King Arthur, adapted in the legends, books, and even in the movies, is claimed to be the valiant conqueror who waged defence in the wake of the Anglo-Saxon invasion.
According to the Arthurian legends, the Round Table is no ordinary piece of furniture but a reputed concentric table, where the brave knights of the King congregated.
It possessed no heads implying that every knight that was present in the table was on par with the other; and under this round marquee were the knights lent a collective persona of valour and chivalry.
There are many such legends enclosed within the pages of ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’, the reworkings of Sir Thomas Mallory which recounts the riveting tales of King Arthur and the twelve knights and their quest for the Grail amongst others.
Without deviating, I’d like to dive into the topic which is the ranking of the twelve knights who outpowered the others.
12. Sir Palomedes
The son of King Esclabor, Sir Palomedes was one of the knights of Arthurian legend. Initially an Arab Muslim, he later converts into Christianity. He is often linked with Tristan and their tussle for winning the heart of Princess Iseult.
Legend has it that it was not until ‘Tristan en prose’ or Prose Tristan was adapted from Tristan and Iseult that Sir Palomedes was encountered in the Arthurian legends.
He is said to have been one of the contenders for Princess Iseult’s hand in marriage in Ireland; the other being Tristan.
Palomedes puts up a great performance and wins over Iseult to her delight. However, he was proposed with two options by Tristan either to cease to accumulate arms or to continue being with Iseult.
Later he joins the Round Table and is perpetually in a feud with Tristan without a clean sweep winner. There’s another prose that goes by his own name, ‘Palamedes’ where he a protagonist of the chronicles of adventure.
11. Sir Lucan
The son of Duke Corneus, Sir Lucan or Sir Lucan, the butler, was one of the most reliable knights to have descended the table.
Although he was known as the butler, he was handed over the charge of the royal house rather than being merely a steward.
He’d also fought for King Arthur’s enthronement at the Battle of Bedegraine and later even some other rebellions that followed.
He had remained a faithful companion of King Arthur even during the disharmonies between the King and Lancelot.
Similarly, he had portrayed unparalleled bravery in the Battle of Camlann when he, along with his brother, Bedivere fought relentlessly, oblivious to their wounds during the rebellion of Mordred.
When the King was severely hurt, he and his brother tried to salve him by transporting him to a church. That was the saturation point of Sir Lucan and he succumbed to death.
It is evident that he was an adventurer and a loyal knight.
10. Sir Brunor le Noir (Sir Brunor the Black)
Sir Brunor Senior aka Good Knight without Fear had three sons; one of them being Sir Brunor. Soon after his father was murdered and his brother was slashed by Sir Lancelot, he was resentful towards the Knight of the Lake.
So then he began his journey towards Camelot clad in a coat made of his father’s dead body. Albeit its ill fit, Sir Brunor swore that he would never take it off until he had taken his revenge.
When he arrived at the Royal court, Sir Kay remarked: “La Cote Mal Tailliee” or the Knight of the Ill-Fitting Coat. He was mocked which aggravated any chances of him being knighted by the King. And so it happened.
He was rejected and left the place in spite. It was only after Sir Gawain lobbied that he was summoned again. Unfortunately, he along with other knights got defeated yet again.
He went on adventures since and later was finally knighted.
9. Sir Bleoberis de Gannes
Sir Bleoberis was the son of Prince Nestor of Gannes, the godson of King Bors and a cousin of Lancelot.
His name was first depicted by Chretien de Troyes, perhaps derived off of Bleheris, the storyteller from 12-century.
No sooner had he been the flag bearer at the battle of Bedegraine than the King made him a Knight of the Round Table.
Before embarking on the journey of finding the Grail, he fought in a number of battles, including the wars against the Saxons and in Agrippe and Claudas.
The fact that he had been one of the few survivors at the battle of Salisbury (Mordred’s rebellious war) stands as a testimony to his skill and dexterity. It was he who had ruthlessly torn Mordred to pieces by tying him on a horse during the war.
He had also aided the rescue of Guenevere with Lancelot and had also been in favor of them when they were charged for treachery.
He was later appointed as the Duke of Poitiers and during the last days of his life, the brave knight resorted to hermitage with Lancelot himself.
8. Sir Bedivere
Sir Bedivere was one of the first men to have joined the association of Round Table. The name Bedivere is said to have its origin from Wales as Bedwyr or ‘of the Perfect Sinews’.
As depicted by the tale of ‘Culhwch and Olwen’ he is considered as the most handsome warrior in the royal court.
He was also attributed as muscular and almost bionic. Even though he only had one hand he was surprisingly swift for an amputee.
For these and many more qualities, Geoffrey of Monmouth entitled him as the main butler and also the Duke of Normandy.
He is also known as a loyal supporter of the King from the beginning to the end of his reign. His most popular legend are those from the end of the King’s life when he asked Sir Bedivere to discard the Excalibur into the lake.
He was also the last few men who surpassed the Final Battle but eventually, he died in the Roman campaign.
7. Sir Gareth
The son of King Arthur’s half-sister, Sir Gareth aka Beaumains already had the royal blood in him.
He was a character of the 7th book by Malory and had a chapter to himself, known as the “The Tale of Sir Gareth and Orkney”, retelling the story of his knighthood.
Initially, he sneaked into the royal kitchen as a layman, a fair kid without a name or a past.
He was put to work by Sir Kay, the very person who mocked him but called him Good Hands or Beaumains.
Then in the chain of events, he is found rescuing Lyonesse, marrying her, thriving at war in the Red Land with colorful Knights and the like.
He vehemently defeated other knights yet he spared them their lives if they swore they’d serve King Arthur for their entire lives.
