Mordred or Modred (/ˈmoʊdrɛd/; Welsh: Medraut, Medrod, etc.) is a character in the Arthurian legend, known as a notorious traitor who fought King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann, where he was killed and Arthur fatally wounded. Tradition varies on his relationship to Arthur, but he is best known today as Arthur's illegitimate son by his half-sister Morgause, though in many modern adaptations Morgause is merged with the character of Morgan le Fay. In earlier literature, he was considered the legitimate son of Morgause, also known as Anna, with her husband King Lot of Orkney. His brothers or half-brothers are Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, and Gareth. The name (from either Old Welsh Medraut, Cornish Modred, or Old Breton Modrot) is ultimately derived from Latin Moderātus.
The first surviving mention of Mordred (here called Medraut), occurs in the Annales Cambriae entry for the year 537:
- Gueith Camlann in qua Arthur et Medraut corruerunt.
- "The strife of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell."
The Annales themselves were completed between 960 and 970, though their authors drew on older material. Mordred was associated with Camlann even at that early date, but as Leslie Alcock points out, this brief entry gives no information as to whether he killed or was killed by Arthur, or even if he was fighting against him; the reader assumes this in the light of later tradition.
In Arthurian legendEdit
The earliest full account of Mordred is found in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, where he, for the first time in literature, plays the role of traitor to Arthur. Geoffrey introduced the figure of Mordred (whom he calls Modredus) to the world beyond Wales, detailing that Arthur left Mordred in charge of his throne as he crossed the English Channel to wage war on Emperor Lucius of Rome. During Arthur's absence Mordred crowns himself king and marries Guinevere, forcing Arthur to return to Britain. The Battle of Camlann is fought, and Mordred dies while Arthur is taken to Avalon.
A number of Welsh sources also refer to Medraut, usually in relation to Camlann. One triad, based on Geoffrey's Historia, provides an account of his betrayal of Arthur; in another, he is described as the author of one of the "Three Unrestrained Ravagings of the Isle of Britain" – he came to Arthur's court at Kelliwic in Cornwall, devoured all of the food and drink, and even dragged Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) from her throne and beat her. Medraut is never considered Arthur's son in Welsh texts, only his nephew, though The Dream of Rhonabwy mentions that the king had been his foster father. However, Mordred's later characterization as the king's villainous son has a precedent in the figure of Amr, a son of Arthur's known from only two references. The more important of these, found in an appendix to the Historia Britonum, describes his marvelous grave beside the Herefordshire spring where he had been slain by his own father in some unchronicled tragedy. What connection exists between the stories of Amr and Mordred, if there is one, has never been satisfactorily explained.
In Geoffrey and certain other sources such as the Alliterative Morte Arthure, Mordred marries Guinevere, seemingly consensually, after he steals the throne. However, in later writings like the Lancelot-Grail Cycle and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, Guinevere is not treated as a traitor and she flees Mordred's proposal and hides in the Tower of London. Adultery is still tied to her role in these later romances, however, but Mordred has been replaced with Lancelot.
Geoffrey and the Lancelot-Grail Cycle have Mordred being succeeded by his sons. Stories always number them as two, though they are usually not named, nor is their mother. The 18th century Welsh antiquarian Lewis Morris, based on statements made by the Scottish chronicler Hector Boece, suggested that Medrawd had a wife, Cwyllog (also spelled Cywyllog), daughter of Caw. Another late Welsh tradition was that Medrawd's wife was Gwenhwy(f)ach, sister of Gwenhwyfar.
In Geoffrey's version, after the Battle of Camlann, Constantine is appointed Arthur's successor. However, Mordred's two sons and their Saxon allies rise against him. He defeats them, and one of them flees to sanctuary in the Church of Amphibalus in Winchester while the other hides in a London friary. Constantine tracks them down, and kills them before the altars in their respective hiding places. This act invokes the vengeance of God, and three years later Constantine is killed by his nephew Aurelius Conanus. Geoffrey's account of the episode may be based on Constantine's murder of two "royal youths" as mentioned by the 6th-century writer Gildas.
The elder of Mordred's sons is named Melehan or some derivation in the Lancelot-Grail and Post-Vulgate Cycles. In these texts, Lancelot and his men return to Britain to dispatch Melehan and his brother after receiving a letter from the dying Gawain. In the ensuing battle Melehan slays Sir Lionel, son of King Bors the Elder and brother to Sir Bors the Younger. Bors kills him to avenge his brother's death, while Lancelot slays the unnamed younger brother.
Of Mordred’s BirthEdit
In the Arthurian ChroniclesEdit
In the Historia Regum BritanniaeEdit
In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, Mordred is first mentioned in a passage where Arthur restores Lothian to Mordred’s father King Loth. The passage reads (in Lewis Thorpe’s translation):
... and Loth, who in the days of Aurelius Ambrosius had married that King’s own sister and had two sons by her, Gawain and Modred, he restored to the dukedom of Lothian and other near-by territories which formed part of it.
Geoffrey also says in one later passage that King Loth is Arthur’s uncle by marriage. However Geoffrey has earlier said that Loth had married Arthur’s sister Anna, not Arthur’s aunt, and later Geoffrey calls both Gawain and Mordred by the title “nephew” in respect to Arthur. For more information on this confusion see the article on Anna.
In Wace’s Roman de BrutEdit
Wace, in his Roman de Brut does not render the passage where Geoffrey says that Gawain and Mordred were brothers. Wace first names Mordred only when Arthur makes Mordred his regent, when Arthur sets sail to fight the Romans, and just calls Mordred Arthur’s nephew. Perhaps Wace intends it to be understood that Gawain and Mordred were brothers, but in the early romances, except in the Story of Merlin which is a special case, Mordred is not mentioned, and Gawain has other brothers, usually Agravain, Guerrehet, and Gaheriet. Wace could be vague here on purpose. Again, see Anna
In Lawman’s BrutEditLawman, in his Brut, also introduces Mordred only when Mordred is made regent, but explicitly insists that Mordred is Gawain’s brother. Indeed, Lawman declares that Gawain had no other brother, although earlier Lawman had Merlin prophecy that Uther’s daughter will give birth to seven sons.
In Other Arthurian ChroniclesEdit
Gawain and Mordred are usually stated to be brothers. When not so stated, it may be only because this has been left out in abbreviating the story.
