Sir Galahad Tabard
The Coat of the Purest Knight
Sir Galahad remains the highest embodiment of medieval ideas of chivalry and knightly conduct, recurring across the canon of medieval literature as an incorruptible paragon of holiness. We imagine this Tabard would have fit him perfectly (even if the original model name is Anton) just like it will fit the re-enactors and LARP roleplayers who wish to carry a little piece of this legendary paladin with them.
The medieval tabard developed in the 12th-century as a means of knights displaying their personal heraldry over their armour – and by the end of the medieval period it has developed into a sort of proto-uniform for regular troops in the form of ‘livery’ bearing their lord’s insignia given out to enlisted soldiers. Our Galahad Tabard has been carefully designed by veteran LARP manufacturers Mytholon for exactly these purposes.
A Flexible and Rugged Tabard
It is a hand-made item, meaning that its finish is high-quality but has more character than a machine-made piece – especially if you and your allies are all wearing the same colours. We have chosen stout cotton canvas as its material, meaning that it is rugged and robust, whilst remaining comfortable if it is worn on its own. Like many historical examples, it is open-sided, allowing it to be put on easily over armour – it would have been cinched in with a separate belt. The front and back are also slit to the top of the thigh, so that our Sir Galahad Tabard allows maximum possible freedom of movement. It is assembled in a simple two-colour quartered heraldic design in fifteen different colour-combinations.
On its own, our Sir Galahad Tabard is the perfect way to finish off a re-enactment impression of a crossbowman from the High Middle Ages, or a roleplay outfit of a brave paladin. Its wide range of colours makes it able to fit into any colour scheme – and, it being simple rugged canvas, it can be painted or appliquéd to add your own heraldry! But as part of an ensemble is where the Galahad Tabard become an unmissable essential item for any LARP group or re-enactment club. It can be used to tie all of your outfits into a theme, or to distinguish teams and groups apart – at an extremely reasonable cost.
(History) Sir Galahad and King Arthur
Sadly, it’s pretty unlikely that a historical British leader called Arthur ever really existed, let alone as a King with a Round Table of valiant knights. The earliest mention of Arthur only appears three centuries after the time that he was supposed to have lived. The Welsh monk Nennius, in his Historia Brittonum, the ‘History of the Britons’ he wrote to chronicle the slow usurpation of post-Roman Brittonic peoples by the Angles and Saxons from Northern Europe. He says that the Brittonic forces at the Battle of Badon Hill (which we know from earlier sources definitely took place) were led by a war-leader called Arthur, whose triumph resulted in the temporary halting of the Saxon advance. However, no contemporary or intervening source mentions this supposed war leader – and modern scholars conclude that Arthur was probably a folk-hero developed after the fact by the Britons who felt evicted from their ancestral lands.
Whilst the tales of Arthur and the Round Table have their own particular dark mythic quality derived from the Celtic and Brittonic roots, they are not unique: all across medieval Europe, poets, skalds and jongleurs were reciting and singing moral stories of chivalric derring-do. Whilst we call the body of medieval literature comprising the Arthurian legends the ‘Matter of England’, there is also the ‘Matter of France’ which mythologise Charlemagne and his Twelve Peers or Paladins, and the ‘Matter of Italy’ in which writers in the medieval Italian states wrote new poems and epics about Classical figures such as Hercules and Odysseus.
These were not histories, and most of their writers did not attempt to do anything like a historical reconstruction of past facts, but that doesn’t mean that studying the Arthurian legends is an exercise in futility. The enormous canon of medieval literature which blossomed around the figures of noble King Arthur, the mystic Merlin, the witch Morgan le Fay, the evil stepson Mordred and the cast of Knights around the Round Table (including our very own Sir Galahad) can tell us an enormous amount about people in the medieval period. These works are revealing attempts by medieval people to grapple with the moral and social issues of their day through the culturally relevant lenses of legendary figures.
