King Loth is the King of Lothian and father of Gawain in many Arthurian tales. In the romances, Loth is usually called “King of Orcanie” but is also often “King of Lothian and Orcanie”. In some accounts Loth is (or becomes) King of Norway.
In the pseudo-historical chronicles, King Loth reigns for all or most of King Arthur's reign, but in the romances he is sometimes said to be dead when the story occurs. In the Post-Vulgate accounts King Loth was killed early in Arthur’s reign by King Pellinor, for which Gawain, King Loth’s son, eventually kills King Pellinor.
In some acconts Mordred is King Loth’s son, and in some accounts, King Arthur’s son. Gawain’s other brothers and most of his supposed sisters are said to be King Loth’s children or are usually assumed to be King Loth’s children.
King Loth may, in origin, be identical to King Leudon, the king in the Incomplete Life of St. Kentigern, from whom Lothian gets its name.
King Loth in the Pseudo-Historical WorksEdit
King Loth as King Uther’s CommanderEdit
King Loth is first mentioned in surviving works in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae as King of Lothian and a deputy of Uther Pendragon in the last years of Uther’s reign. When King Uther falls ill, he puts his army under King Loth’s command. Geoffrey says (as translated by Lewis Thorpe):
This man was one of the leaders, a valiant soldier, mature both in wisdom and age.
Accordingly Uther gives to King Loth his daughter Anna as wife. (But according to a later statement King Loth’s wife was the sister of Aurelius Ambrosius and the marriage occurred during Ambrosius’ reign.)
However King Loth battles the Saxons without great success, in part because he does not have full support of the arrogant Britons. Eventually, though ill, King Uther calls the British leaders before him, sharply rebukes them, and says he will lead them against the Saxons himself, riding in a horse litter.
King Arthur’s Court at YorkEdit
The Welsh Bruts name the three brothers as Lleu of Lodoneis, Urien of Rheged, and Aron of Yscotland and says that all three were the sons of Cynfarch. Cynfarch appears in earlier texts as the name of Urien’s father.
In Sir Thomas Gray’s Scalacronica, the three brothers are said be sons of Kahu.
The three brothers have been driven from their hereditary lands by the Saxons. Arthur restores their lands to them.
The Conquest of NorwayEdit
After dwelling in peace for twelve years, Arthur begins his conquests again, starting with a conquest of Norway which he wishes to bestow on King Loth. For King Loth of Lothian was the nephew of the previous King of Norway, Sichelm, who had just died and left his kingdom to Loth in his will. But the Norwegians have instead made one Riculf their king.
Arthur lands in Norway, battles the forces of Riculf, kills Riculf, and violently subdues all of Norway, as well as Dacia (Denmark). Then Arthur makes Loth king of Norway.
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gawain, King Loth’s son, was then twelve years old, at that time serving Pope Sulpicius in Rome, having been sent there by his father. But Wace’s Roman de Brut tells that Gawain came from Rome at that time and took part in the conquest of Norway. Lawman’s Brut has Gawain come to his father’s coronation in Norway just before Arthur turns his attention to Denmark.
The Roman WarEdit
King Loth of Norway is one of those who attends King Arthur’s great feast at Caerleon. In the English Alliterative Morte d’Arthur, King Loth is one of the knights who makes vows of the deeds he will do in the war with the Romans. King Loth vows that when he sees the Romans before him, on behalf of the Round Table, he will ride through the Roman ranks and leave a clear path behind him for his troops to follow.
In King Arthur’s final battle with the Romans, King Aschil of the Danes and King Loth of the Norwegians lead the third division of Arthur’s troops. In the English Alliterative Morte d’Arthur, King Loth worshiply fulfils the vow that he had made.
In the Final BattleEdit
No mention is made of King Loth’s death in most texts, but when listing the dead in King Arthur’s final battle with Mordred, Geoffrey of Monmouth mentions Odbrict, King of Norway, instead of King Loth. In the English Alliterative Morte d’Arthur, King Loth is one of the knights whom the mortally wounded King Arthur finds dead on the field after Arthur’s last battle against Mordred.
An Alternative Account in the Didot PercevalEdit
In the “Mort d’Artu” section of the Didot Perceval, King Loth is given the activities normally assigned to King Angusel in the chronicles.
A counterpart of the speeches against the Romans which Geoffrey of Monmouth gives to King Howel and King Angusel, the Didot Perceval gives to King Loth. King Howel and King Angusel do not appear in the Didot Perceval account.
In the main battle, it is King Loth who kills the King of Spain.
King Loth also grieves, along with Gawain, when he hears of the treachery of his son Mordred. King Loth mourns when his son Gawain is slain in the landing. King Loth is killed when leaving the ship when a foeman hits him in the chest with a crossbow bolt. Normally it is King Angusel who is killed in the landing along with Gawain.
King Loth in Arthurian Verse RomancesEdit
In Most Verse RomancesEdit
King Loth does not appear in most verse romances. Usually, when the name does appear, it only refers to King Loth as Gawain’s father, and tells no more.