In Hector Boece’s Scotorum HistoriaEdit
In Hector Boece’s Scotorum Historia, Mordred and Gawain are the children of Loth, King of the Picts, by Arthur’s aunt, the sister of Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon. Boece calls Loth’s wife Anna when he first mentions her, but later calls her Cristina. Because King Ambrosius left no children, and Uther only had one illegitimate son, Arthur, therefore Mordred, as the legitimate son of Uther’s sister, ought to be the Uther’s rightful heir. Uther disagrees, and his men oppose Loth’s claim. This leads to war between Uther and Loth. 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.
In the RomancesEdit
In the Story of Merlin and the Didot PercevalEdit
In the Story of MerlinEdit
The Story of Merlin, attributed to Robert de Boron, seems to be based on stories from the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Wace after these accounts have entered oral tradition. In this version, once Uther Pendragon has arranged to marry Ygerne, the council also agrees that King Loth shall wed the eldest daughter of the dead Duke of Tintagel (= Gorlois) and Ygerne. Alexandre Micha’s critical edition of the text then reads:
... et de cette fille que il donna le roi Loth eissi Mordrez et me sires Gauvains et Gareés et Gaheriez.
This may be translated:
... and from the daughter whom he gave to King Loth issued Mordred and my lord Gawain and Guerrehet and Gaheriet.
Here Agravain, who is one of Gawain’s brother in other romances, does not appear. But Mordred, who is absent in other early romances (except in the Didot Perceval) does appear. It may be that this tale has equated Agravain, who in some romances is rather an unpleasant character, with Mordred. That Mordred is listed first, may indicate that in this tale Mordred is the eldest of the brothers, something that is not seen elsewhere until Hector Boece’s Scotorum Historia.
In the Didot PercevalEdit
Mordred is first mentioned as a one of the knights who comes to Arthur’s court, and immediately following this, the text mentions that his brothers Guerrehet, Gaheriet, and Gawain also came to court, and that all four were sons of King Loth of Orcanie and nephews to King Arthur. Mordred is mentioned again when Arthur embarks for France. In Nigel Bryant’s translation:
In his absence the king entrusted his land to his wife the queen and to Mordred, who was Sir Gawain’s brother and the son of King Lot of Orkney – and much disposed to evil.
This is the only account of Arthur’s conquest of Gaul which tells the Mordred and the Queen were at the time made King Arthur’s deputies over Britain.
In the Prose Cyclic RomancesEdit
In the Prose LancelotEdit
The Prose Lancelot is the earliest surviving text to make Mordred the incestuous son of King Arthur by his sister, King Loth’s wife. The details are mostly vague, as the information is only given as part of a story by holy man who tells Mordred that King Loth was not his father and prophecies Mordred’s fate.
The story tells that King Arthur fathered Mordred on King Loth’s wife, who the reader knows to be King Arthur’s sister, because her sons are reckoned as King Arthur’s nephews. On the night when King Arthur fathered Mordred, Arthur dreamed that a dragon issued from him and burned his lands and killed his men and challenged King Arthur directly. King Arthur managed to kill the dragon, but was himself fatally poisoned by it.
To keep this dream in memory, Arthur had a dragon painted in the Church of St. Stephen in Camelot.
At the time this is revealed, Lancelot is about twenty-nine years old, and we are told that Mordred is about twenty years old. That would mean the Mordred was fathered when Lancelot was about nine years old. Since Arthur was married to Guenevere before Lancelot was abducted by the Lady of the Lake in the Prose Lancelot continuity, and since King Loth is still alive at the time of the False Guenevere in the Prose Lancelot continuity, both King Arthur and King Loth’s wife must have been committing adultery.
In the History of the Holy GrailEdit
The History of the Holy Grail tells another version when speaking of the descendants of Petrus (as translated by Carol J. Chase in Norris J. Lacy’s Lancelot-Grail, Volume 1):
And may all those who have heard of Mordred and think he was King Lot’s son know that he was not; without a doubt he was King Arthur’s son. And the king fathered him with his sister one night, when he thought he was lying with the beautiful woman from Ireland. When he recognized his sister and realized that he had lain with her, both of them were grief-stricken and repentant. And all of this happened before King Arthur knew Guenevere.
No other extant account mentions the “beautiful woman of Ireland”. Here Mordred’s begetting predates Arthur’s marriage to Guenevere.
In the Vulgate MerlinEdit
The Vulgate Merlin has a third account.
When the barons have come to the city of Logres around New Year’s Day, when no-one could pull the sword from the stone, Antor, Arthur’s supposed father, happens to lodge in the same house as King Loth. King Loth welcomes Antor into his own party because Antor is a knight. King Loth has a bed made up of Antor and his son Kay in the hall by his own bedchamber, while Arthur, being only a squire, has a lesser bed in the hall corner, near the door to King Loth’s bedchamber. Arthur is very taken with King Loth’s wife.
About midnight, King Loth leaves quietly for a secret meeting with some other barons at the Black Cross. Not even his wife knows that King Loth has gone from their bed. But young Arthur sees King Loth leave, and taking a chance, goes into the bedchamber and lies down on the bed beside King Loth’s wife. Arhur is afraid to do anything more, until King Loth’s wife rolls over and embraces Arthur, thinking that she is embracing her husband. And so Mordred is conceived.
When King Loth’s wife goes back to sleep, Arthur creeps quietly back to his own bed.
But the following day, when serving at the table, Arthur privately tells King Loth’s wife what had happened and begs that she not tell anyone. She keeps the secret.
Then later that day, or very soon after, Arthur pulls the sword from the stone.
About nine months later, about the time that Mordred is born, news arrives that Arthur is Uther Pendragon’s son, and is to be made king. King Loth’s wife loves Mordred even more for this, but can tell no-one, especially as her husband King Loth later rebels against King Arthur. But she is instrumental in persuading her sons Gawain, Agravain, Guerrehet, and Gaheriet to abandon their rebellious father and to seek to become knights of King Arthur.
King Loth, deserted by his sons, finds that Lothian and Orcanie are overrun with Saxons led by King Haram. King Loth decides to take his wife and supposed infant son Mordred to Glocedon for safety, but the Saxon King Taurus attacks King Loth and abducts King Loth’s wife. A squire flees with Mordred in a cradle. Merlin, disguised as a knight, brings word to a northern castle named Arundel, where Gawain and his brothers are currently residing for a short time. The supposed knight finds Gawain and leads Gawain and eight thousand knights to King Taurus and his forces.
