Where The Streets Get Their Names – Arthurian Legend in Oshawa

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

King Arthur, Excalibur, Lancelot, and Camelot. The stuff of legends, steeped in lore, and part of a neighbourhood in Oshawa.

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Gustave Doré’s illustration of Camelot for Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, 1868

King Arthur lived during the 5th and 6th century (and not 932 AD as Monty Python led us to believe), a King and warrior who defended Britain against the invading Saxons. As with many legends and folklores, the story of Arthur is as varied as there are sources. The legend often goes as follows:

Arthur was the son of Uther Pendragon and Ygraine of Cornwall, although he was removed from his parents by the wizard Merlin.  Merlin created the Knights of the Round Table with the intention of Uther being the leader, however, this never came to be due to Uther’s early death.  Merlin knew that one day, the true king and leader of the Round Table would reveal himself by pulling a mysterious sword from a stone. Years pass, and Arthur, seeking to replace a broken sword, pulls Excalibur from the stone and is proclaimed King. Arthur and his knights of Camelot face many battles and quests, including staving off the Saxons, and ultimately, they undertake a quest to find the Holy Grail. He marries a woman named Guinevere, although their love was not to last as she was in love with one of Arthur’s knights, Sir Lancelot.  A battle later ensues and many knights perish, including Arthur himself.

This story has been told time and time again in various writings, on stage, on film and even through cartoon.  All legends and stories have a start, and as early as 6th and 8th century writings make record of a herioic ‘Arthurian-esque’ figure, including Nennius of Wales’ History of the Britons.  However, many look to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th-century text Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) as a starting point for later tales.

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The Round Table experiences a vision of the Holy Grail, by Evrard d’Espinques, c. 1475

In Historia, Geoffrey starts the tale of Arthur, the son of Uther Pendragon, a king and ruler, and his story includes details such as the wizard Merlin, Arthur’s wife Guinevere, and the sword Excalibur.  A few decades later, French writer Chrétien de Troyes, added elements such as Lancelot and the Holy Grail.  Through the years, the story is told and retold, and the story of King Arthur and his knights of Camelot continues to captivate.

Scholars largely agree that there is little historical fact to support that King Arthur was an actual person.  The support of the authenticity was strong during the Tudor reign (15th-17th Century) because they laid claim of their ancestry being traced back to Arthur, adding to the legitimacy of their claim to the throne.  However, as there is no strong evidence either for or against the veracity of Arthur, the debate ensues and legend prevails.

 

If you’re exploring Oshawa, southwest of Harmony and Rossland, you’ll find streets such as Camelot Drive, Lancelot Crescent, Merlin and Percival Courts, and Galahad Drive.  Camelot Court first appeared in Oshawa City Directories in 1973, and other streets in this theme appeared in the years following.


Thanks to Biography.com, the University of Rochester, PBS, and Wikipedia for providing a great overview of the Arthurian legend.

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