There are few “facts” and much speculation about when Arthur lived, if indeed he was a historical figure at all. The different legends complicate the timeline greatly.
Undaunted, in order to keep my stories consistent with each other, I have constructed a timeline and used it throughout the novels I’ve written. So for you Arthur aficionados, here is the “Legend of Arthur, according to Rusty Rhoad.”
435: Birth of Ambrosius Aurelianus. Ambrosius was a historical figure mentioned in several of the earliest documented “histories” of Britain (although there are different versions of the name, and some historians believe Arthur is the same person as Ambrosius. Silly, of course). In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, Ambrosius is the older brother of Uther Pendragon and thus the uncle of Arthur.
445: Vortigern comes to power in Britain. “Likely” a historical figure, Vortigern is credited with inviting the Saxons to Britain in exchange for land to help him hold his throne against the Picts, Irish raiders, and rival kings. Geoffrey of Monmouth tells of him killing Ambrosius’ and Uther’s older brother Constans, forcing Ambrosium and Uther to flee to Brittany.
457: Death of Vortigern. The brothers raise an army and return to avenge their brother and claim the “throne of Britain.”
459: Igrane marries Duke Gorlois. The beautiful Igrane will become Arthur’s mother in a few years. Meanwhile, she weds Gorlois and has three girls, Arthur’s half sisters, all of whom figure significantly in the Arthurian legend.
460: Elaine born. Elaine is a shadowy figure only occasionally seen in the traditional Arthurian stories. Ah, but we know better. In Kaffka, the Holy Grail,and a Woman Who Reads: The Quests of Sir Kay her true colors finally come to light.
461: Morgause born. Morgause goes on to marry King Lot and have 4 sons by him: Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, and Gareth. All go on to become Knights of the Round Table. Gawain and Gareth were popular with the medieval romancers, and many tales of their prowess populate Arthurian literature. Gaheris was known as “beloved,” although his prowess was not remarkable. Agravain was sullen and argumentative, and as we know, an enemy of Sir Kay.
Morgause also had a 5th son, Mordred, fathered by Arthur. In the traditional legend, this unwitting sinful act of incest is at least partially responsible for the downfall of Arthur’s kingdom. My own verison of the unique circumstances of his conception are detailed in Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail (not yet published).
463: Morgan born. The youngest and most intriguing of the sisters. She is a main character in Strange Bedfellows, where we learn who she really is and how she got that way. Also very present in The Quests of Sir Kay. Morgan and I have spent a lot of time together, and I confess that I like her immensely. A strong, independent woman. Probably why she has such a shady reputation—and definitely not someone you would want to cross.
467: Kay, son of Sir Ector and foster brother to Arthur, is born to unremarkable circumstances.
466: Ambrosius Aurelianus dies; his brother Uther Pendragon is crowned high king.
469: Uther meets Igraine and falls deeply in lust with her. He cannot get her off his mind enough to manage the affairs of the kingdom. Uther picks a fight with Gorlois, and the two men go to war. But Igraine is at Tintagle, a castle too strongly fortified to assault. Uther persuades Merlin to help him attain his quest while Gorlois is away at the war. Merlin agrees if Uther will grant a request in the future. Merlin disguises Uther as Gorlois; he enters the castle and beds Igraine. Arthur is conceived from this tryst. Gorlis is killed that same night. 13 days later Uther marries Igraine, but by then Arthur is already a bastard.
470: Arthur is born. Merlin requests that Uther give him the infant to raise. He takes him away to foster with Sir Ector. Merlin, with no fondness of infants, leaves to travel in the Middle East. Some of what happened there will come out in Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail.
471: Meanwhile, across the English Channel in the country of Brittany, Lancelot, the son of Uther’s old ally King Ban, is born.
475: Uther, with an insatiable appetite for women, sexually abuses his stepdaughter Elaine (as we learn in The Quests of Sir Kay). Morgause and Elaine are married off to get them out of the house. Morgan, at 12 too young to marry, is sent to a nunnery to be raised in “safety” (described in Strange Bedfellows).
476: The first of Arthur’s nephews, Gawain, is born. Followed in short order by Agravain and Gaheris, and 6 years later by the youngest, Gareth.
477: Guinevere is born.
479: Morgan escapes from the nunnery and stumbles into Fairie, the magical land where time seems not to pass while it moves forward in the real world. (Strange Bedfellows)
480: Merlin returns from Middle East, bringing with him a forerunner of the game of chess, a small and priceless supply of kaffka (coffee), and the Holy Grail (The Quests of Sir Kay, Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail). He takes up residence near Sir Ector’s manor and begins tutoring young Arthur, who is now 10 years old, in the knowledge necessary to become a good king. Kay learns mathematics.
485: Uther dies, leaving the land without a high king.
487: The 17-year-old bastard prince, Arthur, pulls the sword from the stone and is proclaimed High King (to the disgust of many of the contenders). Mordred is conceived during the celebration of the event. (Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail)
490: After three years of civil war, Arthur wins the final battle against the rebel kings and becomes high king of Britain in fact as well as in name.
