The Knights of the Round Table were an important component of King Arthur’s legacy at Camelot. They were chosen to protect and defend their country and those in distress. Learn more about the knights and test your knowledge with a quiz.
The Knights of the Round Table were the central component of King Arthur’s reign in Camelot. During medieval times, knights were soldiers who were born to noble families, such as the families of kings, dukes, earls, and barons. They were men of honor, courage, and dignity who protected damsels in distress, went on dangerous quests, and fought for their country. They had the best armor and weapons and received great training for battle.
During times of peace, knights engaged in various activities including jousting, hunting, and acts of chivalry. The Knights of the Round Table vowed to protect others and live an honorable life.
Oath of the Round Table
The Round Table was known as the order of chivalry for King Arthur’s court. In order to become a knight in King Arthur’s court, a man had to follow a strict code of honor and service. The expectations of a knight from Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur are listed here:
- To not commit murder or violence
- To not commit treason
- To not be cruel but give mercy to those who ask for it
- To help those in distress
- To not be forceful
- To not battle for love or material things
In De Casibus Virorum Illustrium by Giovanni Boccaccio the twelve basic rules of the Knights of the Round Table were:
- To not lay down arms
- To seek wonders
- To defend the defenseless
- To not hurt anyone
- To refrain from attacking each other
- To fight for the country’s safety
- To give one’s life for the country
- To only seek honor
- To not break faith
- To practice religion with great effort
- To be hospitable to everyone according to ability
- To be honest about their experiences whether honorable or disgraceful
The Round Table
The Round Table was created by Merlin, a wise wizard, to symbolize the roundness of the universe. Merlin created the Round Table for Uther Pendragon, King Arthur’s father. After King Uther died, the Round Table was given to King Leodegrance, Guinevere’s father.
After King Arthur asked for Guinevere’s hand in marriage, the Round Table (along with several knights) was given to King Arthur as dowry.King Arthur wanted the knights in his court to be considered equal; he did not want them fighting over status or rank. The Round Table was suitable for them because there was no ‘head’ of the table since it was round. The Round Table represented chivalry in its highest form. To be a knight of the Round Table, you had to be from a noble family and follow the code of honor and service.
Depending on the piece of literature, the size of the Round Table varied. Most literary pieces stated the Round Table had around 150 seats. There was one seat at the Round Table reserved for The Grail Knight, the knight who would find the Holy Grail, which was a dish used by Jesus at the Last Supper; it represented virtue and purity. Only someone of pure heart, who was without sin, could find the Holy Grail.
Eventually Sir Galahad found it.
The Knights of the Round Table
The 150 knights of King Arthur’s Round Table were assigned in various ways. King Leodegrance gave King Arthur 100 knights when he gave him the Round Table as a dowry for his daughter. The wizard, Merlin, filled 28 seats, and King Arthur named two knights. The remaining 20 seats were left for knights who were deemed ‘worthy’.There were 25 knights whose names were inscribed on the Round Table.
- King Arthur
- Sir Galahad (Lancelot’s son)
- Sir Lancelot (Guinevere’s lover and King Arthur’s best knight)
- Sir Gawain
- Sir Percivale
- Sir Lionell
- Sir Bors
- Sir Kay
- Sir Tristram
- Sir Gareth
- Sir Bedivere
- Sir Bleoberis
- La Cote Male Taile
- Sir Lucan
- Sir Palomedes
- Sir Lamorak
- Sir Safer
- Sir Pelleas
- Sir Ector de Maris
- Sir Dagonet
- Sir Degore
- Sir Brunor
- Le Bel Desconneu
- Sir Alymere
- Sir Mordred (King Arthur’s son).
The Search for the Holy Grail
When Sir Perceval was knighted by King Arthur, he was not made a member of the Round Table. One day King Arthur had a festival for 12 knights to sit at the Round Table; he left one seat open to symbolize Judas’ betrayal of Jesus at the Last Supper. Perceval asked to sit in the 13th seat (the one left empty to symbolize Judas) and the other 12 knights encouraged King Arthur to let Perceval sit there.When Perceval sat in it, the seat cracked. A ‘voice’ told King Arthur that Perceval was saved from death by the good life Perceval’s father led before his death. The ‘voice’ also told King Arthur suffering would come for the knights of the Round Table while they pursued the quest Perceval had once achieved, the Quest for the Holy Grail.
Only the best knight, guided by God, could find the Holy Grail and understand its significance. Once the Holy Grail was found, the cracked seat at the Round Table was fixed.
The End of The Knights
For many years the Knights of the Round Table searched for the Holy Grail. Eventually Sir Galahad, Lancelot’s son, was able to find it.
After The Holy Grail was found, the Knights of the Round Table looked for new challenges. After completing several battles, King Arthur had to go back to Camelot to reclaim his throne after Sir Mordred, his son, overtook it. In battle with Mordred, King Arthur was killed, and Mordred was fatally wounded. Afterward, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table were no more.
When King Arthur married Guinevere, he was given a Round Table and 100 knights as dowry. Eventually there were around 150 knights of King Arthur’s Round Table. King Arthur wanted to have equality between his knights and wanted his knights to be honorable men who helped those in need.
To become a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table, knights were required to take an oath to be chivalrous. For many years, the Knights of the Round Table were united and did good work. Eventually their bond ended with conflict between one of the knights and King Arthur; shortly afterward, King Arthur died and the Round Table ended.