Knights of the Round Table

Knights of the Round Table

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The legend of king arthur and the knights of the round table story

The story of King Arthur is one of the most famous Celtic myths. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table who followed him are widely known in western Europe. As these stories are of strong Christian color, they were accepted and circulated in the medieval Europe in a short period of time.

In the Arthurian legend, Arthur Pendragon (King Arthur, also known as Artorius) was the illegitimate child of his father Uther. Later, his father listened to the suggestion of great wizard Merlin, and put Arthur in foster care of an ordinary noble family. Arthur was elected the new king of Britain after he drew out the sword of Galgano Guidotti embedded in a rock. After that, he acquired the legendary sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake.

Britain had been under the oppression of Roman Empire for a long time since the 1 st century AD. Around 500 AD, Saxons, a Germanic ptribe invaded and looted Britain. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table led people to rise up in resistance. They successfully repelled the Saxons from north after twelve campaigns. Finally, they smashed the enemy in the Battle of Badon, and drove all the alien invaders out of Britain.

During the war against Saxons, the Knights of the Round Table became an important part of the kingdom. According to legend, King Arthur once had 150 knights. They did not only fight in the battlefield, but also discuss domestic affairs at the Round Table. Although they formed some factions due to the differences in political views, but at the Round Table they were allowed to have free speech regardless of identity and status. Many legendary stories took place on the legendary Round Table, including the quest for the Holy Grail.

In the later, King Arthur married Queen Guinevere, who however fell in love with Sir Lancelot, an excellent member of the Knights of the Round Table. Later on, Sir Lancelot rescued Queen Guinevere when she was about be executed by fire, and they fled to France.

Had held the grudge against the shame of losing his wife, King Arthur decided to lead an expedition by himself after being incited by his nephew Sir Gawain. But during the expedition, his fellow knight Mordred betrayed him and revolted. King Arthur returned to Britain immediately once learning the news. When the peace negotiation was undergoing, a snake secretly climbed up a knight, who drew his sword and chopped the snake. This was the sign that a bloody war would soon break out.

In the Battle of Camlann, both armies suffered heavy casualties. In the end, King Arthur killed Mordred with his sword Excalibur, but he was also hit by Mordred’s deadly strike.

King Arthur passed away after ordering his last knight Sir Bedivere to throw his sword Excalibur back to the lake. However, as is described in many other works of literature regarding King Arthur, the dying King Arthur was shipped to Avalon by three mysterious fairies. He was buried there, but people believed that he did not die and would come back to save them one day.

YOUR knights of the round table

If you can sit down and have a discussion with anyone dead or alive, who would it be. You as King Arthur will choose who are your knights of the round table. Here are mine in no particular order:

1)Shao Yung
2)Scipio Africanus
3)Mustafa Kemal
5)Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II
6)Zhuge Liang
7)Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus
8)Genghis Khan
9)Miyamoto Musashi


While some of these men might not have been the greatest fighters, I would have liked them at my round table

1. Julius Caesar
2. Napoleon
3. Genghis Kahn
4. Patton
5. Richard I
6. Saladin
7. Einstein
8. Stephen Hawking
9. Achilles
10. Aggamemnon (spelling?)


1. Hitler
2. Stalin
3. William I
4. Nero
5. Alexander
6. Mussalini
7. Kahn
8. Ivan the Terrible
9. Benedict Arnold
10. Ted Kazinski

I picked all the terrible/ruthless people/murders for my list. They'll help me conquer and army and seize all visible land!



These are in no particular order.

1. Napoleon
2. Robert E. Lee
3. Stonewall Jackson
4. William T. Sherman
5. Julius Caesar
6. Einstein
7. Alexander
8. Eratosthenes
9. Lord Admiral Nelson
10. Pythagoras

1 Napoleon
2 Edward I
3 Sir Walter Raleigh
4 Lord Nelson
5 Otto Von Bismarck
6 Aristotle
7 Vladimir Lenin
8 Erwin Rommel
9 William T Sherman
10 Karl Marx

The greatest military leaders and intellectuals


1. Alexander the Great
2. Phillip of Macedonia
3. Socrates
4. Pericles
5. Napoleon Bonaparte
6. Julius Caesar
7. Alcibidies
8. Erwin Rommel
9. Abraham Lincoln
10. Louis XIV
11. Winston Churchill
12. Otto von Bismark
13. Marcus Aurilius (spelling?)
14. Prince Eugene of Savoy
15. Fredrick the Great
16. Machievelli (spelling?)
17. Plato
18. Old "Blood and Guts" Patton!

I know its a long list but I think a mix of philosphy, poloitics and military leaders would make a good discusion.

If I"m King Arthur, I get to pick whoever I want to be at my round table, huh? Okay, here goes, but in no particular order:

1. Einstein
2. Napoleon
3. Joan of Arc
4. Charles Darwin
5. Franklin D. Roosevelt
6. Elizabeth I
7. Saladin
8. Richard I
9. Thomas Jefferson
10. William Blake

I am trying to stay away from "military" types, unless they did some other things, but obviously not entirely. I also included some women in this list(the rest of you seemed to think that only men were eligible for this Round Table). IOW, I wanted an interesting mix. I suspect King Arthur would, too.
Anne G

Who Were King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table?

The Arthurian knights, who sat with King Arthur around a circular table, became the focal point of fellowship between knights. Some of them are famous as heroes and champions of just cause. In theory, they were brothers however, jealousy, envy and hatred existed with the fellowship. There were enemies within the Round Table as well as those who were not member of the fellowship. In the end, it was adultery committed by one of its members, Lancelot, with Arthur’s queen, the enmity of Gawain, and the betrayal of Mordred that finally brought about downfall of Arthur’s kingdom.

You can read about the origin and the meanings of the Round Table in the Origin of the Round Table.

In this section of Arthurian Legends, the Round Table contained information and some stories of the Knights of the Round Table. I would not even think of trying to list all the knights in the Round Table, since each writers gives a different list. However, I will list all the popular knights who figured prominently in the legends.

The most extensive list of name was found in the Post-Vulgate romance of the Grail (78:49-51), which has 110 names out of the 150.

According to Wace and Layamon

Geoffrey of Monmouth was usually seen as one of the first who brought the Arthurian world to life, though there are scattered works, references and oral traditions from Wales and Brittany. Yet, in his Historia regum Britanniae (“History of the Kings of Britain”, c. 1137), a number of essential elements that make up the Arthurian world, didn’t appear in his work. The heroes, Lancelot and Perceval were no where to be seen. There was also no Camelot, no Holy Grail, and more importantly, no Round Table.

It wasn’t until 1155, when an Anglo-Norman author from Jersey, named Wace, wrote down his Roman de Brut in French, and introduced the Round Table into the Arthurian legend. However, Wace’s version was different to what we popularly know today about the Round Table.

The knights were usually of noble birth: they were usually kings and princes, dukes, counts (or earls) and barons. They formed the backbone of the army, since they were the only one who could afford expensive armour and weapon, as well as the cost of training and maintaining the war-horse.

When the knights attend a festival or council at the king’s main hall, those who sat at the head of table, usually have precedence over others. These knights would feel envy or jealousy to those of higher ranking. Sometimes, the knights would cause a brawl, over who would take the seat at the head of table.

