Know Your History – 14th March – Thomas Malory

know your history - writing

On this day…

14th March, 1471 – Thomas Malory died

Many people will not have heard of Thomas Malory but his life story is quite fascinating, not to mention the fact that he wrote about King Arthur and the Arthurian legends.

Sir Thomas Malory (died 14 March 1471) was an English writer, the author or compiler of Le Morte d’Arthur. The exact identity of the author of Le Morte D’Arthur has long been the subject of ongoing speculation, owing to the fact that a number of minor historical figures bore the name of “Sir Thomas Malory”, but scholarship has increasingly supported the notation that the author was the Thomas Malory who was born between the years 1400-1410 to Sir John Malory, of Newbold Revel, Warwickshire. Sir Thomas inherited the family estate in 1434 after his father died and is believed to have engaged in a life of crime punctuated with long periods of imprisonment. As early as 1433, he was seemingly indicted for theft and in 1450 it was alleged that he was involved in crimes ranging from attempted murder, robbery, rape, and extortion stemming from a cattle raid. He was imprisoned in Coleshill but escaped and soon after robbed the Cistercian monastery. Malory was once again arrested in 1454, but two years later he was released through a royal pardon.

Thomas Malory

While Malory was most probably confined at Newgate, his prison from 1460 until his release, he likely wrote Le Morte d’Arthur (The Death of Arthur), the first major work of English language prose, based on Arthurian mythology. Richard Whittington, mayor of London, was responsible for philanthropic work that allowed prisoners access to a library in the Greyfriars monastery adjacent to Newgate. This, coupled with the probability that Malory had at least some wealth, allowed for a certain level of comfort and leisure within the prison.

ArthurLe Morte d’Arthur (originally spelled Le Morte Darthur, Middle French for “the death of Arthur”) is a compilation by Sir Thomas Malory of traditional tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table. Malory interprets existing French and English stories about these figures and adds original material (the Gareth story).’Arthur & google images


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