When the feast of Whitsuntide began to draw near, Arthur, who was quite overjoyed by his great success, made up his mind to hold a plenary court at that season and place the crown of the kingdom on his head. He decided too, to summon to this feast the leaders who owed him homage, so that he could celebrate Whitsun with greater reverence and renew the closest possible pacts of peace with his chieftains. He explained to the members of his court what he was proposing to do and accepted their advice that he should carry out his plan in the City of the Legions.

 

Situated as it is in Glamorgan (known as Morgannwg in Geoffrey’s time and later Monmouthshire and Gwent), on the River Usk, not far from the Severn Sea, in a most pleasant position, and being richer in material wealth than other townships, this city was eminently suitable for such a ceremony. The river, which I have named, flowed by it on one side, and up this the kings and princes who were to come from across the sea could be carried in a fleet of ships. On the other side, which was flanked by meadows and wooded groves, they had adorned the city with royal palaces, and by the gold-painted gables of its roofs it was a match for Rome. What is more, it was famous for its two churches. One of these, built in honour of the martyr Julius, was graced by a choir of most lovely virgins dedicated to God.

 

The second, founded in the name of the blessed Aaron, the companion of Julius, was served by a monastery of canons, and counted the third metropolitan see of Britain. The city also contained a college of two hundred learned men, who were skilled in astronomy and the other arts and so by their careful computations prophesied for King Arthur any Prodigies due at that time. It was this city, therefore, famous for such a wealth of pleasant things, which made ready for the feast. Messengers were sent to the different kingdoms and invitations delivered to all those who were due to come to this court from the various parts of Gaul and from the nearby Islands in the Sea.

 

It would seem that Geoffrey‘s description of a great feast at Caerleon was based on an important Christmas feast held by King Stephen at Lincoln, when the King wore his crown to go to mass. Geoffrey obviously saw Arthur’s feast conducted on twelfth-century lines with a feudal homaging, a banquet and tournament in honour of the Ladies. It is indeed a fact that the ancient monarchs of France and England had a custom of holding a plenary court at the three principal festivals of Easter, Whitsuntide and Christmas. For example in the time of William Rufus, the Easter feast was held at Winchester, the Whitsun feast in London and the Christmas feast at Gloucester.