To resolve these problems, Arthur resorted to having his table constructed in a rounded shape. The ingenuity of this design, make all the knights equal, regardless if he was a king or a minor baron. No one would have precedence over others.

The knights in Arthur’s company became known as the “Knights of the Round Table”. These knights were heroes, renowned for their strength and courage, and for their skill in combat and warfare. They swore to protect the king and the kingdom.

Layamon, the English author of Brut (c. 1200), who wrote the adaptation of Wace’s work, further elaborate the origin of the Round Table.

So the Round Table actually began in a more basic tradition, that of political expenditure. There was no magical or mystical ingredient that would appeared later in this century or early next century. (See the Life of King Arthur, for the early tradition.)

Note that at this time, there was still no Grail to be sought, nor were there heroes such as Perceval or Galahad.

Boron and the Vulgate Cycle

When the Grail romance became more firmly rooted in the Arthurian legend, the Round Table became directly linked or indirectly with the Grail. The table did not become just furniture to seat Arthur’s knights, nor was it to solve a problem of precedence between knights.

Though, the French writer Chretien de Troyes was the first to write about the Grail and the hero Perceval (in c. 1180, titled Conte du Grail), the Round Table was not linked to the Grail at all. It wasn’t until around 1200 that Robert de Boron, a French poet, wrote his trilogy that the Round Table became more entwined with the Grail.

According to Boron and the Vulgate Cycle (1227-1235), the Round Table was devised and created by Merlin, during the reign of Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur.

Merlin used the tables of the Last Supper and of Joseph of Arimathea, as models for the Round Table (See the Origin of the Holy Grail, about Joseph of Arimathea and the Grail Table). The Queste del Saint Graal says that Merlin made the table round, because he wanted it to symbolise the roundness of the Earth.

However, when Uther died, the Round Table was passed on to King Leodegan (Leodegraunce) of Camelide (Camelerd), one of his allies and the father of Guinevere. When Arthur married Guinevere, Leodegan gave the Round Table to Arthur as a wedding gift, along with one hundred knights of Leodegan.

Since the Round Table could seat 150 knights, it was Merlin who help Arthur to chose the last fifty knights. Each seat (sieges) would have the name of knight magically written on the back of the seat, in letters of gold. One seat, however, remained unoccupied until the Grail knight appeared. The Archbishop of Canterbury blessed the members who sat around the Round Table.

Though, most writers say that the Round Table could seat 150 knights, the number can vary, depending on whose works you were reading. In Perlesvaus (Le Haut Livre du Graal) and Li chevaliers as deus espees (The Knight of Two Swords), there were 366 knights.

This seat was known as the Siege Perilous. See Siege Perilous.

As the legend evolved and the tales of the Grail became more firmly rooted in the Arthurian legend (in the 13th-14th century), there was only one seat left vacate, that was the seat that no other knights could sit upon: the “Siege Perilous“.

Like the table of Joseph of Arimathea (Grail Table), only one of the seats was left vacated. The Siege Perilous was reserved for the true Grail knight, and would remained unoccupied until the Grail hero appeared. Anyone who sat on it would be killed. Not even, Joseph of Arimathea, his brother-in-law, Bron, and Alain le Gros, Bron’s son, could sit on the Perilous Seat of the Grail Table. While Perceval was meant to sit on this perilous seat.

Please note that the Grail Table, which was the table built by Joseph of Arimathea, and the table designed by Merlin, were two different table. The Grail Table was represented the table of spirituality, while the Round Table was for the secular fellowship of Arthurian knights. The Round Table was very much the symbol of Arthur’s power as was his sword Excalibur and his castle abode Camelot.

According to most of the legend, the Grail knight was Perceval, whom the seat was reserved for, until the Vulgate Cycle was composed in 1230. Galahad would take up Perceval’s role as the new Grail knight.

The true Grail hero must be knight with the purest heart, who was not only chaste, but also a virgin without sins. That knight was Galahad (Perceval according to Boron), the son of Lancelot, the only knight allowed understanding of the mystery of the Holy Grail.

Round Table of Many Colours

As I have said before, the Fellowship of the Round Table was very much like the knightly orders of the medieval world of that time.

The military orders had began during the First Crusade, where the Crusaders attempt to establish hospitals for those serving in the Holy Land (Palestine). They were intended to care for the sick pilgrims and the wounded knights whom fought the Muslims. The first two orders were established on the Holy Land. The Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem were commonly known as the Knights Hospitaller (1113) and the Order of the Temple of Solomon became simply known as the Templars (1119). The two orders were later recognised by the internationally and by the Pope.

Other orders were established, sometimes by rulers. In Germany, the best known order was Teutonic Order (1189-1525). The Teutonic Knights were established during the Third Crusade, but left the Holy Land in 1291, so these knights moved to Hungary, and later invaded and occupied Prussia. In England, during the Hundred Years’ War, Edward III had established the Order of the Garter, in 1348. Around the same time, Philip VI established a rival order to the Garter, known as Chevalier d’Etoil.

These order wear a particular types of surcoats, shield. The Templar wore white surcoat with a red cross, while the knight of the Teutonic Order wore white surcoat with a black cross. Some of orders have a particular motto or war cry.

Unlike these medieval military orders, Arthur had never established such rules and heraldic designs upon his knights. Each wore knight wore what armour, surcoat or shield they choose. Some knights wore design upon their shields or surcoats where they could be recognised. Often a knight would wear one of the colours, the most common being white, black, red, green and blue.

In Conte du Graal and other tales about Perceval, Perceval was usually seen as the Red Knight, because the untrained youth had killed a Red Knight that had spilled wine on Queen Guinevere. In the episode of Sir Gareth, in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1469), Gawain’s brother was the White Knight.

The great hero Lancelot wore any armour and shield he was given, due to the fact that he like to travel incognito, so no one would recognise him. Especially when he was on an adventure or participating in the tournament. In the Prose Lancelot (Vulgate Cycle, c. 1227) Lancelot started out being knighted as a White Knight, where the Lady of the Lake provided his armour and weapon, but he changed his armour many times, so he was also the Red Knight, Green Knight and then Black Knight. This would often cause trouble for him.

Shields sometimes have depictions of animals, sometimes of the crown or sword. Other times, the shield had only one colour or sometimes they had a stripe or two. As I had said, there were no constraint or rule in the Arthurian legend. According to the 9th century historian Nennius, Arthur carried a shield with image of the Virgin Mary into battle.

Despite, the lack of uniformity within the fellowship, Arthur and his knights did have a war cry, which they would yell out – “Clarence!“.

Merlin was a prophet and sorcerer, who could pierce the past and look into the future. Merlin foresaw the quest for the grail. Merlin, who was the son of a demon and pious virgin nun, Merlin became the champion of causes Arthur and the Knight of the Round Table. Merlin saw that the reign of Arthur was the best potential of creating a perfect world.

Merlin used the table of the Last Supper and table of Joseph of Arimathea as the models for the Round Table. The Round Table therefore became a link to the Grail.

The Round Table had further symbolic and mystical meanings. Merlin created the table to resemble the roundness of the world. Merlin dreamed of making a perfect world when he created the Round Table. The Round Table became the symbols of courage and chivalry.

