London, June 30 : French historians have determined that King Arthur was nothing but a mythical character who was invented at a certain point in history by the British for essentially political reasons.
According to a report in the Telegraph, the historians have said that even if a character who vaguely resembled the fabled leader did exist, he would probably have been a Welshman with strong connections to Brittany and whose sworn enemies were the Anglo-Saxons.
The organisers of a conference and exhibition to be held at Rennes university in northern France next month have said that they will provide ample evidence that the Arthurian legend has continually been updated, often as a sop to English nationalists attempting to revive the Age of Chivalry.
The event, titled "King Arthur: A Legend in the Making", will highlight the argument that historians were joined by artists and writers in creating the "fiction" of the legend.
A prominent example is the Victorian Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson, who at the height of the British Empire portrayed Arthur as a thoroughly decent Englishman whose manly virtues and trusty sword, Excalibur, were directed towards establishing heaven on earth.
"King Arthur is a mythical character who was invented at a certain point in history for essentially political reasons," said Sarah Toulouse, curator of the Rennes exhibition. "If he had really existed, there would be more concrete historical traces of him," he added.
According to Toulouse, "These stories deal with universal themes. The earliest fragments of the tales can be traced back to Wales in the seventh century."
"But by the 13th century, stories based on the Arthurian legends were being told right across Europe," she added.
The report added that the tale of a knight repelling the hated Anglo-Saxons from Britain's West Country in around AD 500 has always been popular in northern France, with Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table particularly popular with the Bretons.
Arthur's Camelot is said by many to be Cadbury castle, an Iron Age hill fort in Somerset. Stonehenge is said by some to have been built by Merlin, Arthur's court magician.
Some texts even suggest that the mystical Island of Avalon, said to be Arthur's final resting place, is in fact the Isle of Aval in northern Brittany.
Despite such antecedents, the French exhibition will try to prove that King Arthur is nothing but a figment of imagination.