Some romances bring him in but give him an unimportant role. In Chrétien de Troyes’ Erec et Enide and in Le Chevalier aus Deux Epées, King Loth is just one of the many barons attending King Arthur’s court. In Ulrich von Zatzikoven’s Lanzelet, King Loth of Lothian undertakes a tournament against Gornemant of Gohort at Dyoflê (? Dinlleu). In other romances, such as Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, King Loth is long dead.
King Loth is usually called King of Orcanie, or sometimes King of Lothian and Orcanie, and rarely just King of Lothian. In De Ortu Waluuanii, which follows the chronicle versions unusually closely, King Loth is, as in the pseudo-historical texts, nephew of King Sichelm of Norway and later King of Norway himself. In Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, King Loth is also King of Norway, and Loth is given that title by Wolfram when King Loth takes part at the tournament before Kanvoleis in King Uther Pendragon’s days. Otherwise, in the verse and prose romances, except in the Story of Merlin and in the Didot Perceval, King Loth is not said to be connected to Norway in any way.
King Loth Kills the Guiromelant’s FatherEdit
In Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, in Galloway, Gawain meets the Guiormelant, lord of the city of Orqueneseles, who challenges Gawain to a formal duel because King Loth has killed his father (and Gawain has killed one of his first cousins). In Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the Guiromelant (here named Gramoflanz) claims that King Loth treacherously killed his father Irôt while greeting him.
In Heinrich von dem Türlin’s Diu Krône, there is no mention of any killing by King Loth. The duel between Gawain and the Guiromelant (here named Giromelanz) is because the knight claims that Gawain’s sister has declared that she would rather see Gawain dead or maimed than have harm to a single finger befall the Guiromelant.
King Loth Fathers Gawain Out of WedlockEdit
According to the Enfances Gauvain, De Ortu Waluuanii, and a short account in the Perlesvaus, Loth is a squire at court and has an affair with King Arthur’s sister. The sister is named Morcades in the Enfances Gauvain and the love affair happens during King Arthur’s reign. The sister is named Anna in De Ortu Waluuanii and the love affair happens during King Uther Pendragon’s reign. The Perlesvaus provides no information on those points. In both the account in the Enfances Gauvain and the account in the Perlesvaus, Gawain’s mother orders a knight to expose the child. In the Enfances, the knight does so. In the Perlesvaus he finds a couple in another land who are willing to bring up the child.
In De Ortu Waluuanii, Gawain’s mother is less heartless. She gives her new-born son to some rich merchants to bring up in another land, but the child is later stolen from the merchants. A letter which has been left with the child reveals who he is, and the boy is adopted by the Emperor of Rome. The boy is knighted, and under the name of the Knight of the Surcoat achieves several splendid exploits. Hearing of the deeds of King Arthur, the Knight of the Surcoat wishes to visit King Arthur’s court. The Emperor, who knows that the Knight of the Surcoat is King Arthur’s nephew, sends him to Britain with a chest for King Arthur. The chest contains the letter and tokens of recognition.When King Arthur reads the letter, he summons King Loth and his sister Anna to him, reveals what the letter says. Loth and Anna admit to the letter’s truth. Loth has by this time become King of Norway.
Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival denies all this. Wolfram presents a Gawain still too young to be a knight along with his father King Loth at the tournament before Kanvoleis.
In Chrétien de Troyes’s Perceval, Gawain finds in the Castle of Wonders his grandmother Ygerne and his mother Morcades who were thought to have died many years before. He also meets a damsel who is Morcades’ daughter, and thus Gawain’s own sister, born after Morcades followed Ygerne to the castle. But Chrétien, likely enough by accident, does not acutually say that Moracdes’ daughter was fathered by King Loth.
In the First Continuation to Chrétien’s Perceval, the story tells further that Morcades, pregnant, after King Loth’s death, came to the Castle of Wonders, abandoning all her land. Here again, it may be by chance that we are not told expliclity the Morcades was pregnant by King Loth, and that the daughter, Clarissant, is his daughter.
In Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, Gawain’s mother has two daughters at the castle, named Itonjê and Cundriê. The story does not tell anything about their birth or how their mother came to the castle, but Wolfram makes King Gramoflanz (= the Guiromelant) expressly say that Itonjê, who corresponds to Chrétien’s Clarissant, is King Loth’s daughter.
But in Heinrich von dem Türlin’s Diu Krône, there is one daughter again. She is named Klarisanz. And Heinrich says of her (as translated by J. W. Thomas in his The Crown):
The maiden is the daughter of Jascaphin of Orcanie, but after the latter’s death his brother banished her mother from that country.
Later Ygerne refers to her granddaughter Klarisanz as “the queen of Orcanie”.