The table was more than a dowry of Guinevere. In a way, Guinevere symbolised the kingdom of Logres (Britain). Arthur, who was Logres king, was not only wedded to Guinevere he became wedded to the land. This link between the rulers who were wedded the land was common themes in Celtic myths.

Though, the Round Table represented the world, it was an imperfect world, because the knights were flawed (except for Galahad, who was spiritually perfect). The knights were imperfect and had human failings.

The results of the Quest, when the Grail vanished from the world, it also meant the withdrawal of God’s grace from Logres. Though the enchantment on Logres was broken and the Maimed King healed, the salvation did not come to the Brotherhood of the Round Table. Instead they were punished for their failings and their sins.

One of the most notable failings of the Round Table was that Lancelot, the greatest knight in the world, was in love with Queen Guinevere. Lancelot and Guinevere had committed adultery, thereby stained the honour of the Round Table. Arthur’s war against Lancelot had split the Round Table into two factions, and left him terribly weakened when Mordred betrayed him.

Another failing was Mordred, who also belonged to the Round Table, and was born as the result of incest, between Arthur and his half-sister Morgawse. Mordred would allow his own lust for power and his father’s wife (Guinevere), to seize the kingdom during Arthur’s absence.

Another factor that brought an end to the Round Table, was Arthur’s pride. Despite warning in his dream by Gawain, his refusal to asked Lancelot to aid him in the war against Mordred, hastened his own doom.

The Round Table from the Winchester Castle
Winchester Castle, Winchester

In early Welsh tales (before Geoffrey of Monmouth), Gawain appeared as Gwalchmei or Gwalchmai, and his name means – “Hawk of May”. Gwalchmei was the son of Gwyar and brother of Gwalhaved (“Hawk of Summer”), in Culhwch and Olwen, one of the independent tales of the Mabinogion, as well as that of Medraut (Mordred). Gawain or Gwalchmei was sometimes identified as the Irish sun god Lugh (Lug), because Gwalchmei appeared to be a solar god as well.

Gawain was known as Gualguanus by Geoffrey and Walwein by Wace. His name was Gauvain in most French medieval romances.

Gawain said to have several different mothers, brothers and sisters, depending on who the authors were. We are absolutely certain that Gawain was the son of Lot, king of Lothian or Orkney (if we ignored the Welsh legends). According to Geoffrey of Monmouth and his redactors (Wace and Layamon), Gawain’s mother was Anna, who was Arthur’s full sister. These three authors only mentioned Gawain having only one brother, Mordred. Gawain and Mordred were the nephews of King Arthur.

Other authors say that Lot was married to Arthur’s half-sister named Morgawse or Norcadet. Morgawse was the mother of Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris and Gareth, but there was no Mordred (particularly in Chretien’s tale about the Grail (“Le Conte du Graal”). See page 480 of the Arthurian Romances, published in Penguin Classics). However, Chretien does not mention the name of Gawain’s mother, but in the First Continuation, Igraine called her daughter Norcadet not Morgawse.

In L’Âtre périlleux or “The Perilous Cemetary”, the woman of the cemetary said that Gawain’s mother was a fairy, which implied that the fairy was none other than Morgan le Fay.

Some says that Gawain’s last two brothers Gaheris and Gareth were named Gaheriet (Keheriet) and Guerrehet, particular in many of the French works (eg. Vulgate Cycle). The French and English name of the last two brothers present other problems. There was some confusion if Gaheriet was Gaheris or Gareth. Normally, most medieval and modern scholars would say that Gaheriet and Gaheris was the same person, while Guerrehet was Gareth.

Yet in the Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Gareth played the same role of Gaheriet in the Vulgate Mort Artu.

In the Vulgate Cycle, Post-Vulgate Cycle and Morte d’Arthur, the authors wrote that Mordred was Morgawse’s son by her own half-brother Arthur. So Mordred was only Gawain’s half-brother.

There are the same problems with Gawain’s sisters. Two sisters appeared in Chretien’s two works. In Cliges, Soredamors married the Greek prince, Alexander, and became mother of the hero Cliges. In Le Conte du Graal, his sister was named Clarissant, when Gawain found himself in Castle of Marvels that belonged to the hero’s mother and grandmother.

In another Grail story, Didot Perceval, his sister Elaine fell in love with the hero Perceval. While in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival (c. 1210), Gawain had a brother named Beacurs and three sisters: Surdamur, Curdrie and Itonje. They were children of King Lot and Sangive (Anna or Morgawse).

Several sons had been attributed to him, though he seemed to have never married, except in Parzival, where his wife was Orgeluse. In Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, Gawain was the father of Florence and Lovel.

The most famous of Gawain’s son was named Guinglain (called Giglain or Gingalin by Malory). Guinglain was better known as the “Fair Unknown“, because he did not know his own name. Guinglain was the hero of Arthurian romance called Le Bel Inconnu (c. 1185-1190). Gawain had made love to a fay named Floree. In Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, Guinglain’s mother was named Blancemal, while in other romances say that it was Ragnell. The Second Grail Continuation mentioned Gawain meeting his son for the first time.

In the Knight of the Sword, Gawain won the love of a lady, but abandoned her, when she betrayed him. Though, Gawain appeared to marry several times and had love affairs, in various tales, so he could not settle down with any of them. For this reason, Gawain appeared to most authors as a womaniser or the “ladies’ man”.

There are many ladies and damsels who loved Gawain only because of his reputation as a great knight, even though, they had never met him.

Though many legend say that Arthur had one or more illegitimate sons (except in the Perlesvaus, where Loholt was son of Arthur and Guinevere), it was Gawain who was heir to the king. However, when Gawain died, it was a different nephew of Arthur who succeeded him as the king – Constantine.

Earlier legends made him the perfect or ideal knight. Gawain was the first knight to symbolise the paragon of courage and chivalry. Chretien say that Gawain that his valour matched his courtesy. In Erec and Enide, he was the first good knight, Erec and Lancelot being second and third in prowess, when they were seated around the table. Gawain was the yardstick, which all knights measured their valour.

In the Welsh legend, Gawain was known as Gwalchmei, or Gwalchmai, which means the “Hawk of May” in the Celtic calendar, the first of May was the start of summer. His brother Gwalhaved’s name means “Hawk of Summer”. In every legend and myth of other cultures, the hawk symbolised the sun, which is appropriate, since the hawk is a bird of prey that only hunt during the day. So Gwalchmei also appeared to be a solar god, like that of the Irish god, Lugh. Gwalchmei appeared not only as a hero and a nephew of Arthur, he was also son of the goddess Gwyar. According to Culhwch and Olwen, Gwalchmei was both nephew and first cousin of Arthur.

Gwalchmei had also being compared with the greatest Irish hero, Cu Chulainn, who was the son of the solar god Lugh. In the tale of Culhwch and Olwen, Gwalchmei was the hero who “never returned without fulfilling his quest”. Gwalchmei was also the best walker and rider. This Gwalchmei was the precursor of the hero Gawain.

In several scenes, Gawain seemed to know how to care for wounds and knew herbs. Such skills suggested that Gawain may have being a god of healing.

