales & S.W.) in the period between 450 & 520.The earliest dateable monastery in the British Isles was established at Tintagel between 470 & 500. 'Where platters and amphorae could travel so too could pilgrims too and from the Holy Land, occasional refugees, books and ideas." - Charles Thomas - Britain & Ireland in early Christ Times 400-800AD.

Pottery archaeology has confirmed Tintagel an important centre for long established trade routes with the Mediterranean cultures. Indeed so many pieces of sixth c. Mediterranean pottery have been found there that they are termed 'Tintagel Ware'. Similar pottery has also been found at other sites testifying to the existence of an extensive and organised internal trading network at this time. Sites like St. Michael's Mount, Glastonbury Tor, Cadbury castle, Chun, Dinas Powys, Gwithian, Lundy.

"The principal recipients were the native princes in their refurbished hill forts ie South Cadbury, Cadbury / Congresbury in Somerset, High Peak in S.Devon & Dinas Powys in Wales. Also TINTAGEL, LUNDY, GWITHIAN, GLAST.TOR, TREVELGUE HEAD, CHUN CASTLE."  Fox Aileen - South West England,3500 b.c. - 600 a.d.'

The Mediterranean trade routes were widely used long before 500 AD.  Links were established between the silver miners of the south west and Carthage as early as 450 BC. 

Building archaeology depicts Tintagel as an early Christian Celtic monastic establishment or a princely stronghold or a trading centre or, indeed, all of the above. 

" -Tintagel -within the courtyard of site 'A'-a tomb shrine or LEACHT - normal feature in Celtic cemeteries - relics of saints or founders."  Geoffrey Ashe - Quest for Arthur's Britain

 Tintagel - graveyard contained the founder's tomb or Leacht - a masonary found. 5ft.square  South West England 

" The evidence of Professor Thomas' excavations in Tintagel churchyard (1990) which appear to reveal a group of graves of noblemen, probably christian and dating from the 5th to 6th c.2 - 'unity and variety.' Similar groupings of memorial stones were found on Lundy and at the site of St. Ninians fifth century monastery, Candida Casa, Whithorn in South West Scotland.


There is no doubt that Tintagel, like Lundy, was the site of an early Celtic-Christian monastic settlement.


The medieval castle at Tintagel

Doorway, Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom - Photographic Print
Doorway, Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom

The medieval castle at Tintagel was built around 1233. It appears that after he became Earl of Cornwall in 1227, Richard, the brother of King Henry III, went to great lengths to acquire the manor of Tintagel. Sometime after 1230 Richard built his castle on the headland, nearly a century after the early medieval texts started to circulate. The historical evidence demonstrates that, like the Tower of London, the castle was built in response to the international fame granted to the site by the widespread circulation of the Arthurian romances. It does seem to suggest that the legends surrounding Arthur had just as strong an influence on people then as they do now.




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