King Arthur's Death

By Michael Smith

An epic poem of the fall of kings, vibrantly translated and stunningly illustrated with linocut prints by the author of Unbound’s Sir Gawain

Friday, 22 March 2019

King Arthur is nearly funded!

Dear supporter,

Last night I was delighted to see that the funding for my translation of the Alliterative Morte Arthure (King Arthur's Death) reached 80% of its final target. This is a wonderful achievement and I wanted to thank you for your support with this project to date. I could not have reached this point without your help.

With now just 20% left to go we're so close to making this book reality; if you know of others who would be interested in supporting this major new translation, please do spread the word. Remember you can also upgrade your pledge or even pledge for a "double signed" pledge option and then arrange for the name of a friend or loved one to be printed in the back as a surprise gift!

Every pledge received now edges this work over the finishing line in its great journey. Right now, I am finessing the translation, cutting more linocuts and undertaking more background research to ensure the book will provide what I hope will be a rich interpretation of this much-neglected but exhilarating and astonishing work, set in the context of its time (the turbulent years of Richard II/Henry IV). 

Lincoln manuscript

With this in mind, last weekend I visited Lincoln, to get a feel for the county in which this poem is thought to have originated and in which the sole surviving manuscript of the poem survives. Opinion divides over whether it originated in Lincolnshire or Yorkshire but the manuscript's Lincoln home determined my choice of visit

What a magnificent city it is, with its cathedral, castle, Roman remains and stunning geographical context! The county itself, blending the wolds with the haunting and evocative fens as it nears the sea, has an atmosphere all of its own. Yet, though set in the east of England and today sometimes forgotten, the county in the mediaeval period was a place of great wealth and huge national importance. 

Origins of the poem?

And it is in Lincolnshire that the seeds of this particular Arthur were sown. In the south of the county, in Old Bolingbroke, a tiny village almost lost to time, we find the place where history shifted and created the national canvas on which King Arthur's Death was painted.

Here, Bolingbroke Castle - home of Henry Bolingbroke, son of John of Gaunt, and future Henry IV - is today but a stump of what it once was. Yet it was in this place that began a chain of events which ultimately led to the overthrow of Richard II and the beginnings of the Lancastrians.

In this small enclosure castle, set within its reedy moat, began that great crack in the story of the English monarchy. Here we see the roots of why King Arthur's Death was written all those years ago. If Lincolnshire is where this poem began its life, then Bolingbroke is surely the binding to the book.

We are so close now to seeing this new translation speak anew the story of those far-off days all wrapped in this wondrous allegory of those troubled times.

Let us grasp Caliburn - this poem's Excalibur - and charge the final charge!

Kind regards,


Michael Smith

Author, translator, printmaker


If you'd like to know more about Bolingbroke Castle, please click here for a description, history and photographs

Image: one of the remaining late mediaeval stained glass windows at Tattershall, also in Lincolnshire and well worth the visit.

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