In the German Grail romance, Diu Krône (mid-13th century), Gawain was the Grail hero. He won the Grail, from which he was joyfully welcomed by the goddess of the Grail Castle.

Some authors always mentioned how in a duel, Gawain’s strength will always revitalised at noon he always fight refreshed when the sun reached its peak, but his strength gradually diminished as each hour past noon. The origin of Gawain’s strength originated in Nordelone, a city of Orkney, where Gawain was born at noon. The seers foretold that he would be at his most dangerous, when he was fighting at noon, when his opponent would begin to feel weary. However, if his opponent managed to last until none, Gawain’s level of strength would be dramatically reduced, and he would begin to tire.

In some story, he was seen wielding Excalibur, though this sword was normally associated with his uncle, King Arthur. I am uncertain, whether this is the same fabled sword that belonged to King Arthur or not. His horse was named Gringalet (Gringolet), and his squire was named Yvonet. In the Welsh tradition, Gwalchmei rode a horse, called Ceingalad.

Gawain wielding Excalibur indicated that he was Arthur’s heir to the throne. In most tales, Gawain was always seen loyal to Arthur, and was originally the champion of Queen Guinevere. According to the Rise of Gawain, one of his foster-fathers was the Roman Emperor. Had Gawain stayed in Rome, the story implied that Gawain would have succeeded his foster father, and become emperor.

Only in a very few French Arthurian romances, does he appeared as the main hero.

In the Vulgate Merlin (c. 1240), Gawain was not yet member of the Round Table, having only recently become a new knight at the wedding of Arthur and Guinevere. Gawain and other young knights, including his cousin Yvain, decided to serve Guinevere, where they become known as the Queen’s Knights. Guinevere accepted this honour. In the Vulgate Merlin, his character was was allowed to shine brightly. Gawain and his companions soon distinguished themselves in tournaments and battles, outperforming the established knights of the Round Table. Yet his heroism was to be eclipsed by Lancelot, in the next three Vulgate romance, Lancelot Proper, Queste del Saint Graal and Mort Artu (c. 1227-1235).

Gawain was the hero of in L’Atre Péilleux (The Perilous Cemetery, c. 1250) and the Latin work De Ortu Walwanii (The Rise of Gawain, c. 1270).

His greatest adventure was undoubtedly, the Gawain and the Green Knight, written by some unknown English author in the mid-14th century. Here, he was involved in a beheading game with the Green Knight. The Green Knight had challenged Arthur’s knights to behead him, but the knight must offer his own head in one-year time. Only Gawain had dared to accept the challenge. Gawain escaped with his head, because the Green Knight had spared him, where the axe had only nick him.

Fallen Perfect Knight

But when the Grail legend became part of the Arthurian legends, Lancelot and Galahad or Perceval later supplanted him, as the ideal knight. Sir Thomas Malory mentioned six knights who were better than Gawain: Lancelot, Tristram (Tristan), Bors, Perceval, Pelleas and Marhaus (Morholt).

Gawain seemed to play an important role in Chretien’s unfinished story of the Grail (Conte du Graal), but the author never finished his poem. However, in the First Continuation and the German romance called Diu Krône, Gawain was made hero of the Grail quest.

In Conte du Graal, Gawain met the Haughty Maiden of Logres, named Orgueilleuse, who treated Gawain with contempt and scorn. Despite her attempts to humiliate Gawain or to trap the hero so he would be killed, Gawain was nevertheless, captivated by her beauty and scornful manner. Gawain was unfailing courteous to Orgueilleuse, treating her with respect, and accepting her insults with grace.

Of the heroes in the Arthurian legend, Gawain appeared most frequently in the Arthurian romances, particularly in the French literature, but his role were often secondary. Gawain was only the main hero in a very few French works. However, some of these tales showed him in poor light. He seemed to play a few comical parts in satires.

Also, Gawain wasn’t a French knight, like Lancelot, Galahad and Tristan. Since first appearance as a Welsh Gwalchmei, and his linkage with Orkney and Norway on his father’s side, the French authors tends to see Gawain as a knight with a past that back to the barbarous Vikings.

By the time of the Vulgate Cycle (Prose Lancelot and the Quest of the Holy Grail and the Death of King Arthur), he was no longer seen as ideal knight. Gawain was supplanted by Lancelot and Galahad. Gawain failed to find the Grail, because of his superficial and womanising way. For this sin, Gawain, like most of the other knights of the Round Table, didn’t realise that the Quest was a spiritual undertaking, not an adventure of prowess and chivalry. Of the thirty-two knights killed in the Grail quest, Gawain had unwittingly killed eighteen knights of the Round Table, including King Baudemagus and Yvain the Bastard. However, all these knights he had killed, was because he didn’t recognise the other questers his judgement was clouded by his sins.

In the Post-Vulgate version of Merlin Continuation and the Quest, Gawain’s reputations was even worse. Gawain had killed many other well-known knights, such as Erec and Palemedes. Here, Gawain was show as a treacherous murderer, slaughtering these knights, who he knew they belonged to Round Table. Gawain was also a coward too, because Erec and Palemedes were both wounded in previously combats with other knights, before he fought and killed them.

In the La Suite du Merlin and the Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Gawain and his brothers had a blood feud with Pellinor (Pellehen) and his son Lamorak (Lamorat or Lamerocke), the father and brother of Perceval. His enmity towards Pellinor, stemmed from Pellinor having killed Gawain’s father (Lot) in battle. At eleven, Gawain swore vengeance against Pellinor. Ten years later, Gawain and Gaheris murdered Pellinor. Later, Gawain and his brothers set a trap for Lamorak. Outnumbered, Lamorak was killed when Mordred stabbed him in the back.

The death of his brother Gaheriet in Mort Artu (Vulgate Cycle) (or Gareth in Malory’s Le Mort d’Arthur), when Lancelot had accidentally killed his brother when the hero rescued Guinevere, Lancelot earned Gawain’s enmity. Gawain persuaded Arthur to fight two unsuccessful wars against Lancelot: one at Joyeuse Guard, in Britain, the other at Gaunes, in Brittany.

When they realised that could not win the second war, Gawain challenged Lancelot to single combat, which would decide the guilt or innocence of Lancelot. Lancelot barely survived the duel when the sun had reached its peak. However, Gawain’s strength ebbed as the sun gradually dropped to the horizon. Lancelot defeated Gawain in a duel, where Gawain received a serious head wound. Despite his enmity towards him, Lancelot still loved Gawain, that he could not bring himself to kill his former companion. Gawain refused to yield to Lancelot, so Lancelot just walked away from the fighting.

In the war against the Romans, he fought against Lucius and would have killed the emperor, had the Lucius’ bodyguards beat him off. Gawain’s head wound reopened, which left him debilitated.

Gawain was dying when he heard news of Mordred’s treason. Gawain realised too late of his folly, for stubbornly pushing his uncle in a pointless and wasteful war against Lancelot. Gawain sent a letter to Lancelot asking for his forgiveness and hope that Lancelot would visit his tomb at Dover Castle. Gawain unsuccessfully tried to persuade Arthur to call for Lancelot to aid him in the war against Mordred. Not long after returning to Britain, Gawain died from the wound he received from Lancelot. He was buried in Dover Castle.

