Castles have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, but Castles only ended up in Britain when William the Conqueror went for the English throne in 1066. He took over what I would say as the flat packed castle, which was what made a Motte and bailey castle. This type of castle was a fortification made with wood or stone and placed on a raised area which is known as a motte. The motte has also got a confined bailey that is then encircled by a defensive rampart and stakewall. These types of castles were fast and easy to build, even though they were small compared to the size of other castles and not as strong, they were rather formidable when it came to warfare. This type of castle played a vital part in the conquest of the British throne by the Norman king, William the Conqueror, however… We will go back to that story another day as today is about the Tintagel castle and the legendary King Arthur!
Tintagel castle was built round the 1230s. The man behind the Tintagel castle, had been made Earl of Cornwall by his brother, King Henry III, and the man was Richard. The younger son of King John and Isabella Angouleme, who was named after his uncle King Richard the Lionheart. Henry III and Richard were from the same Anglo-Norman nobles, but, Henry especially needed to be accepted by the Cornish to make it easier for him to affirm his jurisdiction, but more predominantly to accumulate his taxes.
The name ‘Tintagel’ is said to mean ‘The fort of the construction’. It is home to a small harbour that was used to connect Tintagel to the Mediterranean. Still to this day Tintagel has got more Mediterranean treasure from the 5th and 6th century than anywhere else on the British isles.
Looking at Tintagel, there hasn’t been any fortifications in the area since the Iron age if there really was any, even though the area would have had some similarities to the forts that have been discovered on southwestern headlands… saying that, the strong association with King Arthur was what brought a change to Tintagel.
It was indeed the Welsh cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth that made fact out of fiction as he identified Tintagel as the birthplace of King Arthur in the 1100s. Later on a scholar further added the story of the round table and other writers then added the story of the Holy Grail. As centuries went by, many artists and writers kept going back to the story of King Arthur and adding even more of their beliefs to it. Many representations of Camelot have fed awareness all over the world, to an unimaginable magnitude that this fictitious character in his abstract castle by some means evolved into a breathing tale from the British past.
The Earl of Cornwall was so keen to create a connection between his fortunes with those of King Arthur that in the end, Richard made the decision to build his very own Camelot. For some unknown reason Richard came to the conclusion that Tintagel castle was the precise location where King Arthur’s conception occurred, thus the castle had to be constructed just by the cliff edge.
When it comes to the construction of the Tintagels castle, the outer walls were the first to be built and once completed the central area was put in place to make it level. Although Richard had one little problem with this build… the walls began to fall in the direction of the sea. He had to come up with a quick solution and so, to keep the wall from falling into the sea buttresses were added later on this was to give some form of fortitude and support. These walls were built in a very clever way. They had holes put in place of the walls that are known as ‘putlogs’. Logs would be placed inside them, then a plank would be put across on top of the logs and that’s how they created a platform and were able to build up the walls.
There was most definitely no military value to this castle, unlike the traditional castles that have been built over the British isles. The walls of the Tintagel castle were thin and made of slate. It was more of a representative structure. Although, stating all of the above, Tintagel still served its function. Richard became very wealthy due to the tin in Cornwall. He used this money to boost his status at every chance he got. At one point, he even managed to bribe some of the German barons to appoint him as King of the Romans. This was the first and last time that an Englishman has held that crown.
However, for his brother, King Henry III. He ended up having to deal with a baronial revolt. For Henry castles were there for a very distinctive deployment and one of which would jeopardise his reign.
If you would like to find out more about the history of the Tintagel castle you can check out the website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle
I would wholeheartedly suggest visiting the site of the castle itself. See the beautiful view of the sea from the cliffs, to check out the collections that have been uncovered from excavations, discoveries made by archaeologists and much more!
To find out more about the legend of King Arthur in Cornwall, here’s the link to a wonderful book that covers it.