Henry II is aware of Arthur’s remains at Glastonbury.958 The King’s involvement with the discovery is having been told by Henry Blois how deep the body was. Henry Blois who tells the King the information came from a bard relates in some way that a bard had informed him. Then as Gerald rinforms us, King Henry relates to the source of who supplied the information of Arthur’s whereabouts.959
Henry II had no active involvement at Glastonbury and as I have stated in the chapter on Gerald of Wales, he may have been dead and Henry De Sully had come from Bermondsey a couple of months before Henry II’s death. So, in this alternate scenario let us assume King Henry was dead when Arthur was disinterred, but it was either Eleanor of Aquitaine or John (the king’s brother) who persuaded Henry de Sully (who was King Richard’s appointment) to ensure that King Arthur was disinterred. The disinterment (if this scenario is the correct one) probably took place in 1191 as I shall elaborate.
The nonchalant mention in chapter 31 in DA960 of Arthur’s whereabouts, buried with Guinevere between the pyramids, was written by Henry Blois as discussed in the chapter on DA.
958The Great Chartulary of Glastonbury Dom Aelred Watkin Volume 1, P 186-8. Carta Henrici Regis Secundi Filii Matildis Imperatricis De Libertatibus Concessis Ecclesie Glaston. The main features of the foundation legend and the building of the church by the disciples of Jesus and its dominical consecration (only in DA) are all referred to in a charter of Henry II attested between 2nd and the 16th of December 1184 (John Goodall). Arthur’s association with Glastonbury as seen here in the charter: Baldredo, Ina, inclito Arthuro, Cuddredo et multis aliis regibus Christianis…. could only be derived from Life of Gildas or DA; both written by Henry Blois and surely after Malmesbury’s death.
959There is no contradiction in Henry II having been responsible for telling the monks himself about what he had heard from Henry Blois. He might well have told the monks the information given by Henry Blois while at Glastonbury signing his Charter. That King Henry is conceived as having instigated the find is not what Giraldus actually says: But the clearest evidence came when King Henry II of England explained the whole matter to the monks (as he had heard it from an aged British poet): how the body would be found deep down, namely more than 16 feet into the earth, and not in a stone tomb but in an oak-hollow. There is no evidence to suggest that what is attributed to have been information supplied by King Henry was said at the time of the unearthing. Giraldus heralds it as part of the hearsay which surrounded the event.
960….but I omit it from fear of being tedious. I pass over Arthur, famous King of the Britons, buried with his wife in the monks Cemetery between two pyramids, and many other leaders of the Britons.
It is because of this fact and other propaganda by Henry Blois that Henry II mentions Arthur in his charter as early as 1184. It is from Gerald we learn of King Henry’s knowledge of the particulars of the grave. The location of the tomb existed in DA prior to the disinterment and we are assured that Henry de Sully knows where to find the body (any incidental factors which promoted the disinterment from either Eleanor or John or Richard I are now secondary) and Henry de Sully can no longer be held responsible for the fraud. Let us assume therefore, (so that Gerald’s testimony is not ignored), the location between the pyramids was known at Glastonbury to be where King Arthur’s gravesite was situated.
My belief is that Henry Blois passed information to King Henry II on Henry Blois’ death bed regarding the depth of the grave in the hope that after his death the disinterment would fulfil his entire fabricated edifice concerning chivalric Arthur.961 King Henry had no need to disinter King Arthur, but he may have related this information to others in his close family and supplied this anecdotal information specified by Gerald. Gerald relates that the pertinent information regarding the depth of the grave was as part of the reasoning behind digging so deep in locating the grave and not just relying on the cursory reference to the location found in DA.
One conjecture could be it was either John or Eleanor of Aquitaine who had persuaded Henry de Sully to carry out the disinterment. Hence, Gerald’s comment that it was King Henry II who had supplied the information and the possibility that the dig transpired in 1191 while Richard I was still imprisoned; (However, because this is connected with King Henry, Gerald makes the mistake of saying this happened in King Henry’s lifetime).
Henry II died in July 1189 and in September 1189 Richard I, just after his crowning at Westminster, appointed Henry de Sully Abbot of Glastonbury. Financial pressures were brought to bear at the abbey c.1190 due to the reconstruction after the fire.962 King Henry II had contributed generously and is reported to have promised either the total annual revenues of his West Country demense or even the surplus revenue from the realm to complete the new building.
King Richard however, had other interests and any royal dispensation of funds dried up as he diverted all royal revenue toward the third Crusade (1189–1192). He stayed in England not more than a few months after having been crowned. The builders at Glastonbury were stuck financially and the disinterment of Arthur certainly would have had financial benefits for Glastonbury. I see no reason to distrust Gerald’s report about the involvement of Henry II either in supplying the information or promoting the project, i.e. granting permission while alive, or even instructing his nephew Henry de Sully to carry out the dig before his death. In all likelihood, the dig transpired while Richard was abroad (if the dating is accurate). It was an event which coincided with the readiness of the new church to receive such an illustrious person into its newly appointed confines.
