A Round Table
was a festive event during the Middle Ages that involved jousting
, feasting, and dancing in imitation of King Arthur
's legendary court. Named for Arthur's famed Round Table
, the festivals generally involved jousts with blunted weapons, and might celebrate a wedding or a victory. Participants might dress in the costume of such well-known knights as Lancelot
, and Palamedes
. The first recorded instance of this activity was in 1223
, when the Crusader lord of Beirut
held one in Cyprus
to celebrate the knighting of his eldest sons.
Round Tables in Germany, France and Iberia
Round Tables were an aristocratic activity throughout Europe from the 13th until the 15th centuries. They are recorded in France
from 1235 to 1332. In Aragon
they were held as early as 1269 in Valencia
and as late as 1291 in Catalonia
. According to R. S. Loomis
, "Popes and prelates thundered against these costly, dangerous, and sometimes licentious frivolities, and denied Christian burial to those who took part." Even the middle classes were caught up in this spectacle. In 1281, a burgher of Magdeburg
announced a Round Table in that town. Another was set up by the burghers of Tournai
in 1330. Rene d'Anjou
went so far as to construct a castle for his 1446 Round Table.
Round Tables in England
Edward I held one on the occasion of his marriage, and one in 1284 to celebrate his conquest of Wales; and is recorded as sponsoring several as late as 1304. One artifact that has survived from this fashion in England is the "Winchester Round Table" in the Great Hall at Winchester Castle. The timber of this table has been dated by dendrochronology to 1275, during Edward's reign, though a royal provenance is not proven so far. The present "Winchester Round Table" was painted in 1522 by order of King Henry VIII. The places at the table are divided up with alternating green and white panels with the name of Arthurian knights written in gold. However it is King Henry VIII's portrait that is painted at King Arthur's place, and the Tudor red rose that adorns the table's centre.
Edward III held a tournament and feast at Windsor in 1344 and built a huge round structure to house it. The details of its use are obscure. However, it is believed that he intended to found an order of knighthood named after the Round Table and modeled on the fellowship of King Arthur; in the event, in 1348, the order he established was named after the Garter.