The extravagance of mediaeval feasting in the court of King Arthur

Monday, 11 March 2019

Mediaeval feast   duc de berry 2

Whether during the holy days, or in celebration of weddings or victories, or as part of welcoming a monarch during their travels, feasting for mediaeval royalty and the nobility was often a magnificent display of wealth and a demonstration of the social order. In King Arthur's Death we are treated to a description of mediaeval culinary magnificence so grand that we can hardly imagine it today…

Making good progress with King Arthur - an update from the author

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

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It's been nearly a year since I began work on translating King Arthur's Death so I wanted to send you a brief update on how the book is progressing and give you an idea of what you can look forward to when it is finally published. Unlike my translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I did not begin the crowdfunding with the manuscript ready - I started completely from scratch. No words, no…

Making a four colour linocut print of King Arthur and Excalibur

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

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It has taken me a while but I have at last managed to produce a four colour linocut print of King Arthur wielding Excalibur, which I wanted to offer as a pledge option for supporters of my translation of King Arthur's Death. This article takes you through the process, which in total took between 7 and 10 solid days of hard work...

The basis of my research.

King Arthur's Death, or the…

The incredibly moving lament of King Arthur for his dead knights

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Dinas emrys dragon tree

Towards the end of the Alliterative Morte Arthure, the fourteenth century poem I am translating and illustrating for Unbound, we finally arrive at the moment where Arthur fights with, and defeats, the odious traitor Mordred. Here, seriously wounded and on the verge of death, King Arthur makes a speech so powerful and haunting it is spine-tingling to hear it even now, 600 years after it was first written…

Some lovely new linocut prints featuring animals and birds

Thursday, 10 January 2019

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I've recently taken a short break from my printmaking work for King Arthur and have been producing a small range of prints featuring animals and birds from mediaeval bestiaries. I'm so pleased with them I thought I would offer a small selection of them as pledge options for supporters of my King Arthur translation. Let me tell you more about them and how they were made...

Bestiaries in the…

Merlin and the Legend of Dinas Emrys - Arthurian mythology in the heart of North Wales

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Ruins of dinas emrys 2

Britain is a land of myth and legend, at the centre of which the stories of King Arthur are amongst the most renowned. At Dinas Emrys in the mountains of North Wales, history and myth combine in a potent mixture to deliver one of the most important sites in the Arthurian canon.

Here, in this lonely, rain-sodden place, the British king Vortigern was told by the boy Merlin of two fighting dragons…

King Arthur's Round Table Celebrates Christmas - but then, strangers arrive...

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

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In the English literary tradition of the Middle Ages, Christmas is a time of huge significance and symbolism. With King Arthur’s Death, as with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the warmth of the holiday period is beautifully conveyed; a time when lordly households drew in on themselves in the midst of winter, and maybe hear of strange tales and magical stories…

Following an introduction to the…

A film showing the printmaking process for my translation of King Arthur's Death

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

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As well as being an historian, I am also a printmaker. The combination of both these areas comes to play in my forthcoming translation of King Arthur's Death (as indeed it did in my translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, also via Unbound, published July 2018), for which I am producing at least 32 linocut prints. In this brief update, I provide a short film showing how I print the linocut…

Remembrance Day 2018 - a Personal Dedication for King Arthur

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Mt knowles grave  second right  foreground looking over cemetery

As Remembrance Day beckons on 11th November, 100 years after the end of the WW1, the war to end all wars, I am reminded of a trip I made a few years back in search of the graves of two of my great-uncles. Like all such quests, there is a sense of loss, futility and deep sorrow for those who sacrificed their lives in a manner so depraved and cruel that even now it beggars belief that leaders could…

The stunning alliteration in King Arthur's Death

Friday, 2 November 2018

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The Alliterative Morte Arthure is a masterpiece of fourteenth century regional English poetry. It has pace, it has vim, it has detail, it has message. Above all it has a poetic delivery which makes it stand high as one of the finest works of literature from those dark days of the Hundred Years War. Its delivery is exemplified by its chosen form: the steady percussion of its alliteration.


Secrets of King Arthur's Death revealed by the Battle of Agincourt

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Battle of agincourt wikipedia

Historians of military tactics in the Hundred Years War have long dwelled on the use of the longbow in battles such as Agincourt, Crecy and Poitiers and how archers were organised to best effect on the battlefield. The use of the term herce by the chronicler Froissart to describe the configuration of blocks of archers in relation to individual "battles" of knights in the English armies has been…

How King Arthur's Death reveals the methods and horrors of mediaeval siege warfare

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Battle of nevilles cross public domain

In King Arthur's Death, when the king besieges the city of Metz, we are given a detailed insight into the ways in which sieges were fought in this period. What this reveals, as do other elements of the poem, is that its anonymous fourteenth century writer had detailed knowledge of military matters. We are left tantalised as to who the poet really was, and to whom he was connected.