Gawain finds the squire fleeing with Mordred. The squire points them toward King Taurus. Gawain’s forces come upon King Taurus and his men who are abusing Gawain’s mother. Two Saxons are dragging her along by her hair, and King Taurus slaps her with his hand gloved in iron so that she falls senseless to the ground. She refuses to take Taurus as her master, so Taurus continues to beat her and abuse her. When Gawain sees this, he charges at Taurus, pierces him through with his lance, killing Taurus, for Taurus’ neck breaks when he falls from his horse. Agravain, Guerrehet, and Gaheriet cut Taurus’ body into bits.
In the Post-Vulgate MerlinEdit
In the Post-Vulgate Merlin, King Arthur is crowned, and has learned that he was given to Antor by orders of King Uther, but King Arthur still does not know his true parentage. His unknown sister, King Loth’s wife, comes to court, to [Carlisle] in [Wales], with her four young children and a large retinue. Her eldest son, Gawain, is ten years old.
King Arthur falls in love with her, and after two months, lies with her. So Mordred is begotten.
(In a Spanish adaptation known as El Baladro del Sabio Merlin an angel appears to them as they lie together and condemns them for incest, but doesn’t provide details.)
King Loth’s wife now goes back to her own land, but King Arthur has the dream about the dragon, as told in the Prose Lancelot. When it is light, King Arthur goes hunting, becomes separated from his men, sees the Yelping Beast drinking, meets a knight who is chasing the beast (King Pellinor), and then meets Merlin who is disguised as a four-year old boy. The apparent four-year old boy blames King Arthur for lying with his own sister, whom his father begat and his mother carried, and for so begetting a son who will bring evil on the land.
(Note that King Loth’s sister is here King Arthur’s full sister, although that disagrees with her being Arthur’s half-sister in the Story of Merlin. But if she has a son who is already ten years old, it is very unlikely that she could be King Arthur’s legitimate younger sister.)
Merlin, as a child, explains to King Arthur that Arthur is the son of Uther Pendragon and Ygerne.
When Arthur refuses to accept what this apparent four-year old boy says, Merlin leaves and returns again, this time as an old man. The old man tells Arthur that Arthur’s dream signify a boy-child to be born who will destroy his kingdom, and that Arthur may not find the boy-child, as it does not please Our Lord. The old man tells Arthur that the boy-child will be born the first day of May, in the kingdom of Logres. The old man finally reveals that both he and the apparent four-year old child are the famous Merlin, disguised.
King Arthur seemingly never makes any connection between the boy-child to be born of him and his sister from whom much evil will come and the boy-child symbolized by the dragon of his dream, who will destroy the kingdom.
As the first of May draws near, King Arthur decides to have every boy-child born in May in Logres imprisoned in a tower, or two or three towers if necessary. So it is done. Apparently King Loth and his wife are in Logres, or perhaps in this story Lothian should be considered a sub-kingdom of Logres, because their new-born son Mordred is to be sent to King Arthur as soon as he is baptized.
After being baptized, Mordred is put in a cradle to be sent to the King. When placed in the cradle, Mordred accidentally strikes his head so hard that he suffers a wound, the scar of which is visible later in life. This should be, rather obviously, a means of future recognition. King Loth sends Mordred to Arthur on a ship with a large retinue. 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 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 (Nabu 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.
In this version also, the chronology does not work with that of the Prose Lancelot. Here Mordred is older than Lancelot, who will appear in this work as an infant years later. Mordred is even older than Yvain who will also be born later. In the Prose Lancelot, Sagremor is also much older than Mordred.
The sequel account of how Mordred was discovered has not survived. When Mordred next appears in the surviving fragments of the Post-Vulgate Arthurian Cycle, Mordred is already a Knight of the Round Table, well established with his brothers at court. Nor does any other text mention that Sagremor is Mordred’s foster-brother. This foster-brother relationship may have been invented because, in the Vulgate Mort Artu, Sagremor is the last knight slain by Mordred before Mordred’s final single combat with Arthur.
The Post-Vulgate Merlin does relate 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, this Orians being the father of a son named Acanor who will later be the Knight of the Round Table called the Ugly Brave. Orians recognizes that these must be the male children whom King Arthur had set adrift, and 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. Again, there is no sequel in the surviving fragments of the Post-Vulgate Arthurian Cycle.
In Malory’s Le Morte d’ArthurEdit
Malory mostly just abbreviates the Post-Vulgate Merlin account and simplifies its ending. Malory’s Mordred arrives safely in Arthur’s court, but only to be put into a ship with the other boys. According to Malory, the ship was drive up against a castle and mostly destroyed. Only Mordred escaped death.
... and a good man found him and fostered him till he was fourteen year of age, and then brought him to the court—as it rehearseth afterward and toward the end of the Morte Arthure.
Mordred as a Young KnightEdit
In the Prose Cyclic RomancesEdit
In the Prose Lancelot, Mordred first appears as a squire living with his brother Agravain in a house which has been given to Agravain by the Duke of Cambanet.
The Prose Tristan, in the story of La Cote Mal Taillée brings in Mordred soon after Mordred was knighted. Mordred is already cruel and proud, but at that time does not frequent the court because King Arthur would be angry at him, if he saw him. At least, that is what Renée L. Curtis’ critical edition says. E. Loseth’s summary refers to other manuscripts where Mordred is currently banished from court because of an evil he did to a damsel.
The Prose Lancelot brings in Mordred as one of the Knights of The Round Table in quest of Lancelot, soon after he has been knighted. The tale tells how Mordred successfully seduces his host’s wife. When the host discovers Mordred and his wife in bed together, a single combat ensues, in which Mordred has the victory. Mordred forces his foe to vow to forgive both Mordred and his wife.
About two years later, Lancelot chances to rescue Mordred from the castle of the Two Sycamores. The story does not say why Mordred was imprisoned. Then Lancelot and Mordred’s horses are stolen. When they find the horses, Mordred would have slain one of the unarmed knights who had them, but Lancelot prevented him, charging him not to fight the knight until by chance he found him armed.
However the following day, the two knights come upon Lancelot and Mordred. Mordred tells Lancelot that he, Mordred, will rid them of the knights, and indeed Mordred does so, badly wounding one, and killing the other. Lancelot praises Mordred highly, saying that Mordred’s victory was one of the finest piece of knightly prowess he has seen in a long time, from a knight of Mordred’s age, and the Gawain could well say that Mordred was no disgrace to his lineage, but resembled Gawain in prowess.