There may be an otherwise unknown tale behind this in which, after King Loth’s death, one Jascaphin took Morcades as his wife, and Jascaphin held the kingdom. But Jascaphin died, at which point Jascaphin’s brother claimed the kingdom and banished Morcades. Or since Loth himself is unmentioned in Diu Krône, Jascaphin in this romance may also be Gawain’s father and be another name for Loth.
King Loth’s Kindred in RomanceEdit
King Loth is presented as the brother of Urien and Angusel in many of the pseudo-historical texts. But although all three characters also appear in the romances, all three never appear explicitly as brothers in the romances. More often, when details are given, it is at least implied that they are not brothers. King Urien, but not King Angusel, is sometimes made into the husband of one of Arthur’s sisters.
Not Related to Urien in Chrétien’s YvainEdit
In Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain, it is reasonably strongly indicated that Yvain is not at all closely related to Gawain, though following pseudo-historical texts, they ought to be first-cousins, as their fathers are brothers. But Yvain is never said to be a kinsman of Gawain. Nothing indicates that the unnamed sister of Gawain whom Yvain rescues from a giant is a relative of his, or that her children are Yvain’s first-cousins once removed. Chrétien goes on and on about how unnatural Gawain’s single combat with his friend Yvain is, but doesn’t give a hint of any blood relationship. Nor is any hint of this found in the adaptations into German, English, Old Norse, and Swedish. Only in the Welsh Lady of the Fountain does Owein (= Yvain) call Gwalchemei (= Gawain) his “first-cousin” when he knocks his helmet askew and first sees his face. The author may be either relying on general tradition or have taken this information from one of the Welsh Bruts.
Hints in Chrétien’s PercevalEdit
However in Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, when Ygerne is questioning Gawain, after she has questioned him about King Loth and his sons, she questions him about King Urien. This may imply that Urien is a relative like King Loth, who was her son-in-law. But it does not indicate whether Urien is to be seen as Loth’s brother, or as the husband of another daughter of Ygerne, or even whether it is to be seen as an attempt by Ygerne to determine whether their savior knight really is, as he claims, a Knight of the Round Table, who would know about Urien’s sons, and implies no blood relationship or relationship by marriage.
In the Prose LancelotEdit
In the Prose Lancelot, in a flashback to the tale of how the Queen’s Ford was named, and how Arthur and five knights overthrew seven kings, King Loth is introduced as the brother of King Urien, these being two of the five knights in the tale. Yvain is elsewhere in the romance said to be Gawain’s cousin which fits. But Yvain is not said to be Arthur’s nephew, being first-cousin to Gawain through their fathers, neither of whom are closely related to King Arthur. Yvain is certainly not the son of Morgain the Fay. When Yvain and Morgain meet, there is no suggestion of kin relationship, and Yvain later refers to her as “Morgain”, not as “my mother”.
As to King Angusel, in the Prose Lancelot King Angusel is Arthur’s first-cousin, and so not a brother to Loth and Urien, unless he be a half-brother.
King Loth is otherwise only once mentioned in person, when, in the long version of the story of the “Two Gueneveres”, Gawain suggests that King Arthur might order the banished Queen Guenevere to stay with Gawain’s father in Lothian. Some years later, when a man prophecies that Mordred will kill his own father, Mordred says that King Loth, whom he believes was his father, has long been dead.
In the History of the Holy GrailEdit
In the History of the Holy Grail, King Loth is said to be a descendant of Petrus, a companion of Joseph of Arimathea. Petrus marries Camille, the daughter of King Orcant of Orcanie, here a castle on an island. Petrus’ son Herlant marries the daughter of the King of Ireland and is father of Meliant from whom descends Agristes. Agristes takes a high-born woman of Saxony as his wife and becomes by her the father of Hedor. Hedor marries the daughter of the King of North Wales and becomes the father of Loth. There is no mention of King Sichelm of Norway here.
King Urien, however, is said to be descended from Galahad, son of Joseph of Arimathea. So he cannot be brother of King Loth in this tale, unless Urien be Loth’s half-brother, and Urien’s mother be descended from Galahad.
In Guiron le CourtoisEdit
Mordred is Arthur’s Son, Not King Loth’s SonEdit
The Prose Lancelot is the first romance to tell that Mordred is not the son of King Loth by King Arthur’s sister, but rather the result of King Arthur himself lying with his sister. The accounts in the Prose Lancelot, the History of the Holy Grail, the Vulgate Merlin, and the Post-Vulgate Merlin of how this occurred very much disagree. For details, see Morcades.
King Loth in the Merlin RomancesEdit
King Loth in the Story of MerlinEdit
In the Story of Merlin, King Loth is first mentioned in a speech by Ulfin at a council of barons who are to decide what King Uther Pendragon should do to make peace with the kindred of the Gorlois and with Ygerne, the Duke’s widow. After suggesting that Uther should marry Ygerne, Ulfin also suggests that the Duke’s eldest daughter by Ygerne should marry King Loth of Orcanie, who is one of the council. King Loth says he will do whatever Ulfin has said about him, if it will bring peace.