The options…

Heraldry in King Arthur's Death

Friday, 21 September 2018

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One of the fascinating features in the Alliterative Morte Arthure (King Arthur's Death) is its detailed reflection of fourteenth century English politics, culture and, of course, warfare. This is particularly the case when it comes to the poem's accurate descriptions of the heraldry of Arthur's knights and his foes. But does the heraldry reveal coded secrets of its own - about the people for whom…

King Arthur - did he let pride get the better of him?

Monday, 10 September 2018

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King Arthur's Death is an alliterative poem which at once celebrates the triumphs of King Arthur while also demanding of the reader they address their views of war, ethics and morality. If the first half celebrates the former, the second half is when we are left questioning our own moral compass. At what point does Arthur the King become Arthur the flawed man?

This magnificent poem of 4000…

King Arthur's Death - was its writer a mediaeval Quentin Tarantino?

Monday, 20 August 2018

Tarantino arthur

King Arthur's Death - the Alliterative Morte Arthure (the AMA) - is a 14th Century poem unlike any other. Its contrast between the banal and the heroic, the violent and the natural, gives this anonymous poet the style of a mediaeval Quentin Tarantino. His work is truly groundbreaking and utterly astonishing...

For me, the appeal of King Arthur's Death is that it is hugely divorced from the…

The Art of Darkness - printing the illustrations for my translation of King Arthur's Death

Thursday, 9 August 2018

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As part of my journey in translating the 14th Century epic, King Arthur's Death (the Alliterative Morte Arthure), a key issue for me has been trying to convey the "gut feel" of this magnficent poem. I have been pulled in a number of directions but now I have arrived at a style which suits my own methodology and fully supports the intended message of this literary masterpiece. Let me tell you a…

The Poet as Witness? Fourteenth Century Warfare in King Arthur's Death

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

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To the untrained eye, the 14th century alliterative poem, King Arthur’s Death might be seen as a simple Arthurian romance. Nothing could be further from the truth. This vibrant, action-packed poem possesses a deep irony - possibly based on the poet’s personal exposure to the brutality of mediaeval warfare - and a detailed knowledge of other poems and sources in the Arthurian canon which he uses…

King Arthur - what makes a translation truly authentic?

Thursday, 5 July 2018

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Recently, I appeared in a discussion at the Bradford Literature Festival with Daniel Hahn discussing my new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (also published by Unbound). In just one afternoon, I realised that the work I had been involved with for the last five years had suddenly become something - a serious translation. My next project, King Arthur's Death, has taken on a new responsibility…

This original hand-pulled linocut print of Sir Hugh Calveley could be yours!

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Hugh calveley image for unbound

As part of the crowdfunding campaign for my new translation of King Arthur's Death (the fourteenth century Alliterative Morte Arthure written during the reign of either Richard II or Henry IV), I'm pleased to announce a special prize for one lucky pledger for the book!

Once the number of backers reaches 250 (Hardback pledge level or above), everyone who has pledged at those pledge levels will…

The Accountant as Insult in the Morte Arthure

Monday, 18 June 2018

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Being written in England around 1400, King Arthur’s Death sheds a fascinating light on the tactics, techniques and sheer plain talking of the English soldiering class around the time of Agincourt. Whoever wrote this astonishing poem was well-versed in how armies were organised and paid for, and, in so being, he highlights a side of warfare which still haunts us today: financiers don’t like fighters…

Enter the Dark Side of Chivalry - Meet the other Sir Gawain.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

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Battle plays a major part in the vivid writing of the fourteenth century masterpiece which is King Arthur’s Death (the Alliterative Morte Arthure; one of the key sources for Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur). Yet its anonymous poet chooses to tell us a tale not so much of chivalric romance but of the brutal horror of war. This is particularly true when we consider Sir Gawain, a leading character in…

King Arthur and the Giant of Mont Saint Michel – a gripping mediaeval horror story

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

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Above: The Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset -  the basis of, or a model for, the predatory rapine giant in King Arthur's Death?

Giants and ogres are a common feature in mediaeval literature and in King Arthur’s Death (the Alliterative Morte Arthure) we are shown one who is surely one of the most gruesome to have been created. How did the poet manage to create such a vile beast, and one who remains…

Dragons and Dreams – the Uncertainty of Mediaeval Kings

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

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When kings in the past were faced with aggression from abroad, how did they react – and why? In the Alliterative Morte Arthure (King Arthur’s Death) we are given significant insights into the diplomacy and thinking of mediaeval kings. It makes for gripping reading, far beyond what we might expect from such a poem.

Mediaeval life was dominated by religion, war and the whim of God. If calamity…

Sharp eyes and steady hands - Illustrating the Alliterative Morte Arthure

Saturday, 31 March 2018

King arthur cropped with water mark

My new translation of the Alliterative Morte Arthure (King Arthur’s Death) begins a new journey for me: translating a vibrant poem of the late fourteenth century (which, incidentally, has a number of hidden meanings) and illustrating it in pen-and-ink. For this post, I want to show you the process I use in my illustrative work, focusing on an illustration of King Arthur himself.


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