Mordred Partly Learns of His True ParentageEdit
The following day, Lancelot and Mordred are being taken to hear Mass in a hermitage. On the way there, they meet with man, dressed in white like the member of a religious order, praying at a tomb. This man asks the knights who they are. When they tell him, the man at once begins to upbraid them, calling them the two most unfortunate knights of which he knows.
The man prophesies to Mordred that he, Mordred, will do more harm than any other, that the Round Table will be destroyed though him, and though him, his father will be killed, for the father will die by the son, and the son will die by the father.
Mordred becomes very angry, and calls the man a liar, for Mordred knows that his father, King Loth, is already dead.
The man tells Mordred that a king other than King Loth sired him, and tells of the dream of the dragon which this king had. He says that for two years, since beginning to be a knight, Mordred has not been very wicked, but that henceforth, Mordred will be a true dragon, doing nothing but evil, killing all the men he can, beginning with him.
Mordred claims that in this alone the man has spoken correctly. The man pleads that Mordred hold off until he has spoken to Lancelot, but Mordred draws his sword and beheads him before Lancelot can hinder him.
Lancelot notices a letter in the hand of the corpse and takes it, without Mordred seeing. Lancelot finds written in the letter that Mordred was sired not by King Loth, but by King Arthur. Only Lancelot’s respect for Gawain prevents him from finding some pretext which would allow him to kill Mordred.
Later, after returning to court, Lancelot sees the picture of a dragon in the Church of Saint Stephen in Camelot. Guenevere asks him why he was staring at it, and Lancelot tells her all, except that the letter had declared that Mordred was really King Arthur’s son for Lancelot loved the King very much and did not wish to speak shame of him. But Guenevere does not believe what the man said, taking him for a false prophet.
In Hector Boece’s Scotorum HistoriaEdit
Hector Boece tells in his Scotorum Historia that in order to beat the Saxons, King Arthur makes a treaty with the Pictish King Loth. King Loth has claimed that his eldest son Mordred is the rightful King of Britain, for Mordred’s mother is Anna or Cristina, the sister of Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon, and Mordred is of legitimate birth, while Arthur is a bastard. The treaty allows Arthur to remain as king, but Mordred is recognized as Arthur’s heir. Mordred will be married to the most beautiful woman in Britain, the daughter of Gualan, the most noble man in Britain and very close to the crown himself, so that Mordred’s children will be of high British blood. They will also be fostered in Britain and will learn to speak the British speech, so they will not seem to be Pictish to the Britons. Mordred’s younger brother, Gawain, will dwell in Britain under Arthur as a British lord and knight.
King Arthur, King Loth, and King Conran of Scotland prepare to meet the Saxons at the river Tyne. The Saxons are led by King Octa (son of that King Oisc whom Uther Pendragon fought) and aided by King Cheldric and King Colgrin. King Cheldric is slain by the Scots, King Colgrin is slain by the Picts. King Octa is forced to flee, and passes back over the sea in a single ship, sorely wounded. King Arthur allows those Saxons who surrender to remain in Britain, provided they are baptized.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.
The Saxons treacherously attack Mordred and his father-in-law, Gualan. Arthur comes to Mordred’s aid and puts the Saxons to flight. The British, with their Scottish and Pictish allies, then attack the Saxon host. The Saxons flee, and many of them drown in a nearby river. Arthur gives great riches to his Scottish and Pictish allies, and they return home.
In Welsh TextsEdit
In Bardic ReferencesEdit
Meilyr Brydydd, lamenting the death of Gruffudd ap Cynan (d. 1137), praises his subject for having Medraut’s valour in battle, and Meilyr’s son Gwalchmei praises Madog ap Maredudd (d. 1160) for having the “good nature of Medrawd”. Other later bards make similar mentions. Either they are referring to a Medrawd other than the Arthurian Medrawd, or the Arthurian Medrawd was famed as a supporter of Arthur, or these bards knew versions of the Battle of Camlann in which Medrawd was the hero, or at least no more to blame for the disastrous battle than was Arthur.
In the Dream of RhonabwyEdit
From the Welsh “Dream of Rhonabwy” (as translated by Sioned Davies):
... the emperor would send me to remind Medrawd that he was his foster-father and uncle, ...
This is the only mention in any text that Medrawd was Arthur’s foster son, save perhaps in the English Alliterative Morte Arthure, where Athur speaks to Mordred (text slightly modernized):
“Thou art my nephew full near, my nursling of old,
That I have chastened and chosen, a child of my chamber; ...”
This Welsh version also puts the blame for the battle of Camlann on the lies of Iddawg who deceived both Arthur and Medrawd.
In the Twenty-Four Knights of Arthur’s CourtEdit
5. Three Royal Knights were in Arthur’s Court: Nasiens the son of the King of Denmark, and Medrod son of Llew son of Cynfarch, and Howel son of Emyr Llydaw. The peculiarities of these were that there was neither king nor emperor in the world who could refuse them, on account of their beauty and wisdom in peace; while in war no warrior or champion could withstand them, despite the excellence of his arms. And therefore they were called Royal Knights.
About Mordred’s WifeEdit
Rev. Sabine Baring-Gold (1914), on page 168 of his The Lives of the Saints, Vol. 16 (Edinburgh: John Grant), lists Cywyllog as a saint of Anglesey whose feast day is January 7. He states:
CYWYLLOG or CWYLLOG was a daughter of Caw and wife of the traitor Modred, nephew of King Arthur.
The old church of St. Cwyllog, built about 605, still exists in Llangwyllog in Anglesey. See Photos of Churches: Anglesey-Llangwyllog. (Slow-loading.)
In the Prose Cyclic RomancesEdit
In the Prose LancelotEdit
In the Prose Lancelot (beginning at Micha II:LXIX;Sommer IV:358) occurs a complete description of Gawain and all his brothers. The descriptions of Mordred (as translated by Roberta L. Kreuger in Norris J. Lacy’s Lancelot-Grail, Volume III), are:
Now the story says that the day Mordred left his companions, he wandered all alone and rode all day long without drinking or eating; he suffered greatly; for it was very hot and he had not yet learned to endure hard work, since he was a mere youth of twenty. Nevertheless, he was a large tall knight; he had curly, blond hair and would have had a very handsome face if his demeanor had not been so wicked. In this he did not resemble Sir Gawain at all, since Sir Gawain had a simple, pleasant countenance and a compassionate expression.
