Howard Pyle's King
Arthur and his Knights
Chapter Sixth. How King Arthur Was Wedded in Royal State and How the Round Table Was
And now was come the early fall of the year; that pleasant season when the meadow-land
and the wold were still green with summer that had only just passed; when the sky likewise
was as of summer-time - extraordinarily blue and full of large floating clouds; when a
bird might sing here and another there, a short song in memory of spring-time, when all
the air was tempered with warmth and yet the leaves were everywhere turning brown and red
and gold, so that when the sun shone through them it was as though a cloth of gold,
broidered with brown and crimson and green, hung above the head. At this season of the
year it is exceedingly pleasant to be a-field among the nut-trees with hawk and hound, or
to travel abroad in the yellow world, whether it be a-horse or a-foot.
Now this was the time of year in which had been set the marriage of King Arthur and the
Lady Guinevere at Camelot, and at that place was extraordinary pomp and glory of
circumstance. All the world was astir and in a great ferment of joy, for everybody was
exceedingly glad that King Arthur was to have him a Queen.
In preparation for that great occasion the town of Camelot was bedight very
magnificently, for the stony street along which the Lady Guinevere must come to the royal
castle of the King was strewn thick with fresh-cut rushes smoothly laid. Moreover it was
in many places spread with carpets of excellent pattern such as might be fit- to lay upon
the floor of some goodly hall. Likewise all the houses along the way were hung with fine
hangings of woven texture interwoven with threads of azure and crimson, and everywhere
were flags and banners afloat in the warm and gentle breeze against the blue sky,
wherefore that all the world appeared to be alive with bright colors, so that when one
looked adown that street, it was as though one beheld a crooked path of exceeding beauty
and gayety stretched before him.
Thus came the wedding-day of the King - bright and clear and exceedingly radiant.
King Arthur sat in his hall surrounded by his Court awaiting news that the Lady
Guinevere was coming thitherward. And it was about the middle of the morning when there
came a messenger in haste riding upon a milk-white steed. And the raiment of that
messenger and the trappings of his horse were all of cloth of gold embroidered with
scarlet and white, and the tabard of the messenger was set with many jewels of various
sorts so that he glistened from afar as he rode, with a singular splendor of appearance.
So this herald-messenger came straight into the castle where the King abided waiting,
and he said: "Arise, my lord King, for the Lady Guinevere and her Court draweth nigh
unto this place."
Upon this the King immediately arose with great joy, and straightway he went forth with
his Court of Knights, riding in great state. And as he went down that marvellously adorned
street, all the people shouted aloud as he passed by, wherefore he smiled and bent his
head from side to side; for that day he was passing happy and loved his people with
Thus he rode forward unto the town gate, and out therefrom, and so came thence into the
country beyond where the broad and well-beaten highway ran winding down beside the shining
river betwixt the willows and the osiers.
And, behold! King Arthur and those with him perceived the Court of the Princess where
it appeared at a distance, wherefore they made great rejoicing and hastened forward with
all speed. And as they came nigh, the sun falling upon the apparels of silk and cloth of
gold, and upon golden chains and the jewels that hung therefrom, all of that noble company
that surrounded the Lady Guinevere her litter flashed and sparkled with surpassing
For seventeen of the noblest knights of the King's Court, clad in complete armor, and
sent by him as an escort unto the lady, rode in great splendor, surrounding the litter
wherein the Princess lay. And the frame-work of that litter was of richly gilded wood, and
its curtains and its cushions were of crimson silk embroidered with threads of gold. And
behind the litter there rode in gay and joyous array, all shining with many colors, the
Court of the Princess - her damsels in waiting, gentlemen, ladies, pages, and attendants.
So those parties of the King and the Lady Guinevere drew nigh together until they met
and mingled the one with the other.
Then straightway King Arthur dismounted from his noble horse and, all clothed with
royalty, he went afoot unto the Lady Guinevere's litter, whiles Sir Gawaine and Sir Ewaine
held the bridle of his horse. Thereupon one of her pages drew aside the silken curtains of
the Lady Guinevere's litter, and King Leodegrance gave her his hand and she straightway
descended therefrom, all embalmed, as it were, in exceeding beauty. So King Leodegrance
led her to King Arthur, and King Arthur came to her and placed one hand beneath her chin
and the other upon her head and inclined his countenance and kissed her upon her smooth
cheek - all warm and fragrant like velvet for softness, and without any blemish
whatsoever. And when he had thus kissed her upon the cheek, all those who were there
lifted up their voices in great acclaim, giving loud voice of joy that those two noble
souls had thus met together.
Thus did King Arthur give welcome unto the Lady Guinevere and unto King Leodegrance her
father upon the highway beneath the walls of the town of Camelot, at the distance of half
a league from that place. And no one who was there ever forgot that meeting, for it was
full of extraordinary grace and noble courtliness.
Then King Arthur and his Court of Knights and nobles brought King Leodegrance and the
Lady Guinevere with great ceremony unto Camelot and unto the royal castle, where
apartments were assigned to all, so that the entire place was alive with joyousness and
And when high noon had come, the entire Court went with great state and ceremony unto
the cathedral, and there, surrounded with wonderful magnificence, those two noble souls
were married by the Archbishop.