Gawain reappeared as a ghost, trying to warn Arthur again, not to face Mordred in battle without Lancelot to help him.

The Tale of Sir Gawain
Carving on the mirror lid
Civic Museum, Bolonia

Lancelot was the son of King Ban of Banoic (or Benoic or Benwick) and Helen or Elaine. (Since there are so many women in Lancelot’s life were named Elaine, his mother was usually referred to Elaine of Banoic or Elaine of Benwick.) His birth/baptismal name was Galahad, but was always called Lancelot, since his name was revealed in the cemetery of Dolorous Guard. According to the Grail legend, on his mother’s side, Lancelot was the descendant of the noble line of King David of Israel.

Lancelot was not found in Welsh sources, nor other early Arthurian authors – Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace and Laymon. Lancelot was a character first invented by Chretien de Troyes.

Lancelot’s name was first mentioned in Arthurian legend in the Erec and Enide, and appeared briefly when he was defeated in a tournament by the hero of the Cliges, both works of Chretien de Troyes. Both tales doesn’t mention anything about the affairs between Lancelot and Arthur’s wife.

However, Lancelot was the hero of Chretien’s third work, in the Knight of the Cart. For the first time, Lancelot became the lover of Guinevere. Lancelot had to rescue Guinevere from her abductor named Meleagant.

After Chretien de Troyes, stories of Lancelot’s love for Guinevere became the most popular and famous of Arthurian tales. It was heavily influenced by the romance of Tristan and Isolde.

Though Chretien also wrote the first story about the Grail, Lancelot was absence in Le Conte du Graal the two heroes were Perceval and Gawain. Lancelot first appearance in the Grail legend, was in the anonymous romance, titled Le Haut Livre du Graal, or sometimes known as Perlesvaus. In this tale, he along with Perceval and Gawain were the main characters, though it was Perceval who played the most vital role. See Perlesvaus.

However, in the Vulgate Cycle, Lancelot became the father of a new grail hero, who replaced Perceval as the main hero, written almost half-century after the first Grail’s story. Lancelot became the father of Galahad, by Elaine, the daughter of King Pelles.

In the Vulgate Cycle, a French collection of the Arthurian tales, better known as Lancelot-Graal cycle or Prose Lancelot. Lancelot was the principal character in the first and last work. Though he played a prominent part in the Quest of the Holy Grail (middle tale), he failed to win the Grail, because of his love for Guinevere, Arthur’s wife. Adultery was considered a mortal sin. This version of the story, required the knight to be free of sins, and either chaste or a virgin.

Chretien, who had invented Lancelot, was the first to allude to his birth, saying that he was raised by a lady who was a fairy. However, this fairy was not given a name or title. The lady had given him a magic ring that could break other magic spells. [See Arthurian Romances, p 236, translated by William Kibler, Penguin Classics, 1991]

His father, King Ban, had died of grief when he lost his kingdom to Claudas, king of the Waste Land. Lancelot’s mother, Helen (or Elaine), became a nun, when her infant son (Lancelot) had vanished with Niniane, Vivien or Nimue, better known as the Lady of the Lake.

The Lady of the Lake, who was a fay or faerie from the Otherworld, brought up Lancelot. The Lady of the Lake was named Niniane, Vivien or Nimue. The hero stayed with the Lady of the Lake until he was old enough to become a knight.

Later in the Lancelot (Vulgate Cycle), Lancelot helped Arthur to defeat Claudas. Arthur gave Gaul (France) to Lancelot, including the kingdoms of Banoic and Gaunes, that Claudas had acquired at the death of King Ban and King Bors. When the friendship ended between himself and the two men he loved most (Arthur and Gawain), Lancelot gave the kingdoms of Banoic and Gaunes to his cousins, Bors and Lionel, while he gave the kingdom of Gaul to Arthur.

His early adventure after being knighted, when Lancelot became lord of Dolorous Guard, which he had single-handedly conquered. Dolorous Guard was renamed to Joyous Guard, after he lifted the curse and enchantment from the castle.

Lancelot also became involved in a war between King Arthur and Galehaut (Galehot). Lancelot befriended Galehaut, the son of a giantess, Lord of the Sorelois and the Distant Isles (Remote Isles). Galehaut’s love for his new friend resulted in his willingness to surrender to Arthur, at the moment of victory. For this service, Lancelot was offered a place on the Round Table.

It was Galehaut who persuaded Queen Guinevere to return Lancelot’s love, and helped his friend to receive his first kiss from the queen. Even though, Galehaut wanted Lancelot to come back with him to his kingdom, Lancelot’s love for Guinevere takes precedence over his friendship with Galehaut. When Galehaut heard false news of Lancelot’s death, he fell ill and died. Galehaut was buried in Joyous Guard (formerly Dolorous Guard).

The next episode of the Vulgate Cycle was similar to the romance told by Chretien de Troyes’ Le Chevalier à la charrette (“Knight of the Cart” or “Lancelot”). The knight named Meleagant, son of Baudemagus, abducted the queen Lancelot sought to rescue the queen, by winning one duel against Meleagant, but spare his life. Lancelot was tricked into becoming Meleagant’s prisoner. Secretly imprisoned in remote tower for months, Lancelot was rescued by Meleagant’s sister. Lancelot turned up to face Meleagant in a second single combat. This time, Lancelot killed Meleagant by severing off his enemy’s head.

Elaine, the daughter of King Pelles of Listenois, the Fisher King, tricked Lancelot into sleeping with her. Lancelot thought he was sleeping with Guinevere. The union resulted in the birth of Galahad, the future hero of the Grail quest.

At this stage, Lancelot became the greatest knight in the world. However, during the search for the Holy Grail, Lancelot failed, due to his adulterous love for Guinevere, the queen and wife of Arthur. It was his son Galahad who rose to ascendancy and would completed the quest for the grail. (See the Quest of the Holy Grail.)

His affair with Guinevere became one of the most popular romances in Arthurian literature. After the Grail quest, their love set in motion in the destruction of Arthur’s kingdom and the dissolution of the fellowship of the Round Table. (See The Death of King Arthur).

Through their adultery, it resulted in the death of Gawain’s three brothers, where Lancelot earned Gawain’s enmity, the man whom Lancelot’s love above all other. Two disastrous battles, between Arthur and Lancelot, would reach its climax, with Gawain becoming mortally wounded by his former friend. Their war had let Mordred, Arthur’s illegitimate son and half-brother of Gawain, to commit treason Mordred had crowned himself king of Logres.

When news reached Lancelot of Arthur’s death in battle, Lancelot exchanged his armour for the habits, and became a monk. When he died, he was buried beside his friend Galehaut at Joyous Guard.

In many of the adventure, more than any other knights, Lancelot preferred to win these adventures, through various disguises. He was known as the White Knight, the Black Knight and the Red Knight. Other names he was known by are Injured Knight, Knight of the Cart, Knight of the Litter, Winner. He used these disguised by changing his armour. Sometimes changing to different shields, would achieve the same result allowing him to go from one adventure to another, without anyone recognising him.

At one time, Lancelot let himself be captured by Daguenet, Arthur’s Fool, so he was known as Daguenet’s Prisoner.