This anecdote reveals his loyalty towards the King and his undaunted disposition.
Sir Gareth was a classic hero and remains a central figure in the adapted movies and plays even in modern times.
6. Sir Tristan
Sir Tristan or Tristam or even Tristram is the protagonist of a legend named after him, “Tristran and Iseult”.
He comes alive in the British folklore of the 12th century which is said to have a dichotomy of the “courtly branch” and “common branch”.
The former recounts the story through the English poet and his German co-writer whilst the common branch comprises stories by the French writer where he is referred to as Trischin instead of Tristan.
Either way, Tristan is infatuated by Iseult and they fall madly in love with each other. The legend has it that there was a triangle between their love, one more triad added by Sir Palomedes, another knight of the Round Table who equally is enamored by Iseult in Ireland.
Thus incarnating a perpetual tiff between them. He was the champion in archery and weaponry and died a heroic death in a battle.
While not all of these accounts of the events cannot suffice to prove his existence, there is a 7-feet tall stone erected in South West England, known as ‘The Tristan Stone’.
5. Sir Lionel
The younger son of King Bors of Guannes and a brother to Young Bors, Sir Lionel was raised together with Bors and Sir Lancelot by the Lady of the Lake.
His father perished in a battle with King Claudas, saving only the younger son and Bors. And soon, following suit of the family, Sir Lancelot became a knight of the Round Table.
Sir Lionel and the other members of the family comply with Lancelot in his exile after his affair with Guinevere is revealed. He is found to possess great valour in the battles fought against King Arthur and is bestowed as the ‘King of Guannes’.
Right after the Battle of Camlann, Lancelot and his family move to Britain to exterminate the rebellious forces. They are engaged in a long gruesome war when Melehan, the son of Mordred slaughters him with a blow. Then Bors seeks his revenge.
In modern times, his bravery has been recorded in musicals and ballads.
4. Sir Percival
Sir Percival is one of the prominent figures of the legend of ‘Perceval, the Story of the Grail’ authored by Chretien de Troyes. Some other versions include ‘Parzival’ by Wolfram von Eschenbach and ‘Perceval’ by Robert de Boron.
In the Arthurian Legend, he is described as a timid boy raised by a single mother. Once he chanced to see a group of men en route the court.
Enchanted by their armor and suit, he decides to join them. Then cascade a series of unfortunate events whereby he is gripped by the vengeance of the killing of his family and is touted as a hero.
After witnessing his praiseworthy demeanor, the King knighted him and appointed him in the Round Table.
In some other accounts, he is described as the main character in the quest of the Grail. However, his role has been somewhat died down beyond the horizon of this quest.
Thus Perceval was one of well-known knights of nobility and highest rank.
3. Sir Gawain
Considered as among the top three, Sir Gawain is most famous among the other knights. He was also regarded as the first to join King Arthur’s fellowship.
He was not only fearless but also a healer. His dexterity and sharpness was visible with his swordsmanship as well as his practice with herbs and healings.
He may have been the sworn enemy of many but everyone who knows him knows that he is generous and helps anybody who seeks it.
He was also considered the epitome of chivalry of those times and was the possessor of all the qualities that were needed for an exemplary knight.
He was the son of King Arthur’s sister, Morgause and on the other hand, the arch-enemy of the King, Mordred was his brother.
Besides, he is synonymous to the Sun and is said to acquire power and strength as the sun ascends and descends accordingly.
Some of his most remarkable fights were against the Pirates, the Persians before he arrived at Britain and joined the Round Table.
2. Sir Lancelot
Sir Lancelot or the Knight of the Lake was the father of Sir Galahad and paramour of the King’s queen, Guinevere.
He was first mentioned by Troyes in his writing of ‘Erec’ and later in a tale titled by his own name, Lancelot, which elaborates on the abduction, rescue and affair of Guinevere with Sir Lancelot.
‘Prose Lancelot’ delivers an account of his upbringing by the Lady of the Lake in an underwater kingdom.
His abhorrent love for the Queen was proved as detrimental and later the same reason prevented him from continuing the quest of the Grail and unfortunately dispersed the fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table.
In the 14th century prose, he was projected as the central figure upon which tethered the unfolding events.
One of the catalysts for the cease of chronicles of Lancelot is the zealous love of Elaine for the knight which brought an end to the forbidden love of Guinevere and Lancelot.
1. Sir Gallahad
Sir Gallahad or Galeas is one the Knights of the Round Table and the main achiever of the Holy Grail.
He was the son of the love affair between Lancelot and Elaine and it was preconceived that he who would be born thereafter was the chosen one by the Gods to acquire the Holy Grail.
In a fight with his father, he wins over Lancelot and is knighted by his father himself.
He is soon brought over to the Round Table and is asked to descend on the one unoccupied seat or the Siege Perilous saved for the knight who successfully brought back the Holy Grail.
Gallahad was also believed to have acquired an engraved sword right out of a stone which heralded that the bearer of the sword was the greatest of the world.
Consequently, it dawned on King Arthur that Gallahad resembled him in many ways and declared him as the most perfect knight.
He was known for his gallantry and was believed to be born as the seeker of the Holy Grail. He was undoubtedly the greatest and the superlative knight who did not succumb to death at the quest like the rest of the knights, making a mark of his own who outpowered his own father.
All in all, these remarkable knights, bred and brought up in different ways and from different places, brought together on the Round Table as the seekers of the Holy Grail.
This was made possible by the great King Arthur who along with his incredible tales and accomplices exists in chapters and proses-all woven together by a thin thread.
Though there is little or no evidence of the knights and their anecdotes of victories, they remain immortal; meticulously compiled in books and movies, read and heard by the imaginative few.