Our friend who wears the Galahad tabard arrives rather late to the party. Arthur had been established as a major literary figure by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his influential pseudo-history Historia Regum Britanniae in the 1130s CE, which contained the basic framework of the Arthurian legend: his status as conquering King, his betrayal by Mordred, and his death on the Isle of Avalon. Later writers took this skeleton and ran with it, building the colourful cast of characters and intricate events of the Camelot court. Chrétien de Troyes introduced the concept of the Holy Grail quest to the Arthurian legend, as well as Sir Lancelot as a principle character, in the late 1100s CE; Robert de Boron fleshed out Merlin as Arthur’s court wizard, and set the Grail as an explicitly Christian relic dating from the time of Christ. (You will notice that these writers are all French – don’t forget that England was very much an Anglo-French empire for much of the High Middle Ages).
In the first half of the 13th-century CE, the Arthurian legends undergo significant consolidation, and all of these disparate poems and proses are drawn together into an overarching coherent narrative for the first time. Scholars are not renowned for giving things snappy names, and so we call this text the ‘Post-Vulgate Cycle’ – it starts with Joseph of Arimethea and Josephus bringing the Grail to England, the early history of Merlin and Arthur, the quest for the Holy Grail, and finishes with Arthur’s death at Avalon. This is the first text to feature the golden boy himself, purest of all the knights, Sir Galahad.
The Purest of All
Enter stage left, the namesake of our Sir Galahad Tabard. Galahad is born of the Fisher King’s daughter Elaine of Corbenic and Sir Lancelot, when the Fisher King has Elaine enchanted to fool Lancelot into thinking she is his true love Guinevere – for the Fisher King has seen a magic vision that if his daughter and Lancelot have a son, then the child will be the greatest knight that ever lives. This is confirmed when the young Galahad is sent to Camelot, and is offered the cursed empty seat at the Round Table as a test: only the future finder of the Holy Grail could sit in this seat; any other would be struck dead. Galahad may sit in the chair – and he is knighted on the spot by King Arthur.
As we can see, Galahad appears in the Arthurian legends at a time of its explicit Christianisation – and Sir Galahad is without doubt the character who retains the strongest impression of those contemporary influences. He usually spares his enemies, showing the virtue of mercy, and shows purity in resisting all temptations of the flesh. Galahad’s extreme piety and purity allows him alone amongst the Knights of the Round Table to perform miracles, banishing demons and healing the sick, in a very obvious parallel of Christ. The Post-Vulgate Cycle was published in the 1230s CE, a period of significant conflict in the Middle East between Western Christians and the Ayyubid Muslim states in the Holy Land: the Sixth Crusade had just left unresolved questions and a shaky ten-year truce, and the Papacy was busy raising funds for the coming Baron’s Crusade of 1239. Galahad’s personal coat of arms are given as a vermilion cross on a white background: you may well recognise this as the emblem of the Knights Templar, the Order of Crusader-knights who were at this time at their zenith.
Sir Galahad is the initiator of the Grail quest, and after many battles and feats, he and his fellow knights find the Grail at the castle of the Fisher King. Galahad is the only one permitted to see it, and he takes the Grail to the holy island of Sarras. Having done this, Galahad ascends to heaven, being rewarded for fulfilling every quality that the medieval writers of these Arthurian cycles considered to be noble and holy.
The chivalric virtues exemplified by Galahad are without doubt very much at odds with the bloody, brutal reality of medieval knighthood, but that is part of the enduring fascination of these high-minded medieval myths which sought to rise above the mortal coil. There is no more fitting namesake for our Sir Galahad Tabard – may he accompany you on your own quest for the Grail!
- Material: Cotton canvas
- Sizing: One Size Fits Most Adults and Older Teens
Chest: 37 Inches
Waist: 38 Inches
Length: 50.25 Inches
Neck Opening: 23 Inches
Black and Blue
Black and Cream
Black and Green
Black and Grey
Black and Red
Black and Yellow
Brown and Green
Red and Cream
Green and Cream
Green and Yellow
Blue and Cream
Blue and Red
Blue and Yellow
Yellow and Red
- Weight: 1.2 Pounds