Arthur Uther Pendragon

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Arthur Uther Pendragon
Arthur Uther Pendragon.jpg
Born John Timothy Rothwell
(1954-04-05) 5 April 1954 (age 64)
Wakefield, Yorkshire, England
Title Titular Head and Chosen Chief,
Raised Druid King of Britain.
Parent(s) May Victoria Rothwell (née Barratt) and Wilfred Lawrence Rothwell

Arthur Uther Pendragon (born John Timothy Rothwell, 5 April 1954) is an English eco-campaigner, Neo-Druid leader, media personality, and self-declared reincarnation of King Arthur, a name by which he is also known. Pendragon was the "battle chieftain" of the Council of British Druid Orders.

Early life[edit]

Pendragon was born (as John Timothy Rothwell) to working-class parents, May and Wilfred Rothwell, in Wakefield, Yorkshire, in 1954. The family later moved to Aldershot, Hampshire, where Wilfred Rothwell, a sergeant in the British Army, was stationed.[citation needed]

As a teenager, Pendragon bought a motorbike and became a member of a biker gang. He joined the British Army, serving in the Royal Hampshire Regiment until he sustained an injury in parachute training. In the early 1970s, Pendragon rode a custom-built Triumph Thunderbird, attended events such as the Windsor Free Festival and Stonehenge Festival, and became head of a biker gang called the Gravediggers (later renamed the Saddletramps). He was given the nickname "King John", because he held parties at the ruined castle at Odiham, also known as "King John's Castle".[1]

Becoming Arthur[edit]

After reading a book by Gareth Knight on King Arthur, he discovered many similarities between himself and the legendary king, and came to believe that he was King Arthur reincarnated.[2] On 11 June 1986, he officially changed his name to Arthur Uther Pendragon by deed poll (Uther Pendragon being the name of Arthur's father; the title of "Pendragon" is often applied to Arthur as well). Shortly afterward, he bought a sword, believed to be the principal Excalibur sword prop from the film about King Arthur Excalibur.[3] In 1991, he was named Pendragon and Swordbearer to the Glastonbury Order of Druids.


Arthur Pendragon attending 2010 Stonehenge Summer Solstice ritual


Pendragon is best known for his legal battles with English Heritage regarding the monument of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, a site of great religious significance to Neo-Druids. Throughout the 1990s, he campaigned for the removal of the four-mile exclusion zone which was established each year during the summer solstice.[3][4] On 19 October 1998, with assistance from organisations such as Liberty who acted as his counsel, Pendragon had his case heard by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. He claimed that the exclusion zone around Stonehenge was restricting his freedom of thought, conscience, religion and freedom of expression, in contravention of Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The court decided in favour of the UK government. However, the exclusion zone was lifted the following year, after an unrelated case brought before the House of Lords ruled that the public have a right to assembly on a public highway.[5][6]

In June 2008, Pendragon set up a protest camp on a byway near the monument, demanding free access to Stonehenge for everyone. He insisted that the fences surrounding the site should be removed, and that the two nearby A roads (the A344 and A303) should be closed or redirected. He occupied the byway for ten months, and obtained 8,000 signatures in support of his petition. On 24 April 2009, he was ordered by Salisbury County Court to dismantle his camp and leave, following complaints from Wiltshire Council that he was obstructing traffic.[7] Pendragon defied the order.[8] He finally ended his protest on 19 May,[9] after English Heritage announced plans to move a section of the A303 underground, and to create a new visitor centre about a mile-and-a-half away from the stones.[10]

In August 2011, Pendragon filed a High Court appeal calling for the cremated remains of more than forty bodies to be immediately reburied. The remains had been exhumed from a burial site at Stonehenge in 2008, to be studied at Sheffield University. The appeal was rejected.[11][12] Pendragon has also voiced his opposition to English Heritage's plan to display three more sets of human remains at the new visitor centre, claiming that out of respect to the ancient British ancestors, replica bones should be on view instead.[13]

Poll tax protest[edit]

On 24 January 1994, Pendragon was summoned to magistrates' court after refusing to pay two years' worth of poll tax. His case was presided over by Lord Tenby, who allowed Pendragon to wear his robes and sword in court, and allowed him to swear oath on his sword. At the end of the hearing, the case went against Pendragon and he was ordered to pay the money owed.[14][15]

Other legal cases[edit]

Pendragon has been arrested, mainly for trespass, over 30 times.[16] Whilst in prison on remand, he has been denied his right to wear his own clothing – his Neo-Druidic robe – and ordered to wear prison uniform. Pendragon, refusing to comply with these orders, has then been left without clothing and put in solitary confinement.[16] Due to his continued stance at challenging this point, Neo-Druids on remand in HM Prisons are now allowed to wear their robes.[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

Pendragon is a self-proclaimed English eccentric, and says that this helps him in his political work.[4] He has stood in several elections – most recently as an Independent candidate for Salisbury in 2010,[17][18] 2015[19] and 2017[20].


  • Pendragon, Arthur Uther; Stone, C. J. (2012). The Trials of Arthur: Revised Edition. Thorsons. ISBN 978-0956416315. 


  1. ^ Pendragon, Arthur Uther; Stone, C. J. (2003). The Trials of Arthur: The Life and Times of a Modern-day King. pp. 28–32.
  2. ^ Pendragon & Stone (2003), pp. 38–39.
  3. ^ a b Berens, Camilla (10 February 1994). "Britons, behold your King". The Independent.
  4. ^ a b Cohen, Nick (11 June 1995) "King Arthur fights holy war". The Independent.
  5. ^ "Law Lords back public gatherings". The Lawyer. 22 March 1999. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Harris, Paul (21 June 1999). "After 10 years, Druids return to Stonehenge". The Independent. 
  7. ^ Riddle, Annie (27 April 2009). "Druids in defiant mood despite court order". Salisbury Journal. 
  8. ^ "Druid protestor King Arthur Pendragon defies Stonehenge eviction order". The Telegraph. 3 May 2009. 
  9. ^ "Free Stonehenge". The Loyal Arthurian Warband. Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  10. ^ "Stonehenge centre gets go-ahead". BBC News. 13 May 2009. 
  11. ^ "King Arthur Pendragon loses human remains legal battle". BBC News. 23 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Stonehenge bones decision backed by humanist association". BBC News. 24 August 2011.
  13. ^ "Stonehenge should display fake human remains, druid says". BBC News. 8 May 2011.
  14. ^ Pendragon & Stone (2003), pp. 95–96.
  15. ^ "Druid does battle over poll tax bill". The Independent. 25 January 1994. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Penton, K (2008). "Sunrise Festival Interview".[dead link]
  17. ^ Mayall, Roy (27 April 2010). "All hail Salisbury's King Arthur". The Guardian. 
  18. ^ "Minute Manifesto: King Arthur Pendragon (Independent)". BBC News. 26 April 2010. 
  19. ^ Merrill, Jamie (22 March 2015). "Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May". The Independent. 
  20. ^ "General Election 2017 Meet the Six Salisbury Candidates". Salisbury Journal. 11 May 2017. 

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