Primary Sources: Le Morte DArthur, Book III Chapter II
This chapter has some dodgy math in it. I’m just warning you.
Merlin phones ahead, so Arthur is all excited about how he’s getting a Round Table and a hundred knights and also Guenever. Arthur gets everybody in London or Camelot or wherever he is together. “Everybody,” he says. “Everybody, listen up. There’s a woman coming, her name is Guenever. I am seriously excited about her, she’s famous for being valiant, and that one time we met she seemed nice enough, when I rescued her Dad from Rience back in the day. Now I know, many of you are, like me, going to be disappointed that I’m no longer sleeping with a bunch of mistresses, but we’ve all got to make sacrifices for Britain, people. Plus, did I mention how valiant she is? Smart as a whip and better-looking.”
Nods, murmurs of agreement.
“Also, and this is not to undercut the Guenever thing, we are also getting the most awesome table ever!”
Cheers! Rousing applause! Prolonged, stormy enthusiasm!
Arthur sets up to throw himself a lavish wedding, using his funeral-arranging prowess. Meanwhile he has a special job for Merlin.
“Merlin,” he says. “We need fifty more knights to sit at this table, so, go out, find fifty awesome knights, the best ever, ones who earn the Merlin stamp of approval.”
Merlin goes out, finds knights, comes back with only twenty-eight knights. England just doesn’t have enough good knights any more. Maybe they all died in the horrible massacres which were the war against Team Lot & Mister 100.
So, the Round Table seats 150 or 50 or 30, because these twenty-eight knights leave just two empty seats. Is this a number that includes Arthur & Ulfius & Brastias & Kay & so on? Am I supposed to go back and count all the knights who have already been mentioned, who would be in Arthur’s court, and would I find out that those guys plus twenty-eight more equals forty-eight? Why is it that Leodegrande would have 100/128ths of all the virtuous knights in England?
Anyway, all but two seats are filled, apparently, and everybody’s buddy the Archbishop of Canterbury comes by and blesses everything in sight. Afterwards Merlin finds a pretext to get everybody else out of the room, and then he “discovers” that the seats around the Round Table have been emblazoned with knights’ names in golden writing. Two seats are empty and thus unlabeled.
Around this time Gawaine shows up.
“Gawaine!” says Arthur. “My nephew by Lot and Margawse!”
“Yeah, whatever, greetings,” says Gawaine. “I need a favor, so I’m cashing in my blood-relatives-deserve-special-treatment card.”
“No problem,” says Arthur. “I owe you, what with your father dying while making war with me, and your half-brother being my son who got drowned in a tragic accident I arranged for some reason, and everything.”
“I want to be a knight!” says Gawaine. “Make me a knight!”
“Really? Is that all? Boom, done,” says Arthur.
“Do I ever get a line?” asks Guenever.
While we are on the math subject, if the Round Table seats 150 and we allow 2.5 feet per seat, the Round Table would be about 120 feet in dameter, minimum. Now you may recall Henry VII’s Grand Ballroom at Hampton Court Palace. It is 106 ft x 60 ft and one would think it was close to the largest Great Hall when it was added by Henry to Cardinal Wolsey’s Palace after he stole it. So this Round Table would not fit in the one of the grandest halls in existance 500 years or do after Camelot. Not to mention getting it in the door. Hmmm. Ok, let’s try assuming it is not a solidly round table, but a sectionalsuch that people could enter it and sit on either side of a hollow ring of a table. Being sectional might also allow it to fit in a door. Now we could sit two people for every 2.5 feet or so of circumference. Now the table would only need to be about 60 feet in diameter to fit 150 seats. That is within the realm of possibility for a Tudor style Great Hall. Of course, it it only needs to sit 50, it would readily fit in most Great Halls as a solid table, only needing to be 40 feet in diameter. Getting in the door might require removing and replacing a wall, but so what?
-the even more nerdy Wikstrom
The whole thing would make a lot more sense if we assumed it wasn’t a literal table, like there isn’t a particular garter that the members of the Order of the Garter are obliged to take turns wearing (I assume). But no, it’s explicitly Uther’s old table that he presented Guenever’s father years ago, plus an indeterminate number of knights.
Oh, I think they all squeeze into the Garter at once somewhere in the initiation of new members.
I’m commenting here in response to a comment Emily left on your FB, because you said you wanted comments here and I know how to listen. ANYWAY, I love that Emily thinks the table is “just now” getting revealed. Girl, we haven’t even gotten the story ROLLING yet–hell, Arthur hasn’t even freed England from the tyrannical yoke of the Roman Empire yet!
And I still think there ought to be dragons at some point.
How very dare you. I LISTEN.
Also shut up Brant.