By C. Michael Forsyth
LONDON — Newly wed Prince William received an unexpected wedding gift while on his honeymoon in the Seychelles — when a mysterious female hand emerged from the sea and handed him King Arthur’s sword Excalibur!
Three highly respected members of the Royal entourage — all members of Britain’s oldest families — swear “upon our honor as English gentlemen” that they witnessed the startling scene on the secluded beach.
“Prince William was resting in a hammock, sipping a pina colada with an umbrella in it, while Kate lay on a beach towel nearby working on an all-over tan,” says a member of the Royal couple’s tight-knit inner circle. “All of a sudden a spot in the water began to bubble and we heard eerie music, like a siren’s song. A seaweed-covered hand with long, delicate fingers came out of the water and beckoned with her index finger.
“One Royal bodyguard dove for a box of hand grenades on which a fruit platter rested, while the rest of us cowered in terror — except the Prince. He strode boldy toward the water and said in a stern voice, ‘Who goes there? As an heir to the throne of England I command you to show yourself.’
“The hand disappeared into the water for a moment like ‘Thing’ in that old American TV show ‘The Addams Family.’ When it reappeared it was holding a magnificent jeweled sword with writing in ancient runes on the side. We all gasped because we knew at once what it was. Prince William waded into the surf and fearlessly grasped the sword by the hilt. Then the hand vanished into the sea.”Experts in Arthurian lore say that Excalibur may only be wielded by a rightful heir to the crown and that it resurfaces only when Britain faces grave peril.
“We do not know what that peril shall be,” says Graham Whittlesbury, a leading Arthurian scholar. “There is enormous turmoil in the Middle East right now. Perhaps a threat will emerge from among the Muslims and Prince William will be called upon to lead a New Crusade to liberate the Holy Land.
“The British Isles may be faced new outbreak of the Black Plague or there might be another Potato Famine. We only know that with Excalibur in hand as a symbol of goodness and might, Prince William shall defend England from whatever danger arises.”
Excalibur is the most famous weapon in history. Called Caledfwlch in Welsh legends, it first appears in Arthurian lore as the Sword in the Stone. Buried to the hilt in an enormous boulder, it could only be pulled free by the rightful king of all England. Nobleman after nobleman tried and failed, but young Arthur succeeded — and became England’s greatest king.
The legendary sword was misplaced during a move, when King Arthur set up shop in his newly built castle Camelot. He was upset by the loss of the mystical symbol of good, but at that point all his knights’ efforts were going into the search for the Holy Grail, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth in his 12th-century work Historia Regum Britanniae. Years later, when Camelot faced a morale crisis, the mysterious hand appeared in a lake and returned Excalibur to Arthur.
“The Lady of the Lake has been identified as a Celtic water spirit named Nimue,” notes Whittlesbury.
Excalibur was by no means Arthur’s only weapon. Welsh tradition speaks of a dagger named Carnwennan and a spear named Rhongomyniad that belonged to him. He was also never without a migwrn pres (Welsh for brass knuckles) named Phillip that he kept in his left boot.
Beyond its symbolic value in rallying the knights of the Round Table, Excalibur was said to have extraordinary supernatural powers. Chief among these, the glimmering blade could blind the bearer’s enemies.
In Le Morte d’Arthur, Sir Thomas Malory writes, “It was so breyght in his enemyes eyen that it gaf light lyke thirty torchys.”
The magic sword vanished with Arthur’s death. It has only resurfaced a few times in history — always when England is in grave danger. In 1588, the island nation faced invasion from the Spanish Armada, the largest fleet ever assembled.
“Queen Elizabeth I found Excalibur in a well in her country retreat, Hampton Court,” reveals Whittlebury. “She brandished it as she ordered Sir Francis Drake and her other sea captains to ‘destroy our enemies before they ever reach England’s shores.’ ”
In June 1940, with most of continental Europe already conquered, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi hordes were massing for an all-out invasion of Britain. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had been told grimly by his generals that victory was impossible and surrender was the only option to prevent massive civilian casualties.
“Plans had already been drafted for the installation of a Vichy-style puppet government, along the lines of the one in occupied France,” reveals historian John Hetworth, author of Sir Winston Churchill and the Undelivered Speech. “RAF pilots and other military personnel were to report to internment camps and London bobbies were to be ordered to round up English Jews to be meekly turned over to the Germans.
“All blonde, blue-eyed, female members of the aristocracy were to be whisked away to ‘breeding centers’ to mate with SS officers and beef up Hitler’s Master Race.”
On June 4, Churchil was walking along the banks of the Thames River, grimly rehearsing the speech he was to give on the radio that night, announcing his resignation and the British surrender, and telling the English people to ready themselves for occupation.
“Unfortunately for historians, only a few lines of Churchill’s intended speech are known to us,” says Hetworth. “The most familiar is, ‘The sun must set on every empire. It set on Rome, and tonight it sets on Britain.’ ”
As Churchill morosely mumbled these words to himself, he saw something that made the cigar fall from his mouth.
“Excalibur rose from the Thames, gleaming in the sunlight,” says the historian. “A few moments later it vanished, but Churchill took it as a sign.”
That night, before Parliament, instead of surrendering he issued a defiant speech, uttering the immortal words, “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Hitler, who’d been told by English diplomats to expect the Brits to knuckle under that night, was furious. He’d been planning to go on the radio five minutes after Churchill and crow about the British surrender to the German people.
“He felt betrayed,” says Hetworth.
Researchers know of only one more time that the sword appeared to a leader before now. Aides to Margaret Thatcher remember that seeing the legendary weapon arise from her bath water inspired England’s “Iron Lady” to rally British forces in their successsful war to keep South America’s Falkland Islands forever a free and proud part of the British Empire.
That the Lady of the Lake gave Excalibur to Prince William instead of his father Prince Charles is significant, experts say. Some have suggested this validates the sentiment of many citizens that the kingship should leap frog over the unpopular Charles and pass directly to his more handsome and better-liked son.
Referring to legends that date back to antiquity, some scholars suggest that the fact that Excalibur “chose” Prince William proves that he is actually a reincarnation of King Arthur himself.
Said Whittlebury, “That would mean that Arthur — the ‘Once and Future King’ of legend — is here to save the day as England faces what could be her deadliest threat ever.”
Copyright C. Michael Forsyth
MEANWHILE, ON THE HOUR OF THE BEAST FRONT…
Check out the bone-chilling Hour of the Beast.
On the weekend of June 17, I attended the Horror Writers Association’s annual Bram Stoker Weekend, to promote my novel Hour of the Beast and soak up wisdom at the feet of industry insiders. Had the chance to hobnob with horror icons like Peter Straub.
A cool treat was getting to hang out with Dacre Stoker, great-grandnephew of Bram, the author of Dracula. A gracious, gentlemanly fellow South Carolinian, he’s co-author of The Undead, a sequel to Dracula that features Bram himself as a character. Lending the book a unique authenticity, Dacre draws upon family lore and Bram’s original notes for Dracula, including a detective character Bram created who didn’t make it into the classic novel. I asked Dacre if the family is still coasting on Dracula money. Sadly, no — it’s long gone, he says.
Speaking of impressive horror pedigrees, Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King and an acclaimed horror writer in his own right, attended the annual Bram Stoker Awards banquet. Accepting an award on behalf of his famous father, he said, “My dad wanted me to tell you, ‘You’re a pack of sick @#!*% .’ ”