None of his horse, shield or armour had any name attached to them, though his sword was called Secace. Unlike Gawain who has one famous horse, all his life, Lancelot often used other people’s warhorses. He doesn’t show the same care for horses as Gawain does if warranted he would ride to them to death, as he did in Chretien’s Chevalier de la Charrete.

The symbol or motif that is most associated with Lancelot is the leopard. I don’t recall any heraldic symbol that has a leopard on it (like the emblazon on his surcoat or shield), but there are some visions which indicate that he was the leopard. In the Quest of the Holy Grail (chapter 6) from the Vulgate Cycle, Merlin had apparently foretold Lancelot’s son, Galahad, would surpass his father, as lion (Galahad) would surpass the leopard (Lancelot). This comparison between father and son, leopard and lion, can also be found in Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (Book 11, chapter 1 Book 14, chapter 2).

Sir Lancelot
Eleanor Fortescue Bricksdale

The problem was that the whole tale is so vague, such as the location of the Grail, the identity of the Grail and Perceval’s family.

Since Chretien’s Perceval had left no names to his family, other writers had tried to place name behind each of his family member.

According to Chretien, we know that his father and two brothers had died in battle. His mother tried to make Perceval ignorant of the ways of the knight and the court life, by living in the isolated forest, known as the Wasteland. Perceval would later meet a female cousin, who had lived with him and his mother when Perceval was very young. He also meet two uncles, one is the Fisher King, who dwelled in the Grail Castle, and the other was a hermit. Both uncles, including his female cousin come from his mother’s side of the family. One continuation on Chretien’s work says that Perceval has a sister.

His father name was Alain li Gros, in Robert de Boron’s trilogy about the Grail (c. 1200), the Didot Perceval (c. 1205) and Le Haut Livre du Graal, which is more popularly known as Perlesvaus (c. 1210). His mother was named Yglais, but this name was only given in Perlesvaus the Perlesvaus says that he also has a sister named Dindraine (or Dandrane). No brother was given to the three different tales.

Unlike most Grail romances, Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie and the Didot Perceval say that the Grail King (eg. Fisher King or Maimed King) comes from the his father’s side of the family. In the other Grail romances, the Fisher King usually appeared on his mother’s side of the family, (eg. Conte du Graal, Parzival, Perlesvaus).

Unlike Chretien’s Perceval, the Didot Perceval says that his grandfather was the incapacitated Fisher King, whose name was Bron (or Hebron). But in Perlesvaus, the Fisher King was his maternal uncle, like that of romance of Chretien and Wolfram.

According to the German poem, titled Parzival (c. 1205), which was written by Wolfram von Eschenbach, Gahmuret and Herzeloyde were Parzival’s parents. He has one half-brother, named Feirefiz, who was the son of Gahmuret and Belacane. The Fisher King was his maternal uncle, Anfortas.

According to one of the Welsh romances in the Mabinogion, titled Peredur Son of Evrawg (mid-13th century), where the hero was named Peredur. Here we have the identity of his father, named Evrawg, and who was an earl. This time, he has 6 brothers, who died in battle. His mother is still not named. He has two uncles. One of them, the hoary-haried man, who taught Peredur to fight, took over the role of Lord Gornemant of Gohort in Chretien’s Conte du Graal. The other uncle was like Chretien’s Fisher King.

In the Queste del Saint Graal (Vulgate romance, c. 1230), Perceval’s role in the Grail adventure was supplanted by a new named Galahad, son of Lancelot. Perceval’s father was revealed to be King Pellehen, and he has a sister, sometimes unnamed, but sometimes known as Dindraine. His brothers were Agloval and Drian. He was no longer related to the Grail family, eg. Fisher King. However, in the Post-Vulgate version, Perceval’s father was King Pellinor, hunter of the Questing Beast, while another brother was included to the Vulgate tale, Lamorat or Melodiam, and a half-brother, named Tor.

In the Vulgate Cycle, Gawain’s family and Perceval’s family were friendly, but in the Post-Vulgate Suite du Graal (c. 1250), in Prose Tristan (c. 1245) and Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1469), there was feud between the two clans. Because Pellinor had killed Gawain’s father, King Lot, in battle, Gawain and his brother took revenge upon Pellinor and his sons, except Perceval.

If you are little confused with what I have written so far, then maybe the table below would clear up. The problems lie with that each source may given different name to the character. I have only included Perceval’s parents and siblings in the table below, leaving out his cousins, aunts and uncles. For more detail about Perceval’s family, I would suggest that you look at family trees of Grail Family.

Perceval was the original Grail hero (see Chretien de Troyes’ Le Conte du Graal). Tales, like Parzival (written by Wolfram von Eschenbach, c. 1205), followed the beginning of Conte du Graal, more or less. By the time of the Vulgate Cycle (c. 1230), Galahad replaced him as the hero of the Grail legends, although, he still played a vital role.

Perceval was often portrayed as a simple young man with uncouth innocence. As a knight, Perceval has great strength and natural skills in jousting and swordsmanship. His ignorance stemmed from the fact that his mother had kept him ignorant about his father and brothers, who were knights. His mother didn’t want to lose her son too, so she avoid mentioning life of the nobles and knights. Perceval wanted to become a knight and left home after seeing a few knights passing the forest which he and his mother lived.

Since his mother couldn’t persuade him to stay with her, she helped him to dress in buckskin cloak and mismatching shirt and breeches, so that he looked like a peasant or a fool, and he rode a nag as he search for King Arthur to knight him. She hope that by making him looked like a fool so that maybe her son would fail to become a knight and return home. But she died in sorrow when her son abandoned her.

Some of the advice she gave to her son, did make him to sound simple and crude. Such as kissing a maiden, taking her ring and eating the food. Basically, he had assaulted the maiden like a lecher and stole her ring and brooch like a thief.

When he did reached Arthur’s court, Perceval was rude to the king, while Kay the Seneschal took him for a fool, became sarcastic, before sending Perceval to confront the Red Knight as a way of becoming a knight.

According to Peredur Son of Evrawg (mid-13th century), his two uncle taught him the skill of swordsmanship. One of the uncle played the role of Chretien’s Lord Gornemant of Gohort, while the second uncle was like the Fisher King. The second uncle asked Peredur to take up a sword and strike at the iron column. Both column and sword broke in two. He was instructed to put the pieces together and join them. When he did so, both sword and column was restored. He was instructed to repeat it again: breaking the sword and column, and then rejoining them. The third time that he broke the sword and column, he could not restore them back in its former state. His uncle declared that he was the best swordsman in the kingdom, but Peredur has only acquired two-third of his strength.

Peredur had also spent three weeks learning to ride horse and train in fighting from the nine hags of Gloucester.

It was Lord Gornemant of Gohort (in Conte du Graal) and Peredur’s first hoary-haired uncle (in Peredur), who advised the hero not to ask too many questions, that brought about the Fisher King was maimed and languishing in pain. So Perceval was not entirely blame for his reticence when he witness the Grail procession. But Perceval should have used his judgement when to ask question and when to refrain. His reticence had caused many suffering and devastation of the kingdoms in Britain.

In Queste del Saint Graal (Vulgate Cycle), he was simple to the point of being stupid. Perceval also seemed to have childish temperament, particularly when something does not go his way.