The youngest brother was named Mordred. He was greater in stature than any of the others and the worst knight; although he had great strength and was more inclined to do evil than good, he nevertheless delivered many fine blows. Envious and deceitful, he never loved a good knight since he first bore arms. He killed many people and did more evil in his life than his whole family did good, because on his account more than a thousand men died in one day. He himself died in the debacle, as did the king his uncle, which was a great sorrow, as the story will tell you clearly. This man was truly the devil; he never did any good except during the first two years he bore arms. Nonetheless, his body and all his limbs were very well formed.
In the Post-Vulgate Grail QuestEdit
The Post-Vulgate Grail Quest, tells how a knight fleeing from a pursuer asks Gawain for help, and Gawain grants it. The pursuer jousts with Gawain and Gawain falls. The pursuer, following knightly custom, dismounts to continue the battle on foot. The pursued knight, seeing this, takes action by riding against his pursuer, knocking him flat. Despite protests by Gawain, the pursued knight viciously rides over the knight’s body, almost killing the knight.
The pursued knight, seeing Gawain about to mount, and fearing him, charges at Gawain, knocks him flat, then rides many times over the body of the other knight from whom he had fled. The pursued knight then dismounts, removes the pursuer’s helmet, and prepares to behead him. But at that point Gawain grabs hold of the pursued knight and prevents the beheading. It now appears the pursuer, who seems to be almost dead, is Gawain’s own brother Gaheriet, and the pursued knight who had ridden over Gaheriet and tried to behead him was Mordred, brother to them both.
Gaheriet cries out (this and following translations by Martha Asher in Norris J. Lacy’s Lancelot-Grail, Volume V):
“Cursed be the hour he escaped death, for he had richly deserved it, and know that I am one who, from now on, won’t look on him as a brother because of the treacherous act I saw him commit today.”
“Whatever he may be,” said Gawain, “he’s our brother, and we must love him, however much others hate him.”
Gaheriet tells his story:
“I met him yesterday,” he said, “in this forest, where he was dragging a maiden at his horse’s tale, so that he had almost killed her. Never before did a man of our lineage commit such a false act, and because of the brutal act I saw him commit, I attacked him, for I didn’t recognize him. ...”
“Brother,” said Gawain to Mordred, “since when are you so faithless and brutal, when they used to think you such a good knight and so faithful?”
“I can’t say good things about you unless I want to lie,” said Gawain, “for you’ve become the most treacherous knight I know today.”
Mordred’s Rebellion and DeathEdit
Mordred is Made Regent Along With Queen GuenevereEdit
The Pseudo-Historical VersionsEdit
Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae says only (in Lewis Thorpe’s translation), that when Arthur was ready to cross the sea to Gaul to fight the Romans:
... he [Arthur] handed over the task of defending Britain to his nephew Mordred and to his Queen, Guenevere.
Most subsequent texts say little, if at all, more. The Didot Perceval uniquely also says that Mordred and the Queen were also made regents during Arthur’s previous campaign in France. From Lawman’s Brut (as translated by Rosamund Allen):
He [Arthur] entrusted this land to a remarkable knight
He was Gawain’s brother – as regent there was no other;
Modred he was called, the most dishonourable man:
He never kept a promise to any man at all,
(He was related to Arthur, from his illustrious race)
Yet he was knight supremely brave and he had tremendous spirit,
Arthur’s sister’s son. For the queen he harbored passion
(That was wicked behaviour; to his uncle he was a traitor!)
But it was all kept very quiet in the parliament and at court,
Because nobody realised this could really be going on,
But people assumed him honest, since Gawain was his brother,
And the most loyal of all the men who ever came to court;
Because of Gawain all the more was Modred popular with the people,
And the valiant Arthur made him very satisfied:
He took his entire kingdom, and placed it into Modred’s hands,
With Guinevere his queen, most respected of the women
Who among this people have been living in the land;
Arthur donated everything he owned
To Modred and the Queen; this made them most contented.
It was a very bad thing that they were ever born:
They betrayed this country with unmeasured miseries,
And in the end the Evil One brought them to destruction
In which the forfeited their lives and their souls
And have ever since been loathed in every single country,
So that no-one ever wanted to proffer a good prayer for their souls,
Because of the treason that man did to Arthur his uncle.
In the English Alliterative Morte Arthure, Arthur announces to his council that Mordred will be his viceroy when he is absent. Speaking to Mordred directly, Arthur then assigns to him rule over Guenevere and his forests, and specifies that if he dies overseas, his estate is to be given to the poor, to beggars and mendicants. If Mordred rules well, Mordred will be given a kingdom by Arthur.
Mordred begs Arthur not to give him this position, but to choose another, for he is too feeble for such a princely position. Mordred intends to travel overseas with Arthur with his men, as had been his intent previously. But Arthur will not listen.
The Lancelot VersionsEdit
In contrast, in the Vulgate Mort Artu (as translated by Norris J. Lacy in his Lancelot-Grail, Volume IV):
The king began to consider whom he could leave her [Queen Guenevere] with; and Mordred jumped up and said to the king, “Sir, if you please, I’ll stay to look after her, and she’ll be safer, and you can be more confident, than if she was entrusted to anyone else.” And the king said that he would be pleased to have Mordred stay behind and that he should care for her as he would for himself.
King Arthur gives the Queen and full authority over the kingdom to Mordred and makes his people swear an oath to do whatever Mordred wishes. The Queen is angry about being given into Mordred’s keeping, but says nothing, although she knows Mordred’s evil and dishonesty and expects trouble to come from it.
In the English Stanzaic Morte Arthur, King Arthur asks his knights who should be steward of the land when he has gone overseas, and the knights unanimously name Mordred.
Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, says (spelling and punctuation modernized):
And so they shipped at Cardif; and there King Arthur made Sir Mordred chief ruler of all England, and also he put the Queen under his governance: because Sir Mordred was King Arthur’s son.
Malory does not indicate whether it was generally known that Mordred was Arthur’s son.
Mordred Rebels Against ArthurEdit
The Pseudo-Historical VersionsEdit
In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, when King Arthur is just starting into the Alps on his way to Rome, news arrives that Mordred has rebelled, had put the crown on his own head, and has taken Queen Guenevere as his wife. Mordred has also sent Chelric, the leader of the Saxons, to the continent to seek men for Mordred’s army, in return for which, Mordred will give to Chelric all of Brtain north of the Humber, as well as Kent.
