Arthur Uther Pendragon (born John Timothy Rothwell, April 5, 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.
Arthur was born John Timothy Rothwell to a working class family in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Later, the family moved to Aldershot, Hampshire as Arthur’s father became stationed in the British Army there.
As a teenager, Arthur bought a bike 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 he rode a custom-built Triumph Thunderbird, attended free festivals such as Windsor free festival and Stonehenge free festival and became head of a biker gang called the Gravediggers (later renamed the Saddletramps). Arthur was given the nickname ‘King John’ due to holding parties at the ruined castle at Odiham which they called ‘King John’s Castle’.
After reading a book by Gareth Knight on King Arthur, he claimed to be astonished to see so many similarities between himself and Arthur in the book, and decided to adopt the new name. He officially changed his name to Arthur Uther Pendragon on 11 June 1986 by deed poll.
Arthur is largely known for his many battles with the British Government (in the form of English Heritage). He has campaigned for the right of everybody to legally enter the monument at Stonehenge at the Solstices, picketing the site between September 1990 and January 1991.
On the 19 October 1998, with assistance from organisations such as Liberty who acted as Arthur’s Counsel, Arthur was able to have his case heard by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Arthur claimed that because of the exclusion zone around Stonehenge, that his freedom of thought, conscience, religion and freedom of expression were restricted under the European Convention of Human Rights under articles 9, 10 and 11. Although the court decided in favour of the UK government, Arthur can be justified in claiming victory as the exclusion zone around Stonehenge was never repeated. In 2000, full public access to Stonehenge was officially granted for celebrating the solstices.
Although Arthur Pendragon had been involved in consultation meetings with English Heritage for over 10 years, he believed that things were moving far too slowly; the consultation costs were escalating at over £7 million. So Arthur, again, took to conducting a picket of Stonehenge and complained that English Heritage were, in his eyes, becoming guilty of mismanagement of the monument. Arthur’s allegations centred on English Heritage’s promise to return the monument to its natural environment with the roads and visitors centre moved further away and hidden from sight.
After 10 months of picketing the Stonehenge visitors centre, Arthur proved victorious again. English Heritage announced that they would create a new, hidden, visitors centre and remove the road close to the monument. With this news, Arthur was happy to remove his picket on 19 May 2009.
Poll Tax Protest
After refusing to pay the Poll Tax, he was summoned to Magistrates court. His case was presided over by Lord Tenby. Lord Tenby allowed Arthur to wear his robes and Excalibur in court, and allowed Arthur to swear oath on Excalibur. At the end of the hearing, the case went against Arthur and he was ordered to pay his Community Charge.
Other legal cases
Arthur has been arrested, mainly for trespass, over 30 times. Whilst in prison as a remand prisoner, Arthur has been denied his remand prisoners right to wear his own clothing – his Druidic robe – and ordered to wear prison uniform. Arthur, refusing to comply with these orders, has then been left without clothing and put in solitary confinement. Due to Arthur’s continued stance at challenging this point, he has had considerable success. Druids on remand in HM Prisons are now allowed to wear their druidic robes.
Arthur had been supporting and taking part in a protest in Kingston-upon-Thames when he learned about a place where 7 ancient English monarchs had their coronations. Just as contemporary UK monarchs have been coronate using the Stone of Scone Saxon monarchs used another stone – the Coronation Stone. Whilst Arthur was in the area he took advantage of the situation and on 3 January 1998, after inviting many guests, was duly crowned ‘Raised Druid King of Britain’ by representatives from 5 druid orders.
Candidate at elections
He is a self-proclaimed English eccentric who says that helps him in his political work. He has been a candidate at several elections, never successfully.
Arthur stood as an Independent Candidate in the Salisbury Parliamentary Elections in 2010.