Knights of Arthur's Round Table: Legend & Overview

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  • 0:40 Oath of the Round Table
  • 1:42 The Round Table
  • 2:57 Knights of the Round Table
  • 3:57 Search for the Holy Grail
  • 4:52 End of the Knights
  • 5:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

The Knights of the Round Table were an important component of King Arthur's legacy at Camelot. They were chosen to protect and defend their country and those in distress. Learn more about the knights and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Camelot

The Knights of the Round Table were the central component of King Arthur's reign in Camelot. During medieval times, knights were soldiers who were born to noble families, such as the families of kings, dukes, earls, and barons. They were men of honor, courage, and dignity who protected damsels in distress, went on dangerous quests, and fought for their country. They had the best armor and weapons and received great training for battle. During times of peace, knights engaged in various activities including jousting, hunting, and acts of chivalry. The Knights of the Round Table vowed to protect others and live an honorable life.

Oath of the Round Table

The Round Table was known as the order of chivalry for King Arthur's court. In order to become a knight in King Arthur's court, a man had to follow a strict code of honor and service. The expectations of a knight from Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur are listed here:

  • To not commit murder or violence
  • To not commit treason
  • To not be cruel but give mercy to those who ask for it
  • To help those in distress
  • To not be forceful
  • To not battle for love or material things

In De Casibus Virorum Illustrium by Giovanni Boccaccio the twelve basic rules of the Knights of the Round Table were:

  • To not lay down arms
  • To seek wonders
  • To defend the defenseless
  • To not hurt anyone
  • To refrain from attacking each other
  • To fight for the country's safety
  • To give one's life for the country
  • To only seek honor
  • To not break faith
  • To practice religion with great effort
  • To be hospitable to everyone according to ability
  • To be honest about their experiences whether honorable or disgraceful

The Round Table

The Round Table was created by Merlin, a wise wizard, to symbolize the roundness of the universe. Merlin created the Round Table for Uther Pendragon, King Arthur's father. After King Uther died, the Round Table was given to King Leodegrance, Guinevere's father. After King Arthur asked for Guinevere's hand in marriage, the Round Table (along with several knights) was given to King Arthur as dowry.

King Arthur wanted the knights in his court to be considered equal; he did not want them fighting over status or rank. The Round Table was suitable for them because there was no 'head' of the table since it was round. The Round Table represented chivalry in its highest form. To be a knight of the Round Table, you had to be from a noble family and follow the code of honor and service.

Depending on the piece of literature, the size of the Round Table varied. Most literary pieces stated the Round Table had around 150 seats. There was one seat at the Round Table reserved for The Grail Knight, the knight who would find the Holy Grail, which was a dish used by Jesus at the Last Supper; it represented virtue and purity. Only someone of pure heart, who was without sin, could find the Holy Grail. Eventually Sir Galahad found it.

The Knights of the Round Table

The 150 knights of King Arthur's Round Table were assigned in various ways. King Leodegrance gave King Arthur 100 knights when he gave him the Round Table as a dowry for his daughter. The wizard, Merlin, filled 28 seats, and King Arthur named two knights. The remaining 20 seats were left for knights who were deemed 'worthy'.

There were 25 knights whose names were inscribed on the Round Table. They were:

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