There is a 12th century CE book in the Vatican Library compiled by John of Cornwall entitled ‘The Prophecy of Merlin’ (more specifically – this is the oldest known ‘copy’ of the original text – dated ‘October 8th, 1474).* This is a translation of an earlier Cornish (Celtic) text dating to the 10th century CE – which John of Cornwall transliterated into Latin (hexameters). The date of the Cornish text is known from the historical events recorded in it – as these definite happenings are mentioned ‘matter of factly’ (as if assumed to be common knowledge to the intended readership). I am interested in this because I think this might well be the earliest ‘Celtic’ mention of King Arthur outside of the more popular texts in the UK (and Europe) that purport to convey Arthur’s biography and heroic activities. The Cornish text is reporting Arthur’s life from a now lost and much earlier (Celtic) text. This evolved from highly localised (ancient) oral traditions. As someone who reads much about King Arthur and spends time visiting the associated landmarks – no one has ever mentioned this text to me! I suspect this text might be ‘historical’ proof of a much earlier (Cornish) King Arthur!
According to extant research (and the British scholar Peter Berresford Ellis) – Arthur as a ‘historical figure’ is a Celtic King, tribal leader or highly effective war-leader – who fought to prevent the spread of Anglo-Saxon settlement across England – and the forceful implementation of their foreign religion of Christianity. It is the much later stories of Arthur being ‘Christian’ which are a Church fabrication designed to mislead the illiterate British masses away from their indigenous belief systems and cultural stories. King Arthur fought Catholic invaders and he was very successful in doing this (together with the Druid Merlin). What he represented to the Celtic mind was so powerful that it enabled the British masses to organise around the image he represented – and effectively reject the entirely foreign religion of Christianity (together with the politics of the Vatican). The Vatican hid away the Arthurian text of John of Cornwall because it is viewed as a potent symbol of anti-Catholic resistance that the Pope did not want it readily available in the world. This is the ‘Celtic’ story of Arthur who defended these British Isles from Christian invasions.
Doing a bit of digging – it would appear that John of Cornwall was a very well-educated Christian monk who specialised in ‘grammar’ – or at least was renowned for his knowledge in this area. Although there are no definitive dates, John of Cornwall was born in the St Germans part of Cornwall and appears to have lived during the 12th century CE. The origin of his birth is suggested by the two latin names that he is known by; a) ‘Johannes Cornubiensis’ (John of Cornwall) and b) ‘Johannes de Sancto Germano’ (John of St Germans). He is known to have studied under the guidance of Peter of Lombard (1096-1160 CE). (Peter was only ‘Bishop of Paris’ for around one-year – 1159-1160 prior to his death). According to Church Records – John of Cornwall’s translation of the Cornish-language text ‘Prophecy of Merlin’ (into its Latin transliteration of ‘Prophetia Merlini’) was made between 1141-1155 CE. My speculation is that John of Cornwall was around ’20-years-old’ in 1141 – and was probably born around 1121 CE. If he lived an average lifespan of ’60-years’ – then he would have died around ‘1181’ – but this can be adjusted to 1131-1191 – this would make John of Cornwall around ’20-years-old’ in 1151 which is more than likely. Whatever the case, John of Cornwall is known to have been teaching literacy and Bible studies to monks in Paris (France) in the year ‘1176’. As the ‘Prophecy of Merlin’ is a non-Christian text, it would appear that John of Cornwall was assigned the task of ‘recording’ it for the Vatican Library.
*See: Peter Berresford Ellis, The Chronicles of the Celts, Robinson, (1999), Page 11 (Introduction)