When this council’s advice is brough to King Uther, King Loth says that he will never do anything asked of him by King Uther, for the sake of love and peace, that he will not do gladly.
So it is done, and King Loth is given the hand of the eldest daughter of the Duke of Tintagel and Ygerne. Another daughter is married to King Neutre. Manuscripts do not agree here. Either this daughter is Morgain or yet another daugher is Morgain (or there are two daughters named Morgain and Morgue). In any case, either King Neutre’s wife or another daughter is sent to learn letters in a house of religion, and there becomes so skilled in astrology and healing and science that she is known as Morgain the Fay or Morgue the Fay. See Duke of Tintagel’s Daughters for details.
Then King Uther deals justly with the Duke’s other children, though these other children are not named or specified in this text.
King Loth in the Introduction to the Didot PercevalEdit
The Didot Perceval contains a short passage before it get into the Perceval material. Merlin comes to court and reveals that Arthur is the true son of Uther Pendragon. All the barons are delighted, including King Loth and his son Gawain.
King Loth in the Vulgate MerlinEdit
King Loth in the Vulgate Merlin, Part 1Edit
King Loth’s First Battle Against King ArthurEdit
According to the beginning of the Vulgate Merlin, King Arthur, after ruling a long time, in peace, holds a high court. This must be in Arthur’s third year as king, as in speaking of events later in the same year, the story explains that Mordred is not yet two years old, and Mordred was fathered by Arthur a little before the New Year’s Day before Arthur was crowned king at Pentecost.
King Loth, here said to be King of Lothian and part of Orcanie, comes to the court with five hundred knights. Five other kings also come: King Urien of Gorre with five hundred knights, King Neutre of Garlot with seven hundred knights, King Caradoc Short-arm of Estrangor with six hundred knights, and King Angusel of Scotland with five hundred knights. King Yder of Cornwall is not mentioned here, but he later appears as the sixth king. The kings despise King Arthur and demand that he leave the country.
Arthur withdraws from the main stronghold of Caerleon and the kings now occupy the stronghold but war does not yet break out. After two weeks of this uneasy peace, Merlin arrives. A council is arranged, in in which Merlin and Arthur and the six kings take part, along with many other barons. Merlin tells the true story of how Arthur was fathered and brought up and Ulfin then offers a sealed letter written by Uther Pendragon which confirms the story.
The kings and the barons refuse to accept Arthur, for they will not be ruled by a bastard. Archbishop Dubric supports Arthur along with most of the common people.
King Arthur goes to the city keep. Arthur finds that he has seven thousand men on his side. But most of them are clerics and commoners with only three hundred and fifty knights among them, all of them poor men. The kings and barons have four thousand knights on their side, as well as countless others. But Merlin warns them that they will lose.
Archbishop Dubric excommunicates the kings and barons from the walls of the keep. Then Merlin casts a spell so that the tents of the six kings and the barons spring into flames. While the kings and the barons are confused by the fire, Arthur’s forces attack. Arthur himself knocks down King Neutre, here said to be King Loth’s first-cousin, and then Arthur and King Loth unhorse each other. On foot, King Arthur pulls out his sword Caliburn, which shines like many candles, and fights well. Arthur is horsed again, but the six kings, all at once, strike him down again. Kay comes to Arthur’s rescue, hits King Loth again and again with his sword, until King Loth falls senseless.
But then the common folk came out of the city with axes, cudgels and sticks. They rout the six kings and the barons, who have lost most of the wealth they had brought with them.
The Battle of BedingranEdit
The six kings hold a meeting in a borderland between Gorre and Scotland and plan to enlarge their alliance and to gather their army at the castle of Bedingran. The six kings are joined by Duke Escant of Cambenic, by King Tradelmant of North Wales, by King Clarion of Northumberland, by the King with the Hundred Knights, and by King Brangoire of Estrangor. The army of the eleven lords which comes to Bedingran in January is forty-thousand strong.
King Loth has a dream in which he is theatened by a great wind, thunder and lightening, and a great flood that sweeps houses and people downstream, and King Loth himself is in danger of drowning. He tells the other kings and duke that the flood seemed to come from the forest. Knights are sent out, and they see King Arthur’s men approaching.
Then Merlin’s magic causes all their tents to collapse and a great fog to come upon them.
The battle of Bedingran is noted mostly for Kings and lesser folk of note getting unhorsed, and horsed again. As the participants are all needed later in the story, no-one dies.
Then another army comes from the forest behind the eleven lords and attacks them. King Loth suggests that the forces of six of the lords should battle this new army, while the forces of five of the lords will continue the battle with King Arthur. So King Loth, the King with the Hundred Knights, King Angusel, King Yder, King Caradoc Short-arm, and Duke Estans go against the second army.
King Yder recognizes the armor of one of the leaders of this opposing army. It is King Bohort of Gaunes, come over from Gaul to aid King Arthur. Then King Ban of Benwick, King Bohort’s elder brother, appears on the field. King Loth is in tears. King Loth realizes that their battle is lost.
