Brought to you by OBS staff Member Karolina

Welcome, All, to the third part of our “Clash of the Legends :Merlin style “ BBC Merlin’s hiatus extravaganza!
We now move from looking at the characters of the legend to looking at one of the most iconic place in the legend, Camelot

Camelot of the legends.

picture: Dore’s Idylls of the King

Camelot, the place of the court of Arthur , was just that- the court of Arthur. It was Arthur’s capital, and later a phrase used to describe not a place, but rather the idea, ideologies and the entire reign of Arthur.

In the earliest versions of the legend, there is no mention of Camelot – Caerleon in Wales being Arthur’s court. There is a mention of Tintagel as Arthur’s birth place, but no Camelot. It is not until Chretein De Troyes’ poem about Lancelot ( Lancelot, the knight of the cart, c 1170) . However, even Chretien De Troyes writings did not place Camelot at the centre of Arthur’s realm, as the later legends have. In fact, Chretien De Troyes placed the Court of Arthur in many towns, rather than one central place, as was the custom in the medieval times.

According to the romances, Camelot is located near a river, downstream from Astolat (for those of you who are familiar with the legends, yes, where Elaine is from). It is surrounded by plains and forests, and it’s main cathedral is St Stephens (where Arthur and Guinevere were married). Tournaments and jousts take place outside the castle and city walls.

The people of Camelot idolise their King, who, by Chretien De Troyes’ time, is your typical Medieval Monarch, and a little less impressive than Monmouth’s version.

BBC’s Camelot

Here is a very, very brief history of the site that is BCC’s Camelot: Merlin is filmed at Chateau de Pierrefonds, in France. The site was home to a castle In the 12th century, and then, two centuries later( in 1392) the king Charles VI turned the County of Valois (of which Pierrefonds was part) into a Duchy and gave it to his brother Louis, Duke of Orléans. From 1393 to his death in 1407, the latter had the castle rebuilt by the court architect, Jean le Noir.

In March 1617, during the early troubled days of Louis XIII’s reign, the castle, then the property of François-Annibal d’Estrées (brother of the beauty Gabrielle d’Estrée), who joined the “parti des mécontents” (party of malcontents) led by Henri II, Prince of Condé, was besieged and taken by troops sent by Richelieu, the secretary of state for war. Its demolition was started, but not carried through to the end because of the enormity of the task. The exterior works were razed, the roofs destroyed and holes made in the towers and curtain walls.
The castle remained a ruin for more than two centuries. Napoleon I bought it in 1810 for less than 3,000 francs. During the 19th century, with the rediscovery of the architectural heritage of the Middle Ages, it became a “romantic ruin”. Château de Pierrefonds has been classified as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1848.

This castle makes for a great setting of a Medieval stronghold. It is located in the little village of Pierrefonds, so the castle itself is no longer surrounded by fields and lakes – but definitely the crew of the BBC show give it that feel.

Merlin’s Camelot is located between fields and forests – which Merlin needs to run out to to pick up herbs for Gaius’ concoctions (or, in one episode, to conjure up a smoke pony – *sighs* Merlin <3). Darkling wood is to the North (which Morgana has to pass as a pilgrimage to her father’s grave), Cendred’s Kingdom (and therefore, Ealdor, Merlin’s home town) is to the west. To the East, over what is called the White mountains is the way to the western isles, and the Kingdom of Caerleon. And of course, the biggest difference is that Camelot is already established as Uther’s court, and is on the cusp of becoming Arthur’s at the end of season 3, or so it seems.

The tournaments and jousts generally happen within the walls of Camelot, in front of the whole court, as do executions. .

The people of Camelot are a much more fearful people than the ones of the legend. In BBC’s retellng, Uther has instilled fear and mistrust of all things magic in his people – and fear of himself as well. However, the people seem to have respect and love for Arthur in the show, as he is frequently seen walking through the lower town of the castle, interacting with his people.

Map of BBC’s Camelot from Merlin BBC

So, that’s Camelot v Camelot! My thought processes behind doing this as a feature was that I know a lot of people are a little disappointed with the depiction of Camelot in Merlin – however, as the legends themselves suggest – Camelot is an ideal , rather than a place (although, I would love BBC to address the Astolat/Elaine storyline in their show!) So, what do you think is better – a concrete place to envision as Camelot, or an ideological fantasy place. You decide! Next time – Guinevere versus Gwen!!


Here are the links to Merlin and Arthur‘s Clash of the Legends write- ups!

Join us in the forum to discuss!