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Arthurian legend discovered in Angus

ANGUSalive recently made an exciting discovery in an Arbroath Abbey register held within their Archives.

A scrap of recycled vellum, which was used to bind the volume, was found to contain text in medieval French. It was noticed the text included the word ‘Merlin’, which led Angus Archives to believe this may have been part of a story of King Arthur.

After contacting medieval language experts at the Sorbonne in Paris, they confirmed that the fragment is part of the beginning of the Merlin en Prose, which describes King Vertigier’s dispatch of twelve messengers to find the fatherless child, Merlin. These messengers were tasked with bringing back Merlin’s blood to reinforce the foundations of Vertigier’s deteriorating tower.

The text begins with the clerics informing the king of their answer and taking precautions against the child they foresee as a threat. The narrative then follows the messengers leaving in pairs to search for Merlin. The second part of the fragments details four messengers encountering Merlin, who signals them to follow him to his mother’s house. The sequence continues with Merlin leading them to the house of Nonnains, introducing them to Blaise, and asking for the truth without deception.

The manuscript is believed to date from the latter half of the 13th century.

Craig Pearson, Archives Lead said: “The discovery of an extract narrating an early tale of Merlin is an amazing find. Unearthed in the records of Arbroath Abbey, it is uncertain if this document once belonged in the library of the abbey, but to find a story from Arthurian legend in Angus is very special.”

The document will be on display throughout February at Angus Archives, Restenneth Priory, Forfar.

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