The army of the eleven lords is put to flight. The lords say they must hold together until nightfall, else they are as good as dead. But Merlin puts a stop to King Arthur’s pursuit, saying that beating Arthur’s foes is enough without slaughtering them.
The rebels ride to Sorhaut, a city belonging to King Urien.
The Saxon InvasionEdit
After three days at Sorhaut, word comes to the elven lords that the Saxons have invaded their countries. Aminaduc, Hengist’s uncle, and Amindaduc’s three nephews Margarit, Brangoire, and Hargodabrant have landed with many other Saxon kings, to take advantage of the countries being mostly undefended as their warriors are mostly at Bedingran. The Saxons loot and burn everywhere, and in particular besiege the castle of Vandeberes, here said to be in Cornwall, but later said to be twenty leagues from the city of Corente in Scotland.
According to King Brangoire, the eleven lords cannot look for help from King Arthur, for he is their enemy and they cannot look for help from King Leodagan of Carmelide, for he has enough on his hands holding back King Rion aginst whom King Leodagan has been fighting for two years. They can expect no help from King Pelles, for King Pelles is concerned with watching over his brother King Pellinor who lies sick with an illness of which King Pellinor will never be cured, until the promised knight comes who will achieve the adventures of the Grail. They can expect no help from King Alain who is lying sick until the best knight in the world will come to him and ask him the origin of his sickness, and what the Grail is from which King Alain is served.
The lords decide to put their strength into fortifying the borderlands which neighbor on the Saxon lands to prevent aid and supplies from reaching the Saxons. The King with the Hundred Knights announces that Arthur is preparing to leave his own country and to the aid of King Leodagan, that Arthur is doing this all the more boldly as he is aware of their troubles with the Saxons, and that if Arthur were not planning to leave, he would recommend making peace with King Arthur to get his aid against the Saxons.
King Loth takes three thousand of the surviving men and returns to the city of Orcanie. Loth raises an army of more than ten thousand, both foot soldiers and knights, as well as four thousand burghers. For a time he is able to mostly defeat the Saxons where he finds them.
But his wife talks to their son Gawain, who is not yet a knight, and encourages him to forsake his father, her husband, to go to serve her half-brother King Arthur against whom her husband has wrongly rebelled. He is their only final hope against the Saxons. Gawain swears that he will be knighted by King Arthur and will never return to his father’s court before peace has been made between King Arthur and King Loth. Gawain and his brothers Agravain, Guerreht, and Gaheriet set out in secret with five hundred on horseback who are also squires, except for nine knights.
Sometime afterward, the Saxon kings Margond and Bramangue, who are besieging Vandeberes, decide that they will be able to starve out that city, and that they will therefore send one-third of their forces to besiege the city of Clarence, and capture it as well.
The Saxons, led by a king named Haram, are more victorious than the Britons in King Loth’s lands. They have killed so many of King Loth’s liegemen that he can no longer stand up to them. King Loth curses the day that he had rebelled against King Arthur and therefore lost so many people and has lost his sons who have deserted him. He fears that his main city will soon be taken and decides to ride to Glocedon with his wife and infant son Mordred, who is not yet two years old to place them in a protected castle.
King Loth sets out at midnight with five hundred knights, his wife, and his son, Mordred, in a cradle carried by a squire, leaving behind a force of six thousand. Just after mid-afternoon, a Saxon king named Taurus attacks Loth’s troops. The squire flees with Mordred. Loth’s wife is taken by the Saxons, and the last she then sees of her husband is that he is fighting alone against five hundred Saxons.
For the story of how Gawain found the infant Mordred, rescued his captive mother, and killed Taurus, see Morcades.
The King with the Hundred Knights summons the rebel lords to a conference at Lancaster at Pentecost. They all bring sad news. King Angusel has lost the most. King Loth mourns his wife (whom he believes dead) and his children, and wishes he were dead. The King with the Hundred Knights urges them to combine forces against the Saxons in a single battle. They decide to collect their forces and to meet at Suret, a castle belonging to the Duke of Cambenic, near the Severn River and the forest of Bresqueham, a week before the Feast of Mary Magdalene (July 22).
The eleven lords along with King Belynant of South Wales meet as planned. King Loth has very few left of the fourteen thousand men he possessed at the beginning of the war. But those who remain to him are reckoned to be the best in the army. The lords march to Clarence. They surprise the besieging Saxons. But the Christians are outnumbered and despite their efforts, are routed.
Once night falls, the Saxons return to their tents. Then the Christians regroup, repair their armor, and quietly ride again on the Saxon encampment. They attack the Saxons who expect no such action. But after initial success, again the Christians are forced to retreat.
The Christians agree that there is nothing they can do but return to their own countries and to defend themselves as best they can.