491: The throne secure, Arthur turns to Britain’s real enemy, the Saxons. The early British chronicles make tantalizing references to these battles and Arthur’s place in them.
493: Galahad, Lancelot’s illegitimate son by the fair Elaine, is born. In the British and French Arthurian tales, Galahad is the Grail Knight (in the German tradition, the Grail knight is Percival). Galahad’s triumphant entry into the graces of the Arthur and the Company of the Round Table is chronicled in The Quests of Sir Kay and Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail.
494: Arthur takes time out from his wars with the Saxons to marry Guinevere. In the standard versions (Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and others), Guinevere’s father Leodegrance gives Arthur the Round Table and 100 knights as a wedding gift.
494: Sir Kay is named quartermaster of Arthur’s armies. After that, logistics improve so dramatically that the tides of the Saxon wars turn. The men in the field eat hot meals, fighting better as a result and contributing to the loss of Saxon morale.
496: Vivian, the Lady of the Lake, pays a visit to Fairie and finds Morgan le Fay there. She frees her from the enchantment of the fairies and takes her home to Avalon. Morgan spends four years there, learning magic from Vivian to complement what she’s already learned at the nunnery and in Fairie. By the end of this period, she has become a truly powerful witch. Note that during the years she spent in the land of Fairie she has not appeared to age, so she appears to be 17 although she is really 33.
498: Arthur finally defeats the Saxons at the last of the 12 battles, the Battle of Mount Badon. This battle is referred to in many of the ancient chronicles. The 9th century Historia Brittonum, commonly attributed to Nennius, tells us that “The twelfth battle was on Mount Badon in which there fell in one day 960 men from one charge by Arthur; and no one struck them down except Arthur himself.” The results of this battle seem to be borne out by archaeological evidence. Studies of cemeteries (at this point, the Anglo-Saxons remained pagan while the Britons were Christianized) suggest the border shifted some time around 500. Against, no evidence that any historian would claim as definitive, but so tantalizing.
Thus begins the Golden Age of Arthur’s rule, where peace reigns over the land.
In the Arthurian Legends according to Rusty, the Battle of Mount Badon is won by the introduction of heavy cavalry into the British army.
500: Morgan le Fay comes to court. Guinever is jealous of her youth and beauty and turns Arthur against her. Arthur gives her in marriage to King Uriens, a pig of a man. (Strange Bedfellows and The Quests of Sir Kay)
501: Nimue and Merlin’s love affair begins. In the traditional storyline, Nimue uses Merlin’s infatuation to force him to teach her his secrets, then imprisons him in a tomb. We learn a much different version of this in Avalon, South Carolina.
502: Lancelot and Guinever become lovers. This is one of the great mysteries of the Arthurian story—why? Lancelot and Arthur are the closest of companions, and there appears to be no enmity between Arthur and Guinever. Every writer who has ever touched on this part of the story always gives their own explanation as to why.
503: Mordred is presented at court.
504: Morgan, pregnant with Gawain’s son Yvain, seduces Uriens’ war leader and convinces him to kill Uriens. Her son Yvain, the young king of Gore, is born. (Strange Bedfellows)
504: Nimue, although foresworn to forego sex except for Beltane, sleeps with Merlin who is dying of cancer. She, along with Vivian and Morgan le Fay, put Merlin into suspended animation before he can die. Their daughter Niniane is born at midwinter.
504: George Foster, on the island of Avalon, S.C., sees Nimue for first time.
506: George Foster visits the real Avalon during Samhain; he and Nimue have their first conversation.
508: The First Grail Quest (The Quests of Sir Kay, Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail)
509: George Foster leaves contemporary times and remains on Avalon.
509: Guinevere becomes Christian
510: George & Nimue’s daughter Nyla is born.
511: Vivian retires; Nimue becomes Lady of the Lake
512: Kaffka, the Holy Grail, and a Woman Who Reads: The Quests of Sir Kay begins this year.
512: Morgan le Fay is summoned to court. Arthur assigns a regent in her place to rule until her son Yvain becomes of age. Morgan opens her new residence, alternately called the Valley of No Return and Happy Valley Camp for Wayward Boys. (Strange Bedfellows, The Quests of Sir Kay)
512: Gahalad comes to court; the 2nd Grail Quest begins (The Quests of Sir Kay)
514: Galahad finds the real Holy Grail. (Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail)
515: The affair of Lancelot and Guinevere becomes public. Camelot torn by dissention. Warfare breaks out between the old knights and the young knights. (Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail)
515: Rick Whittaker gets his first glimpse of Avalon. (Avalon, S.C.)
516: Rick, Adeline, and Sabrina visit Avalon during Beltane. JD left behind as the sacrificial king.
516?? Battle of Camlann, with the traditional death of Arthur at Mordred’s hand. NOTE that this does not show up in any novel in the Rusty Rhoad Arthurian canon. Is it possible that the presence of JD could change the course of history and save Arthur’s kingdom?