Perceval was one of Knights of the Round Table. As a knight, he was usually known as the Red Knight, because he won his horse, armour and weapon by killing the Red Knight of Quinqueroy (known as Ither of Gaheviez in Wolfram’s Parzival) at Arthur’s court.

In Conte du Graal, he played the role of the Fair Unknown. This is where the hero doesn’t even know his own name. The hero was usually brought up not knowing his own name, and sometimes not even the name of his true parents. The hero only know his name when he overcome his enemy in his first adventure. Many heroes had played the role of the Fair Unknown, including in Lancelot in the Vulgate Cycle and Gawain in the Rise of Gawain. The most famous Fair Unknown, was Guinglain, the son of Gawain. See Fair Unknown in the Tales of the Knights.

So he usually seen as the Red Knight. In Didot Perceval, Gawain’s sister, Elaine was in love with him. It was she who gave Perceval the vermilion armour and shield. In Perlesvaus, at first, he bore the red shield with the emblazon of the white stag. He later fought in disguise as the White Knight at the tournament of Crimson Heath. He went to King Arthur’s court to fetch the Shield of Joseph of Arimathea.

In Conte du Graal, he bore the sword given to him, by the Fisher King.

Perceval was invited by the Fisher King to lodge at the Grail Castle. He was blamed for his failure to ask questions about the Grail or the Bleeding Lance. Had he asked the required questions, the Fisher King’s wounds would have healed and the barren land around the Grail Castle would have been restored. Perceval set out from Arthur’s court, in a quest to find the Grail Castle, to set thing right. However, Chretien never finished his tale. Many other writers tried to complete the mysterious legend.

In the Vulgate version (Queste del Saint Graal), Galahad was the hero, but Perceval and Sir Bors were Galahad’s companions in the Quest.

His sister appeared in several later stories. The most notable version was told in the Vulgate Cycle. Though she called herself the daughter of Pellehen, she never gave her name. Her name was probably Heliabel or Dindraine. It was Perceval’s sister who guided Galahad to magic ship, and knew the history of the Sword with the Strange Belt. She sacrificed her life to heal a woman from leprosy (See Death of the Maiden). Her body was placed in a small bark (boat) that drifted until it arrived in the city of Sarras, the last resting place of the Grail.

After finding the Grail, and following Galahad to Sarra, they found his sister’s boat had arrived, just as she had foretold. They buried her in Sarra. Perceval and Bors stayed with Galahad until he died. They buried Galahad with Perceval’s sister. Perceval retired to a hermitage, where he died a year later. Perceval was buried with his sister and Galahad. (See the Quest of the Holy Grail (Queste del Saint Graal), for the full story.)

In Robert de Boron’s Perceval and the Didot Perceval, Perceval’s father was Alain le Gros (the Fisher King), while his grandfather was Bron, the Rich Fisher.

According to these two works, Perceval won not the grail, but was heir to the Grail Keeper’s throne. When Bron died, Perceval became the new Grail Keeper and king. Perceval was the last Grail Keeper. When Perceval died, the grail and the lance vanished, most likely taken to heaven.

In the Mabinogion, where Perceval was known as Peredur, the story was different to those of the Chretien de Troyes. Peredur was the son of Evrawg and that he had six brothers. When his father and brothers were killed in battle, his mother tried to raised her youngest son in the wild forest, ignorance of life outside his home. (See Peredur, in the Grail Legend.)

Some of his adventures paralleled to those of Conte du Graal and the Second Continuation. In the Welsh story, we have crippled king and the procession of the bleeding spear. The next object that followed the procession, we have severed head on the platter, full of blood, instead of the Grail. The head belonged to Peredur’s cousin, who was killed and beheaded by the nine hags of Gloucester. In the end, Peredur avenged his cousin by killing the nine hags.

Galahad had being compared symbolically to the lion, whereas his father to a leopard. The father and son were compared to one another where the son (lion) would surpass the father (leopard).

As a knight of Round Table, he was the only knight who could safely sit on the Siege Perilous, being the hero who gained the Grail. He drew the magical sword out of marble that floated to Camelot. Galahad also received the shield of King Mordrain.

Later writers made Galahad the hero of the Grail, instead of Perceval. Galahad succeeded where other failed in the quest, because his chivalry was inspired with spiritual love than worldly love which his father was a champion. Galahad was the pure knight, and was often called simply as the Good Knight.

After winning the Grail and healing the Maimed King, he and his companions, Perceval and Bors brought the Grail out of Britain at the command of Jesus, to the city of Sarras. Galahad spent a year in prison and a year as king of Sarras. Galahad was allowed to see the last secrets of the Grail been revealed before he died, and was taken to heaven. With his death the grail and the lance vanished from the world.

See the Quest of the Holy Grail (Queste del Saint Graal), for the full story.

See also Elaine, in the Arthurian Women and Lancelot and Elaine about his conception and birth.

Sir Galahad
A. Frederick Watts
Oil on canvas

Bors had once slept with a maiden, and became a father of a son named Helin le Blank. After this, Bors remained chaste for the rest of his life. His chastity and his piety were the reason why Bors was one of the three Grail knights, who succeeded in the quest. Galahad restored the Broken Sword that was used to wound Joseph of Arimathea. King Pelles gave this restored sword to Bors.

After bringing the Grail to the city of Sarras. Bors remained in Sarras with Galahad and Perceval until they both died. Bors returned to Camelot with news of the completion of the quest. (See the Quest of the Holy Grail for full story)

When his Lancelot came into conflict with Arthur and Gawain, Bors aided his cousin in the rescue of Queen Guinevere, the battle of Joyous Guard, and later in Gaunes, in Gaul (France) when Lancelot was exiled.

After the death of Arthur and the destruction of the Round Table, in the war against Mordred, Mordred’s two sons seized powers in the kingdom of Logres (Britain). Under the leadership of Lancelot, Bors returned to Logres to defeat Mordred’s sons. In the battle Lionel was killed. Lancelot was missing. After defeating Mordred’s sons, his cousin Hector set out to find his brother while Bors returned home to Gaunes.

Bors only returned to Britain, when he had a vision to come to Joyous Guard. In Joyous Guard, Bors learned from the Archbishop of Canterbury, how Lancelot had died and taken to heaven by angels. Instead of returning to his kingdom (Gaunes), Bors stayed with the Archbishop, and gave up secular life for a life at the monastery.

Sir Bors
(Dilemma Between Saving a Damsel or his Brother)

In early Welsh tale called Culhwch and Olwen, Kei (Welsh for Kay) was the son of Kynyr. Kei was the companion of Bedwyr (Bedivere), and one of the warriors of Arthur. Kei was said to have a son named Garanwyn. Kei was killed by Gwyddawy son of Menestyr.

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace and Layamon, Kay was one of champions of Arthur, and became duke of Anjou after the war against France. Here, Kay was portrayed as a noble and heroic figure, in these early works.

In the war against Rome, Kay and Bedivere distinguished themselves in battles. However, in the battle of Saussy, when Kay saw his companion, Bedivere, fall to Boccus, king of Medes, he managed to drive away the Medes, but Boccus mortally wounded Kay. Kay died when he returned to Britain. According Malory’s version (Book V), Kay did not died in the war against Rome.