No sooner have the lords returned to their homelands, then they learn that King Arthur has aided King Leodagan to utterly defeat King Rion, that King Arthur has knighted Gawain and his brothers and others of royal kindred who have left their kingdoms to serve King Arthur, that King Arthur has crossed over to Gaul and defeated King Claudas, the senator Pontius Antony, Duke Frollo, and Randol, seneschal of the King of Gaul, and that King Arthur has returned to Britain to marry Guenevere, King Leodegan’s daughter. Most of the lords decide separately that their rebellion was sinful, and pray to God that he make peace between themselves and King Arthur.
King Loth Makes Peace with King ArthurEdit
King Loth learns that his wife and infant son Mordred are now with King Arthur. It occurs to him that Arthur, after marrying Guenevere, will have her brought to his chief city of Logres, and that if he can capture Guenevere, then he might trade her to King Arthur for his own wife.
King Loth learns that Arthur has sent most of his forces ahead with Gawain to Logres to arrange things, and that Arthur plans to follow later with Guenevere and five hundred knights. So King Loth takes seven hundred knights and hides in the forest of Sapionoie to ambush Arthur on his road to Logres. But Loth’s men are seen by the youths riding ahead. Arthur puts Guenevere in the care of forty knights, and then rides ahead with King Ban, King Bohort, and the companions of the Round Table.
King Arthur knocks down King Loth. King Loth kills King Arthur’s horse. Their men on both sides rehorse them. But Gawain, who has been somewhat worried about King Arthur, now arrives on the scene with Kay and eighty companions. Gawain and his force join in the battle. Gawain happens to meet with King Loth, his father, and unhorses him with his lance, wounding King Loth in the side. Gawain rides over Loth’s body four times, dismounts, pulls out Caliburn which King Arthur has given him, pulls off King Loth’s helmet and tells him he is dead if he will not swear to be his prisoner. He tells King Loth that he has wronged him when he has attacked his uncle.
King Loth, hearing this, suspects that it is his son, and asks Gawain to tell his name. Gawain asks that King Loth should reveal himself first. Then King Loth reveals who he is. Gawain now knows his father, but says he will not recognize him as his father or friend until he begs forgiveness of King Arthur and pledges him fealty in the sight of all the barons. Otherwise, Gawain will kill his father. King Loth agrees to do what Gawain has said. Then both work to stop the fighting.
Gawain explains to King Arthr what has happened. King Loth and his men surrender to King Arthur and King Loth swears fealty to King Arthur. Arthur says that King Loth is such a worthy gentleman, that he should be forgiven even worse misdeeds, and that even if he hated King Loth to the death, King Loth should be forgiven for the service that his children have done.
As said in Rupert T. Pickens’ translation in Norris J. Lacy’s Lancelot-Grail:
... and the next morning King Lot swore his oath to King Arthur in the chief church in sight of the great crowd of people who were there. And King Arthur endowed him again with all the land he had held in his lifetime, and if anyone ever meant to do him wrong, he would safeguard him with all his might. King Lot accepted this happily, and joyfully like a worthy gentleman, and from that time forth they were good friends for the rest of their lives.
King Loth’s Peace MissionEdit
After Mid-August, King Loth suggests that a truce should be arranged with the rebel barons for a year, so that they might combine forces and drive the Saxons out. King Ban suggests that King Loth is the man for such a mission, and King Loth agrees, provided he may take his sons with him. They plan that the eleven rebel barons will meet at Arestuel in Scotland on Our Lady’s Day in September,
They battle with Saxons near the Plains of Roestoc There Gawain kills the Saxon King Clarion and wins his horse, the Gringalet. They harbour with a forester named Minoras, who promises to give their message to King Clarion of Northhumberland. Near to Roestoc they rescue young Eliezer son of King Pelles from Saxons, and Eliezer becomes Gawain’s squire. At Roestoc, the castellan promises to give their message to the King with the Hundred Knights, who he belives to be at Malehaut. At Cambenic, they come across Duke Escant in battle with Saxons and aid him. The Duke agrees to be at Arestuel and to send information about the meeting to King Yder of Cornwall, to King Urien, to King Angusel of Scotland, to King Neutre of Garlot, to King Tradelmant of North Wales, to King Caradoc Short-arm, and to King Brangoire.
King Loth and his sons next arrive at the city[sic] of North Wales and tell King Tradelmant of the meeting, who had already heard of it from a messenger from Duke Escant.
King Loth and his sons arrive at Arestuel first, and then the eleven lords. Gawain addresses them and proposes a truce until Christmas so that they may all join together against the Saxons. King Urien complains that King Loth has broken his oath by becoming King Arthur’s man and King Loth explains how it occurred. So it is decided that all the barons will combine their troops with King Arthur’s on Salisbury Plain on All Saints Day.
Troops are also sent by other kings who do not hold land from King Arthur, but are willing to help in driving out the Saxons.
