Once upon a time, in the land of Britain, there was a man who had long white hair, a beard, and wore a golden circlet on his head. His robes were snowy white, and there were lines of wisdom on his face. His name was King Arthur Pendragon. He faithfully appeared at Stonehenge, holding his staff of authority, to lead his followers in the yearly rituals.
One day, King Arthur Pendragon found out that some graves at the sacred site had been desecrated, so he traveled many a mile to right the wrong that had been done to the bones of his Druid forefathers.
The year was 2011. And yes, his real name is King Arthur Pendragon; he had it changed by deed poll years ago, probably from something like "Norbert Fernwhistle." He signs his legal papers "Arthur Rex."
If the whole thing doesn't make your brain swim with Monty Python references, you're made of sterner stuff than I am.
The grave sites were discovered as part of an archaeological dig, and the human remains they contained have yet to be conclusively dated. Despite that, Pendragon, 57, has been fighting for some time to have the bones reburied. He claims that the bones, which were unearthed in 2008, are those of druids, who were members of the "priest caste," and may have been amongst the "founding fathers of our nation." "Let those who are at rest, stay at rest," he declaimed.
Last week, Pendragon appeared in court in London last week to hear the verdict.
He lost. The judge ruled that the bones would be available for scientific study until 2015, and after that would be sent to the Salisbury Museum.
Pendragon, as befits his rank, is not about to take such a rebuff sitting down. He has vowed to lead a "day of action" at Stonehenge this week. I'm guessing that there will be more white robes and staffs and chanting. That will sure show that judge, won't it? I bet he'll never mess with them again.
Besides the surreal nature of anyone changing his name to "King Arthur Pendragon," there's the whole problem of the fact that (1) we have no idea who these bones actually belonged to, and they could have been just about anyone; (2) we know next to nothing about the druids; (3) the druids, whoever they were, did not build Stonehenge; and (4) there's not really all that much evidence that King Arthur ever existed.
The original King Arthur, I mean. This dude clearly exists, even though my personal opinion is that he could use some psychological evaluation.
Interestingly, the whole Druidic Cult thing is largely a result of the 19th century British Romanticist movement, which gave us the florid (and sanitized) accounts of the Knights of the Round Table we find in Tennyson's Idylls of the King, and associated works of poetry, prose, and art. The word "druid" simply meant "priest" -- until the revival of the word in British Neopagan fraternities encouraged the accretion of all sorts of other trappings.
The reality is, most of what we think of as the Arthurian legends is myth -- and no less beautiful for that. But honestly, someone who claims to be the heir, and namesake, of King Arthur deserves about as much serious consideration as a guy who changes his name to Thor, starts dressing in chain mail, wearing oven mitts, and throwing hammers at his neighbors when they have noisy parties.
In any case, Pendragon has vowed to continue his fight, although where he'll go after the London High Court is up for speculation. He could appeal to the Queen, but that seems a little beneath him, you know? Acknowledging her rule could cause an uprising by his followers, and there've already been enough riots in England lately. On the other hand, if there was a battle, I'm putting my money on the Queen. She's been on the throne longer than King Arthur Pendragon has been alive. Besides, what does King Arthur Pendragon have as actual proof that he's king? Just because some watery tart bungs a sword at you, it's no basis for a system of government.
Or so I've heard.