In the English Alliterative Morte Arthure, Arthur has crossed the Alps and is successfully campaigning in Italy. The Pope has asked for seven days truce, after which Arthur will be crowned Emperor in Rome. But the following day a knight of Britain, Caradoc arrives, and tells Arthur of the betrayal, that Mordred has dubbed dukes of Denmark, and has many Saxons and Saracens among his men and Chelric is a chieftain among them, lord in Brtain of the lands from Humber to Hawick as well as Kent. Mordred has wedded Guenevere and gotten her with child.
In the Didot Perceval, Arthur learns from four messengers that Mordred has taken Guenevere as his own wife, has made himself king, has called in Saxons of Hengist’s line, and has banned the singing of Mass.
The Lancelot VersionsEdit
In the Vulgate Mort Artu, Mordred uses King Arthur’s wealth to gain the hearts of the nobles. Mordred falls in love with the Queen. Modred then has a forged letter read which purports to be from King Arthur, dying from a wound given by Lancelot. The letter says that King Arthur has treated Mordred as his nephew—although he is not—and that Mordred should be made king. Gawain has already been killed by Lancelot. The letter asks that Mordred and Guenevere be married, so that Lancelot will not attack Britain and try to take Guenevere as his wife.
After grievous mourning by the people, Guenevere is summoned to a council and told she must marry Mordred. Guenevere pretends to be considering it, and asks for a day to think it over. Mordred grants Guenevere a week. Guenevere takes council with her kinsman Labor and tells him that Mordred is really Arthur’s illegitimate son. They arrange for themselves and some supporters to seal themselves in the Tower of London. When Mordred sees he has heen deceived, he says he has not sufficient men of his own to besiege the tower, and asks the nobles of Britain to aid him, but to first pledge loyalty to him, to assist him against all enemies, even against King Arthur, should he be still alive and should he return. The nobles take the oath, and the siege of the Tower of London begins.
But the Queen sends a messenger boy to Gaul to seek out King Arthur and tell him what has happened. If Arthur is really dead, and Gawain is really dead, then the boy should seek out Lancelot. The boy reaches King Arthur in northern Gaul on the very evening of the day when Arthur had defeated the Romans. Arthur, in his anger, says (as translated by Norris J. Lacy in his Lancelot-Grail):
But never has a father done to a son what I’ll do to you with my own two hands; let the whole world know that, and God forbid that you die at the hands of anyone but me.
Many nobles hear Arthur speak, and learn for the first time that Mordred is Arthur’s son, and which they greatly marvel.
Meanwhile, Mordred continues the siege, using catapults, and summoning many other nobles from Scotland, Ireland, and other countries, and giving them so many gifts that they willingly pledge to help Mordred against any of his enemies, and even help him against King Arthur should he not be dead and happen to return.
We are later told that Mordred had repeatedly asked for help from the Saxons, and they have come to Mordred’s aid, and that the most noble men of Saxony have paid homage to Mordred.
The English Stanzaic Morte d’Arthur tells much the same account, only relating that Guenevere obtained two weeks of grace to go to London to obtain the best wedding clothes for herself and her following. When Mordred begins the siege of the tower, the Archbishop of Canterbury rides up and says that it is forbidden that Mordred wed his father’s wife. The Archbishop formally curses Mordred at Canterbury, but flees into the forest when Mordred sends for him. The Arhbishop becomes a hermit.
Sir Thomas Malory, in his Le Morte d'Arthur, takes mainly from the English Stanzaic Morte d’Arthur, supplemented with material from the Vulgate Mort Artu. When word comes that King Arthur is returning to Britain (spelling and punctuation modernized):
And much people drew unto him, for then was the common voice among them that with King Arthur was never other life but war and strife, and with Sir Mordred was great joy and bliss. Thus was King Arthur depraved [defamed], and evil deeds said of—and many there were that King Arthur had brought up of naught, and given them lands, that might not say him a good word.
Malory doesn’t mention the Saxon allies explicitly, but they may be understood in the following passage:
Then Sir Mordred araised much people about London, for they of Kent, Southex [Sussex] and Surrey, Essex, Suffolk and Northfolk [Norfolk] held the most part with Sir Mordred.
Many folk who had loved Lancelot now turn towards Mordred.
In the Italian Tivolo Ritondo, Guenevere (Ginevara), pressed by Mordred (Mordarette) to become his wife, agrees to marry Mordred at the castle of Urbano, which is four leagues from Camelot (Camelotto). She then goes there, with forty knights, and takes over the castle to hold against Mordred. Mordred besieges the castle with the support of many folk because of Mordred's joyfulness and courtesy. The Queen sends a letter to Benwick.
The letter arrives on the evening of the battle between Gawain (Calvano) and Lancelot (Lancilotto). Arthur (Artú) immediately sets out to return to Camelot. Here occurs a battle between Arthur's forces and those of a certain Count Turino of Carthage who is brother to the Pope and had been formerly knighted by Lancelot. This battle is place of the Roman War. Turino kills Gawain and then Arthur kills Turino and defeats his men.
Arthur and his forces then return to Britain.
In Hector Boece’s Scotorum HistoriaEdit
Hector Boede in his Scotorum Historia makes no mention of Arthur going to Gaul, either to fight the Romans or to fight Lancelot. Instead Boece says that Arthur and Guenevere were childless, and so had 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 Loth is now dead, and Mordred is the Pictish king. 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.
Mordred then makes an alliance with King Eugene of Scotland. and the two king with large armies meet on the bank of the Humber to await King Arthur.
Early Battles in the RebellionEdit
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Brittaniae and most following works, Arthur and Mordred have two battles before the final battle.
The first is the battle when Arthur, coming from Gaul, lands in Britain. This battle, is placed at Richborough by Geoffrey of Monmouth, at Romney by Wace and Lawman, and at an unnamed site by the Didot Perceval and the English Alliterative Morte Arthure. Gawain is killed in the landing, by Mordred himself according to the English Alliterative Morte Arthure, whereupon Mordred grieves deeply. Also slain is Angusel, King of Scotland. The Didot Peceval specifies that Gawain is killed when struck on the head by an oar, replaces Angusel by King Loth, as it does throughout, and also places here the deaths of Kay, Bedwyr, and Sagramor. The English Alliterative Morte Arthure does not mention Angusel at all in this place.
