War of the Five Kings
A short time after Arthur's wedding, the realm is again in jeopardy. Arthur receives news
that an army has entered his lands, probably in the North in the region of the wall or York. Malory tells us that
five kings have united: the king of Denmark, the king of Ireland that was his brother, the king of the
Vale (Strathclyde), the king of
Soleise, and the king of the Isle of Longtains. Due to the probable location of the events that will occur, we can
assume that the army is a mixture of Irish and Saxon raiders. The king of Denmark is more likely an
adventurer and pirate of the calibre of Hengist allied with similar Irish counterparts and northern raiders.
Arthur sends to Pellinore to raise his men and meet him in the North in the forest beside the
Humber. Arthur gathers his force and sets out, commanding that all his nobles gather to his side. Like an
immature, young newly married man, he decides to take Guenever with him.
His force makes camp somewhere north of the Humber and against the advice of Kay, fail to set
proper watch or preparation. The enemy receives word of Arthur's coming and decides to attack before
reinforcements can arrive. During the night, they surprise Arthur's camp and destroy it. It is
interesting that Malory indicates something more sinister in the event, having many in the camp call treason.
There would be some indication that someone had betrayed their location. Arthur,
Guenever, Kay, Gawaine, and Griflet escape toward the Humber which is still swollen with the spring thaws.
When unable to escape across the Humber, Arthur must turn and fight. The five kings arrive without escort
and through Kay's valiant display, Arthur and his knights attack and kill the five kings, Kay killing
two of them by himself. Guenever is exuberant in her praise of Kay and is set in a barge on the Humber.
Arthur and his knights ride into the forest and rally his scattered forces waiting for the day to arrive.
This fight in the forest as presented seems too set. The five kings would not have been riding
unescorted. A more likely case is that after Arthur's camp is attacked, he escapes toward the Humber
with a small force. Trapped at the water's edge, a larger body of the enemy pursuing them arrives.
Outnumbered, Kay rouses everyone's courage and they attack the enemy. In the fight, the enemy
leaders are killed. This gives
Arthur time to find a transport to send the queen with a proper escort across the Humber to safety while
Arthur heads toward a rallying point to gather his remaining forces.
In the morning, the enemy is disorganized due to the loss of their leaders and Arthur is
able with his smaller force to attack and destroy them. Malory claims that the entire enemy force is
annihilated and uses his usual incredulous numbers of enemy dead - thirty thousand (more likely hundreds).
Arthur kneels and thanks God for his victory and sends for the queen. Pellinore and his
army arrive and rejoice with Arthur. Malory states that Arthur lost eight knights of the Round Table
and two hundred men. Arthur endows an abbey to commemorate his victory and named it the Abbey of
La Beale Adventure. He returns with Pellinore to Camelot to hold a counsel to replace the eight knights.