- Visualizing Camelot: An Introduction
- Visualizing Camelot in Everyday Life
- Visualizing Camelot at the Movies
- Visualizing Camelot in Popular Culture
- Visualizing Camelot: Major Authors
- Illustrated Malory Editions
- Ashendene Press Malory and "The Barge to Avalon"
- Retellings of Malory
- Illustrated Tennyson Editions
- Tennyson's Influence on Popular Art and Culture
- Tennyson, Watts, and the Strength of Ten
- Art Based on Malory and Tennyson
- Illustrating Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
- Reworking Twain's Connecticut Yankee
- T. H. White
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- Children's Books
- Visualizing Camelot through Iconic Images
- Women Illustrators
- Credits and Acknowledgments
- 2024 Events and Programming for Visualizing Camelot
Youth Groups and Education
Despite the fact that Tennyson’s high moral tone and medieval subject matter were easy targets for critics and parodists, many embraced those very qualities in his work. That included educators and clergymen such as Reverend William Byron Forbush (1868-1927), who in 1893 established the first of what was to become a national network of clubs for boys called the Knights of King Arthur. Concerned about the so-called “boy problem,” Forbush sought a positive outlet for the energies and inclinations of adolescents. He saw in the legends of the Knights of the Round Table as interpreted by Tennyson a model that could inspire boys to manly courage and moral virtue.
The organization was made up of local clubs called Castles, which were designed to channel what many saw as the instinctive tendency in adolescent males to form gangs into a means of doing good deeds and developing character. Each Castle, Forbush wrote, is “a fraternity, private but not secret, self-governing and under the control of the local church. It is based upon the oldest English Christian legend, that of the Round Table. It is a revival of the nobler side of medieval chivalry.” In the course of his membership in Forbush’s clubs, a boy progressed through the ranks of Page, Esquire, and finally Knight. In order to help him focus on particular virtues, each boy took the name of a knight or of some other hero, ancient or modern, and tried to emulate him. Although each club was guided by an adult adviser called a Merlin, the meetings were run by one of the boys elected to be the King Arthur for that Castle. A particular honor was reserved for the member who performed exceptional service: he would be allowed to adopt the name of Sir Galahad and to sit in the Siege Perilous for an evening, an honor conferred only by the unanimous consent of the members.
A similar organization called the Knights of the Holy Grail was founded by another American minister, Perry Edwards Powell. Even more influential was the Knighthood of Youth, a program that was run through the public schools and was designed to provide moral training in a manner analogous to the training in hygiene. As in Forbush’s clubs, the youngsters were encouraged to read Arthurian stories and view appropriate pictures. “The Quest of the Goodly Knights” map (displayed here) outlined the path they needed to follow as they sought the Castle of Knighthood, which emphasized the moral focus of the group.
A female parallel to the Knights of King Arthur was the Queens of Avalon, established by Reverend William Byron Forbush in 1902, nine years after the formation of the Knights. Whereas the boys were directed by a Merlin, the girls were guided by a Lady of the Lake; and like the Knights, the Queens of Avalon strove to revive values. The society “represents itself as the revival of the group of royal ladies, who, in the Arthurian legends, lived on the magic island of Avalon, the land of flowers and fruit, of peace and purity, of wholesomeness and healing, and ministered to humanity with graciousness and beauty. It is the Kingdom of Ideal Womanhood.”
The badges and buttons worn by members of Arthurian youth groups like the Knights of King Arthur, the Order of Sir Galahad, and the Knighthood of Youth identified the rank or position of the members. Manuals and guides for the leaders of these groups outlined the rituals designed to appeal to the members and the procedures that governed the groups. The Knights of King Arthur even published its own newsletter.
Photo of a "Castle" meeting room of the Knights of King Arthur.