961Not only would the discovery of the ‘leaden cross’ ensure Glastonbury was linked with Avalon ad infinitum, but also it would confirm the Grail’s association with Glastonbury also.
962Adam of Damerham says: Unfortunately, the new King thought of nothing but the crusades and took no interest in the building of the great church, then lately begun. So, work was ceased, since there was no-one to pay the men’s wages.
There may, however, have been an entirely different reason for disinterring Arthur and it was promoted by Eleanor of Aquitaine or John, King Richard’s younger brother. The accusation against Henry de Sully as the instigator of a fraudulent unearthing can be summarily dismissed as he can be discounted as the promoter of Avalon. It is obvious from what has been covered so far that Henry Blois is the promoter of Avalon.963
King Richard was on crusade and Arthur’s disinterment is said to have taken place by Adam in 1190964 rather than 1191 as stated by Ralph. King Richard had left the coffers dry throughout the Kingdom and headed abroad. At Glastonbury, Henry de Sully has no funds. At this time, with the huge interest in King Arthur both on the continent and in insular Britain the zeitgeist of Arthur’s return was still prevalent and in 1191…. John, King Richard’s youngest brother, who was next in line for the throne, was side-lined for his elder brother Geoffrey’s son as heir, whose name was Arthur. It is by this set of circumstances, we might speculate a scenario which was the catalyst to King Arthur’s disinterment in 1191 (if indeed Ralph is correct).
King Richard named the four-year-old Arthur of Brittany as the heir to the throne; and John by hereditary right, believing the crown should pass to him, was understandably upset. But, with the return of Arthur paramount as the ‘hope’ of the populace and on everyone’s tongue, the chances of John gaining his natural birth right over his nephew (if King Richard should die on Crusade), seemed poor odds. If John could prove to the British subjects that King Arthur died long ago and the ‘hope of the Britons’ was a myth, then the aspirations of the populace would be dashed…. rather than believing that his Nephew (Arthur) was somehow King Arthur returning.
In other words, if John could show King Arthur’s bones to the world there was no hope of his return and he would be the natural inheritor of the crown not his elder brother’s son. This is only conjecture and a rationalization of how events might have been motivated toward a dig to concur with Ralph’s date. John, may have been the driving force behind insisting that Henry de Sully dig up Arthur, saying it had been his Father’s wish. This possible scenario becomes a little clearer if we relate the events described above in their historical context.
9631) Having changed the name of the island on Melkin’s prophecy. 2) Having invented the name from the town in Burgundy. 3) Having been witnessed to promote this island (first put forward in HRB) as commensurate with Insular Pomorum at Glastonbury in VM. 4) Having been the composer of St Patrick’s charter which unequivocally states in Henry’s epilogue to it in DA Chap 9 that St Patrick was first Abbot of Avalon. Lastly by having planted the bones with the cross to be found at a later date confirming Glastonbury at Avalon and by letting everyone know where this conclusive evidence is hidden by providing the location of Arthur’s grave in DA.
It should not be forgotten also the inspiration for the Leaden cross (the ultimate proof that Glastonbury was once called Avalon), having been derived (as an idea of ‘total comfirmation’) from Eadmer’s testimony of Dunstan also having a ‘Leaden Tablet’ in his grave which provided a ‘proof positive’ for Eadmer’s argument.
964Adam states that Arthur had been in the cemetery for 648 years because Geoffrey of Monmouth has written in HRB XI, ii Even the renowned King Arthur himself was wounded deadly, and was borne thence unto the island of Avalon for the healing of his wounds, where he gave up the crown of Britain unto his kinsman Constantine, son of Cador, Duke of Cornwall, in the year of the Incarnation of Our Lord five hundred and forty-two.
Adam says the bones had lain near the old church between two stone monuments, formerly of noble workmanship, for 648 years. Simple math, the year 542+ 648 subsequent years puts Adam’s date at 1190 for the disinterment, but we should not forget Adam is writing after 1277. Even Adam states that prior to the dig: Abbot Henry( de Sully) had often been urged to have King Arthur’s bones more decently housed.
Richard was officially invested as Duke of Normandy on 20 July 1189 and was crowned King Richard I in Westminster Abbey on 3 September 1189. John’s elder brothers Henry, William and Geoffrey all died young. By the time Richard became king, John was the potential heir to the throne. But while Richard was on Crusade, John unsuccessfully attempted a rebellion against Richard’s royal administrators. When Henry the Young King died King Henry II had rearranged the succession; Richard was to be made King of England, albeit without any actual power until the death of his father; Geoffrey would retain Brittany; and John would now become the Duke of Aquitaine in place of Richard.
