The History of the Kings of Britain

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s The History of the Kings of Britain (which he claims he translated into Latin from “a certain very ancient book written in the British language”), the first Britons were descendants of exiled Trojans after the Trojan War who, led by a man named Brutus, freed themselves from slavery, sailed away from Greece, were prophesied to by Diana that they would find their promised land as an island beyond the setting sun, beat up some French people, and killed the giants on Britain, “best of islands,” which then was named after Brutus.

You might be saying, “That sounds like complete rubbish,” or something much less polite. Well, say I, who cares? It’s really entertaining. You might also be saying, “Hang on a minute, I read that parenthetical statement. What the hell is ‘the British language?’ Surely he mean Old English?” Wrong again, dear hypothetical reader (my actual readers are probably a good deal smarter than this, aren’t you? Hello?). You see, as well as the Britons, the best of islands was also settled by the Picts, Scots, Saxons and Normans, the latter making up the aristocracy at the time Geoffrey was writing because they had just conquered the island in 1066ish. If you don’t know what happened in 1066, that need to be remedied. The point of this rambling statement is that when Geoffrey says “British,” he doesn’t mean “Old English,” which was mostly made up of the Saxon languages with some British and Gaelic mixed in. No, the language of the Britons is Welsh. Which makes complete sense, when you hear that the sword of King Arthur (“King of the Britons,” according to Monty Python) was not originally spelled Excalibur (or Calibur or Caliburn or whatever) but Caledfwlch and he had a dagger and spear named Carnwennan and Rhongomyniad (or Ron for short). This makes me really wish I were Welsh.

Also, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Merlin was an expert engineer as well as a seer and created Stonehenge as a memorial to Britons slain by Saxon treachery at the request of Aurelius Ambrosius, Uther Pendragon’s older brother. He did this by getting Uther Pendragon and fifteen thousand men to sail over to Ireland with him, get the stones, which were in the appropriate positions already, sail them back to Britain, and erect them at the appropriate place.

It’s an interesting book.

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