Camelot is a castle and court associated with the legendary King Arthur. Absent in the early Arthurian material, Camelot first appeared in 12th-century French romances and, since the Lancelot-Grail cycle, eventually came to be described as the fantastic capital of Arthur’s realm and a symbol of the Arthurian world.
It is not certain that Camelot existed. What is certain is that the myth of Camelot has influenced society, stretching back to the medieval era. Camelot is, essentially, a political fantasy. In the myths of Camelot there are few of the complexities of medieval times: no collecting taxes, appointing judges, employing lawyers, working on manufacturing or trade. Yet is immensely vibrant, acting as an escapist idea that has come up again and again in Western culture from Lord Tennyson to the Star Wars films. Notably, it was a fantasy present during the early development of Western administrative states.In the musical, Mordred describes Arthur’s “Seven Deadly Virtues”: courage, purity, humility, diligence, charity, honesty, and fidelity. His round table represents equality and democracy. All of these ideals are at the core of the Camelot myth and echo throughout political history, including what we consider our current American values.
Nowadays, Camelot is most associated with the Kennedy Era. The Lerner and Loewe musical premiered in 1960, and the film adaptation in 1967. John F. Kennedy himself was said to love the musical, and Jackie Kennedy pushed to connect his time as president to the myth of Camelot. “One brief shining moment” captured the hope and glamour of the Kennedy administration, rooted by a flawed but fully good man at the center of it all.
The musical Camelot by Lerner and Loewe was inspired by the novel The Once and Future King by T. H. White.
Starring Richard Burton and Julie Andrews it opened in 1960 and ran for 873 performances. The lavish and inert film of the musical was made in 1967. After the more than four hour preview, Noel Coward famously quipped the musical was”longer than Gotterdammerung… and not nearly as funny!”