Le Morte d'Arthur

Authorship

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 notion 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.

Despite these reports, overall detail on Malory as a historical figure are sparse, with constabulary reports and records of his criminal affiliations making up much of the historical record, although there are also some reports of a more legitimate (that is, less extralegal) military career--he may have served in France in the later stages of the Hundred Years War--and of various public office positions, including that of a member of parliament. His exact date of birth and early years are obscure, and his name does not enter clear historical record until 1439, though it is known that he was knighted by 1441.

Malory was arrested for the last time in 1460 and interned at Newgate prison, where he may have written Le Morte d'Arthur and other works of an Arthurian nature, completing the former at some point during 1469-70. The mismatch of Malory’s life and the ideals of chivalry presented in his work has led to attempts to find a better suited candidate for its authorship, but no others have attracted nearly as much academic support as the claim for Sir Thomas of Newbold Revel. Sir Thomas Malory died in prison on 14 March 1471, with Le Morte d'Arthur published posthumously by William Caxton on 31 July 1485.[2]


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