The Vulgate Mort Artu omits these initial battles altogether. Arthur lands peaceably at an unnamed landing site, where Gawain dies of the head wound given him by Lancelot, which had reopened during Gawain’s exertions in the Roman war. King Angusel is still alive, for he appears later in this version of the tale. Arthur then heads directly for Salisbury Plain, perhaps directed by prophecies that the battle between himself and Mordred will occur there.
The English Stanzaic Morte d’Arthur and Malory’s Le Morte d'Arthur place Arthur’s landing at Dover, re-introduce the battle, and have Gawain killed by a blow on the head by an oar, as previously told in the Didot Perceval. No mention is made of Angusel.
Most early sources also bring in a second battle, at Winchester. Arthur wins this fight, and Mordred flees to the final battlefield. Lawman claims that Mordred left his knights to fight and die at Winchester, while he stole secretly away.
Alternate Welsh TraditionEdit
The first two entries in triad 54, in Bromwich’s numbering, are (translated by Rachel Bromwich):
Three unbridled ravagings of the Isle of Britain:
The first of them, when Medrawd came to Arthur's court in Celli Wig in Cornwalll; he left neither food nor drink in the court he did not consume, and he also pulled Gwenhwyfar out of her chair of state, and then he struck a blow upon her.
And the second unbridled Ravaging, when Arthur came to Medrawd’s court; he left neither food nor drink in either the court or the cantref.
The Last BattleEdit
The Location of the BattleEdit
Geoffrey of Monmouth places the last battle on the River Camel in Cornwall, this possibly explaining the name, Camlann. Wace has the same setting. But seemingly the initial “C” of “Camel” was corrupted to “T” in at least one manuscript, because Lawman and the English Alliterative Morte Arthure place the battle on the river Tamar in Cornwall. The author of the Didot Perceval claims that Mordred fled to Ireland, perhaps misunderstanding a source which said that Mordred had fled “towards Ireland”. In this country, Mordred comes across an “island” ruled by a Saxon king, a descendant of Hengist, who welcomes him. The Vulgate Mort Artu insists the battle occurred on Salisbury Plain, where there indeed happens to be a river Cam. It is followed, in this, by the English Stanzaic Morte d’Arthur and by Malory. Hector Boece in his Scotorum Historia places the battle on the Humber. Scattered chronicles and recorded folk tales put the battle in other places.
Description According to Henry of HuntingdonEdit
In his Letter to Warin, Henry of Huntingdon provides a summary of a version of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae which differs somewhat from the standard version. Arthur comes upon Mordred with his men and declares he will slay him, charges alone through Mordred’s supporters, seizes Mordred, and beheads him. But in doing so Arthur had received so many wounds that he was mortally wounded. Some later chroniclers follow this more vivid account
Description According to the Alliteratve Morte ArthureEdit
The English Alliterative Morte Arthure tells that Mordred has changed the device on his shield from the scalloped saltire he used to bear to three silver lions passant on a purple background. Mordred carries the ceremonial sword Clarent which Arthur had inherited from King Uther and kept clean of battle, using it only for crownings and dubbing of new knights. Clarent has been kept in the wardrobe at Wallingford, to which Guenevere alone has the keys. Arthur himself carries his battle sword Caliburn.
Arthur sees Modred kill Marrok, an old knight. He attacks Mordred. Mordred gives Arthur a mortal wound on his right side. But Arthur cuts off Mordred’s sword hand and arm, an inch from the elbow. Mordred falls. Arthur drags him upright and sticks Mordred with Caliburn up to the hilt. Mordred, being dead, his men flee, chased by Arthur’s men. Most of Modred’s men are slain, but that is also true for most of Arthur’s men. The remaining Knights of the Round Table take the mortallly-wounded King Arthur to Glastonbury, where Arthur dies and is buried.
Description According to the Vulgate Mort ArtuEdit
Arthur reaches Salisbury Plain first, and is waiting when Mordred and his men arrive. King Arthur has ten divisions, led by Yvain, King Yon, King Caradoc, King Cabarentin of Cornwall, King Angusel of Scotland, Girflet, Lucan the Wine Steward, Sagremor the Foolhardy, Guivret, and King Arthur leading the strongest division. Mordred has twenty divisions, for Mordred has more men than Arthur. Mordred himself is in the last and strongest division, for he has learned that Arthur on his side is in the last division, and Mordred wishes to fight with him. Mordred’s first division is led by Arcan, the brother of Mordred’s ally, the Saxon king.
Yvain kills Arcan and then later also kills Arcan’s brother, the Saxon king. The battle continues. King Yon is killed by an Irish knight. Yvain avenges King Yon by killing the Irish knight. King Caradoc and Heliades, whom Mordred has made King of Scotland, mortally wound one another. The battle continues.
Mordred, with four hundred of his finest knights, attacks King Arthur’s division. Mordred and King Arthur meet in single combat, and King Arthur strikes Mordred down, but 2,000 of Mordred’s knights come to Mordred’s rescue.
King Arthur and Mordred battle personally again. Then Galegantin the Welsh charges at Mordred, but Mordred beheads him. A knight from Northumberland strikes down Arthur just as Arthur was about to strike Mordred. Yvain strikes down the knight from Northumberland and rehorses Arthur. Mordred, angered that Arthur is again mounted, charges at Yvain with his sword and splits Yvain’s skull to his teeth.
Meanwhile Arthur’s knights are fighting so well against Mordred’s four hundred that all but twenty have been hacked to pieces by mid-afternoon. Of more than one hundred thousand men that had been on the plain in the morning, no more than three hundred are still alive, and of the Knights of the Round Table, only King Arthur, Lucan, Girflet, and Sagremor are still alive, and Sagremor is badly wounded.
Then Mordred rides against Sagremor with such force that Sagremor’s head is torn off and flies across the field. King Arthur, enraged, attacks Mordred with his lance which he thrusts right through Mordred’s body. When Arthur withdraws the lance, the wound is so large that a ray of the sun shines through it. Mordred, knowing that he has had his death wound, makes a final attack on his father, King Arthur, and gives to him also a mortal wound, cutting away part of King Arthur’s skull. Both Arthur and Mordred tumble from their horses. The father has killed the son and the son has mortally wounded the father.
Description According to the Post-Vulgate Mort ArtuEdit
The Post-Vulgate Mort Artu gives a much abridged version of the Vulgate Mort d’Artu account, but with some additions. It mentions there was an attempt to make peace on both sides, but it fails when the king will not agree. It also says that seven kings were killed on King Arthur’s side, along with Yvain son of Urien, Kay of Estral, Dodinel the Wild, and Bran of Lys and a good twenty of the Round Table. Mordred kills six unnamed companions of the Round Table with his own hands, and has never before done such deeds of arms.
