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King Arthur Vows to Liberate Stonehenge
Can the Once and Future King Fight City Hall?
By Stella Maris
May 02, 2009
What drew these people to this quasi-fictional character lounging incongruously under the Special of the Day menu?
© Memory Map
If the British judicial system has its way, King Arthur Pendragon will be forcibly evicted from Stonehenge this Sunday, just two days after the traditional Celtic Beltane celebrations.
For the past eleven months, since the last Summer Solstice, King Arthur has been staging a peaceful sit-in at the world's most famous prehistoric monument in an attempt to persuade English Heritage, who manages this internationally important World Heritage site, to allow unrestricted access to the stone circle.
In an attempt to prevent damage to the site by the sheer volume of visitors, access to the sacred stones themselves was restricted by English Heritage when they were roped off in 1978, effectively transforming the ancient megalithic temple into an antiseptic open-air museum in one fell swoop.
Consequently, after thirty years of sequestration, King Arthur has now publicly declared his mission to liberate Stonehenge.
I first met King Arthur Pendragon a couple of years ago in a London pub located, appropriately enough, near the round Temple Church, which was built some nine hundred years ago by the Knights Templar. Arthur had traveled from Stonehenge after the observance of the Solstice especially to lecture to a network of druids who gather monthly in various pubs throughout London to socialize. Also, he was conveniently promoting his book,The Trials of Arthur.
To be honest, I approached this gathering with a certain degree of trepidation, perhaps due to the proclivity of the British media to portray these groups as little more than unwashed savages bent on the wanton destruction of polite society as we know it. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to discover that the image portrayed by the British media was, at least partially, spurious.
What surprised me most was the level of education that pervaded the gathering. The person sitting opposite me had just been awarded their doctorate in Social Anthropology and the person next to me was embarking on his doctorial dissertation on the Sociology of Religion. Some were keenly involved in local politics or charity work.
In other words, these people were no antisocial drop-outs, but a remarkably erudite and compassionate collection of individuals who not only understood the system, but were prepared to work within it to create a better life for the inhabitants of the British Isles. Upon realizing this, I was greatly heartened, and my curiosity regarding this itinerant, self-proclaimed modern-day reincarnation of King Arthur Pendragon was piqued accordingly.
So, just what was it that drew these people to this anarchic, quasi-fictional character dressed in white robes, who was lounging incongruously under the Special of the Day menu?
The once and future king staged his triumphant return in 1954, somewhere in middle England, as John Timothy Rothwell. Before he attained his true destiny, John Rothwell was employed in the construction industry and spent his weekends honing his motorcycling skills.
The British biker community provided Mr Rothwell with an alternative sub-culture underpinned by a strong communal spirit governed by a voluntary chivalric code of honor, something that John noticed was abundantly lacking in the Real World. Consequently, John's epiphany hit home when he realized that what Britain needed was an Archetype, or at least a symbolic representation of a utopian ideal, for the People Who Really Cared to rally behind.
Rediscovering, and subsequently acquiring, Excalibur clinched it; and John Timothy Rothwell legally became Arthur Uther Pendragon on St Barnabas' Day, 11th June, 1986.
As one would expect, most normal people think that Arthur Pendragon is completely barking mad. And perhaps he is. But, listening to him speak to the assemblage of druids that evening in the Templar pub, it soon became crystal-cave clear to me that there was a distinctly cunning method to Arthur's madness.
In a nutshell, Arthur has learned to play the public relations game, reinventing himself as a Media Attraction. By behaving controversially, in as high-profile a manner as possible, King Arthur has ensured a significant degree of media coverage for any Noble Cause that he is asked to endorse. He is not motivated by the prospect of personal fame or fortune, but regards these public relations appearances as his kingly duty. Noblesse oblige.
Which brings us back to Arthur's Stonehenge liberation campaign.
To be fair, English Heritage's concern is completely understandable. The enormous responsibility of protecting a world-famous ancient heritage site is not inconsequential--either from a security or funding perspective.
But surely there is a compromise that can be negotiated?
For instance, why couldn't unrestricted access to the stones be granted to paid visitors, say, four times a year on a pre-scheduled basis? Not only would this create a viable framework for those who consider Stonehenge to be a site of religious significance, but it would also encourage additional pilgrimages from ordinary visitors who don't want to endure the annual Summer Solstice mayhem.
If nothing else, more frequent--albeit supervised--access to the monument would significantly decrease the tensions of the Summer Solstice celebrations, thereby reducing the escalating security costs and discomfort to the local community in general.
Therefore, I would encourage English Heritage, perhaps facilitated by benevolent local politicians, to engage in a meaningful dialogue with King Arthur with a view towards identifying an acceptable compromise.
Obviously these complex logistical issues aren’t going to be resolved overnight… but every journey begins with a first step.
Newton Coordinate:- From Beltane to 15 degrees Taurus, on the Greenwich Meridian.