King Loth in the Livre d’Artus ContinuationEdit
In the Livre d’Arts continuation of the first part of the Vulgate Merlin, King Loth takes part in the battle at Clarence against the Saxons and in the battle of Vandeberes against the Saxons. He attempts and fails to mediate when Gawain, angry at Kay making fund of Sagremor, plans to desert King Arthur.
The story of King Arthur and his five knights against seven kings from the Prose Lancelot is retold here, with King Loth and King Urien in the same roles, but Loth and Urien are here not said to be brothers.
King Loth in the Standard Vulgate Merlin ConclusionEdit
The Saxons, learning that Arthur has made an alliance with the rebel lords, call off the siege of Vandeberes and concenrate their troops at Clarence.
In the rescue of Blasine, King Neutre’s wife, from the Saxons, King Loth plays a part and chops of the hand of a Saxon named Sinarus who runs to King Hargodabrant and tells him that the Britons are attacking them.
King Loth is also mentioned as fighting in the battle of Clarence. He and King Bohort are unhorsed by King Rion’s men in Arthur’s final battle with King Rion. King Loth joins the expedition against the Romans. The text gives King Loth his normal position as co-leader of Arthur’s third battalion with the King of Denmark. But then King Loth is also listed as the leader of the fourth battalion.
King Loth in the Post-Vulgate MerlinEdit
Mordred is SiredEdit
The Post-Vulgate Merlin relates how Arthur unwittingly sired Mordred on his sister soon after Arthur became king. See Mordred.
That night, Arthur has a dream in which a dragon and a large number of griffins burn and destroy the kingdom of Logres. The dragon then attacks Arthur himself. Arthur kills the dragon, but is mortally wounded by it.
Merlin explains to Arthur that the dragon signifies a knight who has been begotten but not yet born, and that the entire kingdom of Logres will be destroyed by this knight, and Arthur himself will be killed by him. Merlin knows who this child will be, but will not reveal it, for it would be a sin to slay an innocent child as Arthur wishes to do. But Merlin does tell Arthur that the child will be born on the first of May in the kingdom of Logres, but that Arthur will not be able to find the child, for it does not please the Lord.
Apparent Death of MordredEdit
When the first of May approaches, King Arthur decides to order that every child born in the kingdom of Logres in that month be taken and put in a tower, or two or three if necessary.
King Loth, whose wife is pregnant, asks King Arthur many times what Arthur will do with these children, but Arthur does not tell him. The child is born on the first of May and is baptized with the name Mordred. It would appear that either King Loth’s wife must have been in Logres at the time of Mordred’s birth, or that in this tale Orcanie is reckoned as a sub-kingdom of Logres.
After the baptism, Mordred is put in a cradle to be sent to King Arthur in a ship with a large company of ladies and knights. King Loth watches the ship sail away from the city of Orcanie.
A storm springs up, the ship strikes a rock, and all within drown, save for the infant Mordred, whose cradle floats to shore. A fisherman finds the floating cradle, and recognizes from the rich clothing on the child in the cradle that this child must be of high birth. The fisherman and his wife decide that their safest course is to take the child to the king of their land, who is Nabur the Foolhardy (Nabur li Desreez). Nabur takes Mordred as a foster-brother for his own five-week old son Sagremor. Nabur finds a note in the cradle that the child is named Mordred; but the note tells nothing more about him.
Fate of the Other ChildrenEdit
The Post-Vulgate Merlin then relates that Arthur has the other 712 male children he had gathered cast adrift in an unmanned ship. The ship, by God’s will, comes to the castle of Amalvi, where a king named Orians is ruler. Orians recognizes that these must be the male children whom King Arthur had set adrift. Orians has the infants taken to be brought up secretly on an island in the sea in a castle which is later called the Castle of the Boys.
Many barons whose children had been placed in the unmanned ship are very angry at King Arthur and consult Merlin on the matter. Merlin explains that King Arthur had done this only because Arthur knows that in this month a child will be born who will devastate Logres and that he was trying to prevent this from happening. But in fact, the children are all safe and will be found within ten years. The barons therefore curb their anger against King Arthur.
(In Malory’s adaptation of this story, Mordred’s ship comes safely to King Arthur, the infant Mordred is placed on the unmanned ship with the other children, and it is this ship which crashes so that of all the children, only Mordred survives.)
King Loth Plans to Betray ArthurEdit
King Loth believes that his child Mordred arrived at King Arthur’s court and was put in the unmanned boat with the others, and that all these children are now dead. Both King Loth and his wife now hate King Arthur. King Loth is coming to Camelot with a large army pretending that he comes to aid King Arthur against King Rion, but in fact seeks King Arthur’s destruction.
Merlin reveals all this to Arthur, and asks him to send word to King Loth that Arthur knows of Loth’s anger, but that Arthur wishes to retain Loth’s friendship. Arthur will give to King Loth the vanguard of his army and will make recompense for any wrong he has done to King Loth according to the advice of the barons of Logres.
When King Loth receives this message, he refuses to listen. King Loth says he intends to take the crown from King Arthur’s head, that such a false king should not wear a crown, and that if Arthur’s barons were honorable men they would have already killed him.