And all the bells rang right joyfully, and all the people who stood without the
cathedral shouted with loud acclaim, and lo! the King and the Queen came forth all
shining, like unto the sun for splendor and like unto the moon for beauty.
In the castle a great noontide feast was spread, and there sat thereat four hundred,
eighty and six lordly and noble folk - kings, knights, and nobles - with queens and ladies
in magnificent array. And near to the King and the Queen there sat King Leodegrance and
Merlin, and Sir Ulfius, and Sir Ector the trustworthy, and Sir Gawaine, and Sir Ewaine,
and Sir Kay, and King Ban, and King Pellinore and many other famous and exalted folk, so
that no man had ever beheld such magnificent courtliness as he beheld at that famous
wedding-feast of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.
And that day was likewise very famous in the history of chivalry, for in the afternoon
the famous Round Table was established, and that Round Table was at once the very flower
and the chiefest glory of King Arthur's reign.
For about mid of the afternoon the King and Queen, preceded by Merlin and followed by
all that splendid Court of kings, lords, nobles and knights in full array, made
progression to that place where Merlin, partly by magic and partly by skill, had caused to
be builded a very wonderful pavilion above the Round Table where it stood.
And when the King and the Queen and the Court had entered in thereat they were amazed
at the beauty of that pavilion, for they perceived, an it were, a great space that
appeared to be a marvellous land of Fay. For the walls were all richly gilded and were
painted with very wonderful figures of saints and of angels, clad in ultramarine and
crimson, and all those saints and angels were depicted playing upon various musical
instruments that appeared to be made of gold. And overhead the roof of the pavilion was
made to represent the sky, being all of cerulean blue sprinkled over with stars. And in
the midst of that painted sky was an image, an it were, of the sun in his glory. And under
foot was a pavement all of marble stone, set in squares of black and white, and blue and
red, and sundry other colors.
In the midst of the pavilion was a Round Table with seats thereat exactly sufficient
for fifty persons, and at each of the fifty places was a chalice of gold filled with
fragrant wine, and at each place was a paten of gold bearing a manchet of fair white
bread. And when the King and his Court entered into the pavilion, lo! music began of a
sudden for to play with a wonderful sweetness.
Then Merlin came and took King Arthur by the hand and led him away from Queen
Guinevere. And he said unto the King, "Lo! this is the Round Table."
Then King Arthur said, "Merlin, that which I see is wonderful beyond the
After that Merlin discovered unto the King the various marvels of the Round Table, for
first he pointed to a high seat, very wonderfully wrought in precious woods and gilded so
that it was exceedingly beautiful, and he said, 11 Behold, lord King, yonder seat is hight
the Seat Royal,' and that seat is thine for to sit in."
And as Merlin spake, lo! there suddenly appeared sundry letters of gold upon the back
of that seat, and the letters of gold read the name,
And Merlin said, "Lord, yonder seat may well be called the centre seat of the
Round Table, for, in sooth, thou art indeed the very centre of all that is most worthy of
true knightliness. Wherefore that seat shall be called the centre seat of all the other
Then Merlin pointed to the seat that stood opposite to the Seat Royal, and that seat
also was of a very wonderful appearance as afore told in this history. And Merlin said
unto the King: "My lord King, that seat is called the Seat Perilous, for no man but
one in all this world shall sit therein, and that man is not yet born upon the earth. And
if any other man shall dare to sit therein that man shall either suffer death or a sudden
and terrible misfortune for his temerity. Wherefore that seat is called the Seat
"Merlin," quoth the King, "all that thou tellest me passeth the bound of
understanding for marvellousness. Now I do beseech thee in all haste for to find forthwith
a sufficient number of knights to fill this Round Table so that my glory shall be entirely
Then Merlin smiled upon the King, though not with cheerfulness, and said, "Lord,
why art thou in such haste? Know that when this Round Table shall be entirely filled in
all its seats, then shall thy glory be entirely achieved and then forthwith shall thy day
begin for to decline. For when any man hath reached the crowning of his glory, then his
work is done and God breaketh him as a man might break a chalice from which such perfect
ichor hath been drunk that no baser wine may be allowed to defile it. So when thy work is
done and ended shall God shatter the chalice of thy life."
Then did the King look very steadfastly into Merlin's face, and said, "Old man,
that which thou sayest is ever of great wonder, for thou speakest words of wisdom.
Ne'theless, seeing that I am in God His hands, I do wish for my glory and for His good
will to be accomplished even though He shall then entirely break me when I have served His
"Lord," said Merlin, "thou speakest like a worthy king and with a very
large and noble heart. Ne'theless, I may not fill the Round Table for thee at this time.
For, though thou hast gathered about thee the very noblest Court of Chivalry in all of
Christendom, yet are there but two and thirty knights here present who may be considered
worthy to sit at the Round Table."
"Then, Merlin," quoth King Arthur, "I do desire of thee that thou shalt
straightway choose me those two and thirty."
"So will I do, lord King," said Merlin.