However, Richard did not relinquish Aquitaine so Henry II ordered John along with his other brother Geoffrey to regain the duchy by force. After this, Geoffrey died leaving a posthumous son, Arthur. The duchy of Brittany was given to Arthur rather than John which is the start of the problem.
The uncertainty about what would happen after Henry II death was always an issue. Richard before his father was dead was desperate to go on crusade but was aware that if he went King Henry II might appoint John his successor. This was because Richard had discussed with Philip II the Capetian King of France during 1187, about a potential alliance; and Richard paid homage to Philip to strengthen his position against his father.
So, Richard had allied himself with 22-year-old Philip II, the son of Eleanor’s ex-husband Louis VII by Adele of Champagne. Richard and Philip fought a joint campaign against King Henry II while John remained loyal to his father. Later, John changed sides when he thought Richard would prevail. By the summer of 1189 the King Henry II made peace with Richard promising Richard the succession.
So, understanding the family feud, King Henry II died and John’s elder brother Richard became king. King Richard set about raising the huge sums of money required for his expedition through the sale of lands, titles and appointments. There was certainly nothing to be spared for Glastonbury’s rebuild as Adam of Damerham makes clear.
Richard made sure before leaving the country on crusade that he would not face a revolt while away, so he made John, the Count of Mortain (in effect next in line) and married him off to Isabel of Gloucester and bestowed on him lucrative lands with the aim of ensuring his loyalty while he was away.
Richard and Philip agreed to go on the third Crusade together since each feared that during his absence the other might usurp his territories. Richard left political authority in England in the hands of Bishop Hugh de Puiset and William Mandeville and the Bishop of Ely became his chancellor. John was not satisfied by this decision and started scheming against William de Mandeville.
In September 1190 Richard and Philip arrived in Sicily. A certain Tancred had seized power after the death of King William II of Sicily in 1189.Tancred had imprisoned King William’s widow, Queen Joan, who was Richard I’s favourite sister, without giving her the money she had inherited in William’s will.
So, King Richard attacked Messina, and after looting and burning the city, Richard established his base there; but this created tensions between Richard and Philip II. Richard remained there until Tancred finally agreed to sign a treaty on 4 March 1191. The treaty was signed by Richard I, Philip II and Tancred. The treaty’s main terms were: Richard’s sister Joan was to receive 20,000 ounces of gold as compensation for her inheritance, but also more importantly (with reference to the disinterment of King Arthur), King Richard officially proclaimed his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, (Geoffrey’s son), as his heir to his throne (not John). This happened in 1191. Also, in the terms Tancred promised to marry one of his own daughters to the young Arthur of Brittany when he came of age, giving a further twenty thousand ounces of gold that would be returned by King Richard if Arthur did not marry Tancred’s daughter.
On the news of this John was livid and may have sought to dispel a rumour that was circulating brought about by prophecy i.e. that Arthur may return.
Philip II returned from the Crusade before King Richard. Eleanor of Aquitaine most probably did not agree with the new plan for succession965 either and convinced Richard to allow John into England in his absence. Richard could not return because he was captured and imprisoned by the Emperor of Germany as Adam of Damerham relates.
While imprisoned in Germany King Richard sells Glastonbury for his freedom to Savaric. John revolted with the aid of King Philip thinking Richard was probably dead.
Amongst Philip’s conquests in the period of Richard’s imprisonment in Germany was Normandy. Richard forgave John when they met again and named him as his heir in place of Arthur of Brittany. But if the unearthing did happen in 1191…. then John may have been the instigator.
This convoluted explanation is all conjecture but may be a part catalyst to the events which propelled the unearthing of Arthur while King Richard was away. John was simply trying to undo what the superstitions of the twelfth century dictated. Richard had tried to protect his crown by electing Arthur of Brittany his successor and when the populace heard this after what Merlin had prophesied, they assumed John’s elder brother, Geoffrey’s son, was to be the long-awaited Arthur.
King Richard was so steeped in Arthuriana that one could speculate he may well have had this in mind when electing his young Nephew as successor and Geoffrey (Arthur’s father) had even asked permission to name him so.
My conjecture is that John sought to dampen this expectation by showing that Arthur had died back in the sixth century. Yet, his motivation conjoined with Henry de Sully’s prospect of increased alms. Henry de Sully actually found the set of bones which Henry Blois had deposited (possibly as much as 30 years ago) in the cemetery at Glastonbury. Both John and Glastonbury alms gained from the discovery.
965Eleanor was obviously not pleased either with King Richard’s attempts to marry his newly widowed sister Joan to Philip II of France, Eleanor’s ex- husband’s son by Adele