A Cheshire knight is the elusive author of one of English literature’s most celebrated masterpieces, according to new research by an expert on medieval literature.

Dr Andrew Breeze, professor of philology at the University of Navarra, Spain, says the mysterious author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is probably Sir John Stanley, a Cheshire knight who rose to the top of English political life at the end of the fourteenth century.

The story of Gawain begins in the court of Camelot in west Wales and follows the hero’s quest across of the mountains of Snowdonia, passed Anglesey, across the River Dee into Wirral, then south through Cheshire as far as the Staffordshire and Derbyshire borders.   

In his new book, The Historical Arthur and the ‘Gawain’ Poet, Dr Breeze argues the available social, historical and linguistic evidence points strongly to Stanley as the Gawain poet.

Northwich Guardian: Cover Design (Lexington Books/Fortress Academic)Cover Design (Lexington Books/Fortress Academic) (Image: Lexington Books/Fortress Academic)

He said: “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the great Cheshire poem, and for 20 years or more I have been arguing the author was Sir John Stanley.

"He was running King Richard II’s affairs in Cheshire in the late 1380s, and he was also the keeper of the forest of Wirral, the forest of Delamere, and the forest of Macclesfield.

“The dialect of the poem is distinct from that of east Cheshire, which is why I’m so convinced this is not just a poem of Cheshire, but of west Cheshire.

“It has a few words borrowed from the Irish language, which is very rare in medieval English, apart from on the Wirral, which was settled by Norse Irish in the tenth century.”

Dr Breeze takes the author’s opinion of Wirral residents to be another indication that Stanley is the mysterious author.

“Sir John’s older brother, Sir William, inherited the main family property at Storeton and Hooton on the Wirral.

“One can’t help but think the lines ‘the wilderness of Wirral, where lived but that neither God nor man with good heart loved’ is a joke at the expense of his more fortunate elder brother.”  

Sir John Stanley made an ambitious marriage in 1385 through which he acquired large estates at Knowsley and Burscough, south Lancashire, which are still owned by his ancestor Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby.

The Historical Arthur and the ‘Gawain’ Poet by Andrew Breeze will be published in January 2023