Then Merlin cast his eyes around and lo! he saw where King Pellinore stood at a, little
distance. Unto him went Merlin and took him by the hand. "Behold, my lord King,"
quoth he. "Here is the knight in all the world next to thyself who at this time is
most worthy for to sit at this Round Table. For he is both exceedingly gentle of demeanor
unto the poor and needy and at the same time is so terribly strong and skilful that I know
not whether thou or he is the more to be feared in an encounter of knight against
Then Merlin led King Pellinore forward and behold! upon the high seat that stood upon
the left hand of the Royal Seat there appeared of a sudden the name,
And the name was emblazoned in letters of gold that shone with extraordinary lustre.
And when King Pellinore took his seat, great and loud acclaim long continued was given him
by all those who stood round about.
Then after that Merlin had thus chosen King Arthur and King Pellinore he chose out of
the Court of King Arthur the following knights, two and thirty in all, and these were the
knights of great renown in chivalry who did first establish the Round Table. Wherefore
they were surnamed The Ancient and Honorable Companions of the Round Table."
To begin, there was Sir Gawaine and Sir Ewaine, who were nephews unto the King, and
they sat nigh to him upon the right hand; there was Sir Ulfius (who held his seat but four
years and eight months unto the time of his death, after which Sir Geheris - who was
esquire unto his brother, Sir Gawaine - held that seat); and there was Sir Kay the
Seneschal, who was foster brother unto the King; and there was Sir Baudwain of Britain
(who held his seat but three years and two months until his death, after the which Sir
Agravaine held that seat); and there was Sir Pellias and Sir Geraint and Sir Constantine,
son of Sir Caderes the Seneschal of Cornwall (which same was king after King Arthur); and
there was Sir Caradoc and Sir Sagramore, surnamed the Desirous, and Sir Dinadan and Sir
Dodinas, surnamed the Savage, and Sir Bruin, surnamed the Black, and Sir Meliot of Logres,
and Sir Aglaval and Sir Durnure, and Sir Lamorac (which three young knights were sons of
King Pellinore), and there was Sir Griflet and Sir Ladinas and Sir Brandiles and Sir
Persavant of Ironside, and Sir Dinas of Cornwall, and Sir Brian of Listinoise, and Sir
Palomides and Sir Degraine and Sir Epinogres, the son of the King of North Umberland and
brother unto the enchantress Vivien, and Sir Lamiel of Cardiff, and Sir Lucan the Bottler
and Sir Bedevere his brother (which same bare King Arthur unto the ship of Fairies when he
lay so sorely wounded nigh unto death after the last battle which he fought). These two
and thirty knights were the Ancient Companions of the Round Table, and unto them were
added others until there were nine and forty in all, and then was added Sir Galahad, and
with him the Round Table was made entirely complete.
Now as each of these knights was chosen by Merlin, lo! as he took that knight by the
hand, the name of that knight suddenly appeared in golden letters, very bright and
shining, upon the seat that appertained to him.
But when all had been chosen, behold! King Arthur saw that the seat upon the right hand
of the Seat Royal had not been filled, and that it bare no name upon it. And he said unto
Merlin: "Merlin, how is this, that the seat upon my right hand hath not been filled,
and beareth no name?"
And Merlin said: "Lord, there shall be a name thereon in a very little while, and
he who shall sit therein shall be the greatest knight in all the world until that the
knight cometh who shall occupy the Seat Perilous. For he who cometh shall exceed all other
men in beauty and in strength and in knightly grace."
And King Arthur said: "I would that he were with us now." And Merlin said:
"He cometh anon."
Thus was the Round Table established with great pomp and great ceremony of estate. For
first the Archbishop of Canterbury blessed each and every seat, progressing from place to
place surrounded by his Holy Court, the choir whereof singing most musically in accord,
whiles others swung censers from which there ascended an exceedingly fragrant vapor of
frankincense, filling that entire pavilion with an odor of Heavenly blessedness.
And when the Archbishop had thus blessed every one of those seats, the chosen knight
took each his stall at the Round Table, and his esquire came and stood behind him, holding
the banneret with his coat-of-arms upon the spear-point above the knight's head. An all
those who stood about that place, both knights and ladies, lifted up their voices in loud
Then all the knights arose, and each knight held up before him the cross of the hilt of
his sword, and each knight spake word for word as King Arthur spake. And this was the
covenant of their Knighthood of the Round Table: That they would be gentle unto the weak;
that they would be courageous unto the strong; that they would be terrible unto the wicked
and the evil-doer; that they would defend the helpless who should call upon them for aid;
that all women should be held unto them sacred; that they would stand unto the defence of
one another whensoever such defence should be required; that they would be merciful unto
all men; that they would be gentle of deed, true in friendship, and faithful in love. This
was their covenant, and unto it each knight sware upon the cross of his sword, and in
witness thereof did kiss the hilt thereof. Thereupon all who stood thereabouts once more
gave loud acclaim.
Then all the knights of the Round Table seated themselves, and each knight brake bread
from the golden patten, and quaffed wine from the golden chalice that stood before him,
giving thanks unto God for that which he ate and drank.
Thus was King Arthur wedded unto Queen Guinevere, and thus was the Round Table