Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

King Arthur's most famous court. The name was first used by Chrétien de Troyes at the opening of Lancelot (?1177), where it is referred to as "magnificent". Chrétien probably took the name from an older text, now lost. Geoffrey of Monmouth located Arthur's capital at Caerleon in South Wales, based on its earlier description as the City of the Legions, an old Roman title which applies equally to Chester and Carlisle; but Chrétien's reference clearly distinguishes it from Caerleon. Others have argued in favour of Colchester (Britain's oldest city, which the Romans called Camulodunum), Winchester (the former Saxon capital of England) and Stirling (site of the original capital of the Gododdin), while the Stone-Age Cadbury Castle also has much support. Camelot became Arthur's main capital in the later Romances and came to represent the centre of the Arthurian Golden Age. The image of the Arthurian world is often represented by the portrayal of Camelot as a many-towered castle, as described by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) in Idylls of the King (1859; exp 1870, 1873, 1886).

But Camelot is rarely explored in detail in Arthurian fiction, its use being symbolic – as in Alan Jay Lerner's musical Camelot (1960; movie 1967) and in the anthologies Invitation to Camelot (anth 1988) ed Parke Godwin, The Camelot Chronicles (anth 1992) ed Mike Ashley and Camelot (anth 1995) ed Jane Yolen. The most extensive descriptions appear in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) by Mark Twain, Galahad (1926) by John Erskine (1879-1951) and A Prince in Camelot (1995) by Courtway Jones (real name John Alan Jones; 1923-    ). [MA]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.