Merlin himself goes to King Loth and attempts to reason with him. Merlin reveals that Mordred is still alive and promises to reveal him to King Loth within two months. But King Loth does not believe Merlin, though Merlin now promises that King Loth will be defeated if he fights against King Arthur.
So Merlin delays King Loth until mid-morning, by his talk and by enchantment, for Merlin knows that if they meet in battle, either King Loth or King Arthur will die, and if this happens, he prefers King Loth’s death.
The Death of King LothEdit
Then, a little after mid-morning, word comes that King Arthur’s forces have defeated King Rion’s men. King Loth fears that it would now be impossible to seek reconcilation with King Arthur because Loth had not been at the battle. From the messenger, King Loth learns that King Arthur troops are very tired from battle and that most of them are wounded. So King Loth decides to attack King Arthur.
In the battle many on both dies are slain, but King Loth fights amazingly well and all his foes fear to encounter him. King Loth attacks King Arthur and kills King Arthur’s horse so that King Arthur falls and appears to be dead.
King Pellinor is aiding Arthur in this battle, because of the virtue he sees in King Arthur, not because he is Arthur’s vassal. King Pellinor, seeking vengeance for King Arthur whom he believes to be dead, charges King Loth, who is then without a shield. King Pellinor strikes King Loth with his sword so strongly on the head that he splits it to the shoulders.
Then the men of Orcanie are put to flight, and are later very much reproached for this.
Burial of King Loth and Twelve Other KingsEdit
King Arthur has a church built on the battlefield over a natural cave where the bodies of the knights who have died on the battlefield are buried. But the bodies of the twelve kings who had served King Rion are taken and buried in the Church of St. Stephen at Camelot. King Loth is buried there also, in the richest tomb, and a church is built in his honor which is called the Church of St. John. This church will be greatly esteemed as long as the world lasts.
At King Loth's funeral, his son Gawain, then eleven years old, prays God to let Gawain earn no praise for any knightly deeds until he has taken vengeance on King Pellinor and killed a king for a king.
Images of the twelve kings and King Loth are made, richly gilded with gold and silver with a crown on each of their heads and each one with his name on his chest, each holding a candle and bowing as though begging forgiveness. The images are placed above the battlements of the main fortress of Camelot, along with a larger image of King Arthur, higher than the others, seeming to threaten them with his sword.
(Malory, in his adaptation, identifies these kings as the rebel lords of the Vulgate Merlin account, even though many of these are quite alive and well later in Arthur’s reign. This identification is an error.)
Merlin magically lights the candles held by the images of the thirteen kings, and says that the candles will burn without stopping until the day when Merlin is given over to death by means of a woman and the Knight of the Two Swords strikes the Dolorous Stroke upon which the adventures of the Holy Grail will begin which will last twenty-two years. (But in the story as written, the Dolorous Stroke occurs quite some time before Merlin is entombed, and the adventues must last much longer than twenty-two years.)
King Loth in Hector Boece’s Scotorum HistoriaEdit
Hector Boece, in his Scotorum Historia, perhaps in part following a source that no longer exists, or perhaps following his own imagination, makes Loth into the King of the Picts and describes Loth’s wife as Anna, the elder sister of Ambrosius. (Later in the text Loth’s wife is named Cristina.) A second sister, Ada, is given to King Congal of Scotland, but Ada dies in childbirth, along with her child. Uther becomes king and fathers Arthur in adultery on Gorlois’s wife. Uther attempts to have this illegitimate Arthur declared his heir. Loth, the husband of Anna, now named Cristina, Uther’s sister, disagrees. The succession should legitimately go to his own son Modred who is Uther’s nephew. Uther and his barons oppose Loth’s claim. So Loth makes an alliance with King Conran of Scotland and wars with Uther.
After Arthur becomes king, war with Loth breaks out again, until an agreement is reached between King Loth and King Arthur that King Arthur may retain his kingdom but must recognize Mordred as his heir. This agreement brings peace between King Arthur and King Loth. Mordred and Gawain and their Pictish followers now help King Arthur against the Saxons.
Then Arthur learns that the Saxons of the Isle of Wight are invading Kent. King Conran of Scotland sends to Arthur at London 10,000 Scots under the command of his son, Eugene. King Loth sends to Arthur 10,000 Picts under the command of his son, Mordred.
After King Loth's death, Mordred becomes King of the Picts. Arthur and his wife Guenevere are childless and have no heir. A parliament is called to select an heir, and it is decided to ignore the treaty by which Arthur’s cousin Mordred should have the kingdom after Arthur’s death. Instead, the barons chose a certain Constantine, the son of Cador, lord of Cornwall. King Mordred writes to Arthur, complaining of the broken promise, but Arthur writes back that Mordred has nothing to complain of. That promise was with King Loth, and therefore has no value now that King Loth is dead.
Accordingly, Mordred prepares to fight King Arthur.