Description According to the Tavolo RitondoEdit
Arthur’s forces reach Urbano, and when Modred refuses to withdraw, a battle breaks out in which almost all on both sides are slain, but Mordred is the victor.
Description According to the Stanzac Morte ArthurEdit
The English Stanzac Morte Arthur differs little from the Vulgate Mort Artu.
One difference is that King Arthur believes the advice that Gawain has given him in a dream to delay the battle. An agreement is made according to Mordred shall rule Cornwall and Kent while King Arthur is alive, and be recognized as King Arthur’s heir to receive all of Britain, when King Arthur dies. But neither Arthur nor Mordred trusts the other, and before finalizing the treaty, both order their men to attack at once if they see a sword drawn. While Arthur and Mordred are negotiating the treaty, an adder in the grass stings one of Mordred’s knights. The knight, not thinking, whips out his sword to kill the adder, King Arthur’s men see the sword, and begin the battle.
The other difference is that Girflet is replaced by Bedwyr in this telling.
Description According to Malory’s Le Morte d’ArthurEdit
Malory generally follows the English Stanzac Morte Arthur, including the story of the adder and replacing Girflet with Bedwyr. Malory also places the final encounter between Arthur and Mordred on foot. Arthur sees Mordred leaning on his sword in a heap of dead men. Arthur runs toward Mordred with the spear in his hands. While the Vulgate Mort Artu has Arthur then pull the spear out of the wound, in this account Mordred forces his body up the spear and strikes his father on the head into the brain.
Description According to Hector Boece’s Scotorum HistoriaEdit
Arthur comes with an army from Armorica and Great Britain against King Mordred of the Picts and King Eugene of Scotland. Arthur is now willing to recognize that Mordred has justice on his side, and would recognize Mordred again as his heir. But Arthur’s nobles will not agree, and they refuse to listen to their bishops when they argue for peace.
So war breaks out. Gawain, Mordred’s brother, sides with Arthur. Mordred is killed on one side, and King Arthur and Gawain on the other. King Eugene of Scotland can claim to be victor.
Disposal of Modred’s BodyEdit
Description According to the Annals of MarganEdit
The Annals of Margan, written about 1235, claim that Mordred was buried at Glastonbury in the same tomb as Arthur and Guenevere. It is possible that this represents an early interpretation of the finding of the bodies. Gerald of Wales, refers to the log being divided into thirds. The Perlesvaus refers to the head of Arthur’s son Lohot being buried in the tomb, while the Lancelot texts have Lucan die and be buried there, suggesting indeed that a third body may have been found, or at least the head of a third body.
Description According to the Post-Vulgate Mort ArtuEdit
The Vulgate Mort Artu, when Lancelot returns to Britain, relates that Bliobleheris was one of the knights who survived the battle, inconstant though this is with its earlier statements. Bliobleheris is introduced in the Post-Vulgate Mort Artu immediately following Arthur’s slaying of Mordred as the knight who rehorses the mortally wounded Arthur. Bliobleheris then ties Mordred’s corpse to his horse’s tail, and drags the corpse over the battlefield, until the corpse is torn to pieces, and only the skull remains. (Compare Henry of Huntingdon’s account.)
Of the sixty thousand that had began the fight that morning, everyone on Mordred’s side has been killed, and on Arthur’s side only sixty are left alive, of which the only ones still on horseback are the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bliobleheris, Girflet, Lucan, and King Arthur. King Arthur orders the Archbishop and Bliobleheris to remain on the battlefield, and to build a tower to contain the heads of those slain in the battle, with Mordred’s head hanging from the top by a great chain.
The Archbishop and Bliobleheris have the tower built as they have been told, and name it the Tower of the Dead. Mordred’s head remains hanging in the tower until Charlemagne, in his day, comes to England to see the tower. Ganelon, the traitor, comes with Charlemagne, and thinks that Mordred’s skull being on display is an affront and warning to all traitors, of which he considers himself to be one. Ganelon, by night, takes down the skull and hides it somewhere secret.
This account claims that some of the walls of the tower can still be seen.
Of Mordred’s SonsEdit
Most accounts say that Mordred left two sons who attempt to gain Britain for themselves, but their power was destroyed, either by King Constantine, according to one account, or by Lancelot and his forces according to another. See Meleon for more details.
Versions in which Mordred is Still AliveEdit
Mordred continues to besiege Urbano. Guenevere sends a message to Lancelot in Gaul, asking for help. Lancelot crosses the sea with his forces, arrives at Urbano, and a battle breaks out. Most of the combatants on both sides are slain, but Lancelot kills Mordred with a blow on his helm. Lancelot and Guenevere learn of Arthur’s death from a squire who alone accompanied Arthur until he was taken across the sea. Guenevere dies of shock and sorrow. Lancelot has her buried and Lancelot joins a hermitage in the forest of Darnantes (Andernantes) where three of his kinsmen have already retired. He lives for a year and three months, becoming a priest, and then dies.The city of Camelot and the surrounding territory is mostly abandoned.
Jean des Preis’ Ly Myreur des HistorsEdit
Mordred here survives the great battle and is now king.
But Lancelot of the Lake, the only Knight of the Round Table still alive, assembles his people, takes with him his vassal king, Caradoc of Little Britain, and besieges and captures London. Lancelot executes Guenevere and shuts up Mordred with her corpse, which in his extreme hunger, Mordred eats. Then Mordred dies of starvation.
Lancelot gives the kingdom to Constantine, who is here said to be King Caradoc’s son, and becomes a hermit.
Some Name VariationsEdit
FRENCH: Mordret, -drés, -drez, Mordrec, Mordrech, Mordat; LATIN: Modredus; ENGLISH: Modred, Moddred, Modredes, Modræd, Moddræd, Modrede, Moddrede, Moddredes, Moddrade, Modread, Mordred, Mordrede, Mordret, -e, Mordrett, Mordered, Mordreid; MALORY: Mordred, -e, Mordreds; SPANISH: Mordred; PORTUGUESE: Moordret, Mordrec, Morderec, Morderet, Mordaret; ITALIAN: Morderete, Morderette; WELSH: Medrawd (Medraut, Medrud, Medrod).Changed spelling, added links