Later authors (particularly romance writers) depicted Kay as a braggart and a fool. He had a surly manner and had a tendency to insult and offend people who were better than him. Kay seemed to have overwhelming confidence in his own skills as a knight.

In the Chretien de Troyes’ tale, the Knight of the Cart, Kay thought to escort and protect the queen by himself. Kay was beaten and imprisoned by Meleagant. Guinevere was captured and later rescued by Lancelot. In his Grail’s story, Kay slapped a lady companion of Guinevere and kicked the court jester. Perceval avenged the lady, by unhorsing him in a joust, breaking arm and shoulder-blade.

In the Welsh myths, he was Bedwyr, the son of Pedrawd and the constant companion of Kai (Kay) and Arthur, in the story of Olwen and Culhwch. Bedwyr had a son named Amren.

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, after the war against France, Bedivere was given the duchy of Neustia (Normandy). Boccus, king of Medes, ally of Lucius Hiberius, killed Bedivere in the war against the Romans. Kay rescued his body, and Bedivere was buried in Bayeux. In the Vulgate Merlin, he had fainted from a wound by Boclus (Boccus). His nephew thinking that Bedivere was dead, split Boclus’ head down the middle with his sword.

According Malory’s version (Book V), Bedivere did not died in the war against Rome. In fact, according to stanzaic Le Morte Arthur (c. 1350) and Malory’s le Morte d’Arthur, Bedivere was one of the survivors in the war against Mordred, in the battle of Camlann and attended Arthur, who was mortally wounded. His dying king (Arthur) ordered him to throw Excalibur into the lake. Bedivere witness Arthur taken on a boat, where the king was taken to Avalon. Bedivere then took holy vow and became a hermit.

Bedivere and Dying Arthur
(titled “Bedwyr”)
John Duncan
Illustration, 1862
Fine Art Photographic Library

According to Suite du Merlin (Merlin’s Continuation, Post-Vulgate), Girflet was the same age as Arthur, and was knighted with the young king. Girflet’s first adventure was to fight King Pellinor in single combat, which Girflet had lost.

Most of the early legend, does not give Yvain’s mother’s name, but some later legends say that Yvain’s mother was Morgan le Fay, the half-sister of King Arthur and wife of Urien (such as in the Suite du Merlin (Post-Vulgate) and in Le Morte d’Arthur). According to Vulgate Merlin, Yvain’s mother is Brimesent.

According to the Welsh Triads, Urien Rheged was married to the goddess Modron, the daughter of the god Avallach. The legend has it that Modron was the mother of Owain (Yvain). Owain also had a sister, named Morvudd. In the Lady of the Fountain (Mabinogion), his father was Urien, but his mother wasn’t mentioned. His grandfather was Kynverchin or Kynvarch, and he was first cousin of Gwalchmei (Gawain).

He was known as Yvain the Valiant or Yvain the Great. There were several characters that were named Yvain. Yvain also had a brother of the same name, but this Yvain was usually known as Yvain the Bastard. In the Vulgate Lancelot, there are other Yvains, including Yvain of Lionel, Yvain of the White Hands, Yvain of Cenel (or of Rivel), and Yvain the Deer.

Yvain was the hero of the same story told by the Welsh, French and English authors. The Welsh title was called the Lady of the Fountain, where the hero was Owain or Owein, the son of Uryen Rhegd (Urien). Chretien de Troyes wrote the French version, called Knight of the Lion or Yvain (c. 1170). While the English version was called Ywain and Gawain (c. 1350).

Yvain killed the knight of the fountain (known as Esclados the Red in Knight of the Lion and as the Black Knight in Mabinogion), but was trapped in his opponent’s castle. Lunete (Luned), a companion to the Lady of the Fountain (Laudine?), helped Yvain to escape, as well as helping the hero to woo and marry the countess. See Yvain and the Lady of the Fountain for the full story.

When he attended tournament, he overstayed at King Arthur’s court, causing a separation between he and his wife. A separation that caused Yvain to lose his wits, until he was cured of the madness by a lady.

Yvain won a strange companion when he rescued a lion, and killed a dragon. Yvain went on a series of adventure when he helped one lady after another. With the help of the lion, Yvain killed the giant Harpin of the Mountain (Harpin de la Montagne).

One of the women he rescued was Lunete. Lunete had lost favour with the Lady of the Fountain, and the lady’s jealous seneschal plotted to have her executed. Yvain defeated the seneschal and his brother through trial by combat.

Lunete, in the end, helped Yvain to reconciled with his wife Laudine. Yvain was said to be the father of Idrus, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth.

According to Geoffrey, Yvain became king of Albany (Scotland), when his uncle Auguselus was killed fighting Mordred’s army at the landing of Richborough. Geoffrey does not mention if Yvain died in the battle of Camlann or not.

According to the Vulgate Cycle, Yvain led the first battalion in the battle of Salisbury Plain (Camlann), and killed many Saxons. Yvain rescued Arthur from the King of Northumbria, whom he killed. Yvain helped Arthur to remount, only to be struck down by Mordred.

When Yvain found out about his mother’s plot to murder his father, he rescued his sleeping father, before Morgan could strike a blow with her father’s sword. Instead of having his mother arrested or killed, Yvain allowed her to escape, provided Morgan never attempt to murder her husband.

When Arthur revealed to the court of his sister’s plots against him, he also suspected his nephew (Yvain). Since he could not trust Yvain, Arthur banished him from attending his court. Through Gawain’s love for his cousin, he left Arthur’s court, and accompanied Yvain in their adventure, where they met Marhaus (Morholt), brother-in-law of the King of Ireland.

Apart from the Welsh Lady of the Fountain, Owain (Yvain) appeared frequently in medieval Welsh literature.

Owain appeared in the Dream of Rhonabwy, playing a board game (gwyddbwyll) against Arthur, while battles were fought between Arthur’s squires and Owain’s ravens. Here, ravens were Owain’s symbols. In Peredur, Owain was the first knight that the young hero Peredur (Perceval) met.

Owain’s name also appeared several times in the Welsh Triads, where names were grouped into three. Owain was listed as one of the “Three Fair Princes (Blessed Kings) of the Island of Britain” (the other names being Rhun son of Maelgwn and Rhufawn befr the son of Deorath Wledig) and one of the “Three Knights Of Battle Were In The Court Of Arthur” (the others were Lancelot du Lac and Cadwr (Cador), the Earl of Cornwall). And his horse was called, Cloven-Hoof, one of the “Three Plundered Horses of the Island of Britain”.

Erec was the son of King Lac of Ester-Gales. Erec was the French name of his more commonly known Geraint or Gereint in the English and Welsh versions. In the Welsh legend, he was a son of Erbin, and brother of Ermid and Dywel they are listed in Culhwch and Olwen (Mabinogion).

According to Chretien’s Erec and Enide, Erec was only second to Gawain, as the best knight of the Round Table, ahead of Lancelot.

Erec fell in love with Enide, a maiden and niece of the Count of Laluth, when he fought against Yder, the son of Nut, known as the Knight of the Kestrel. Erec later married Enide at Arthur’s court, before he brought her to his father’s kingdom.

The amount of time Erec spent with his wife sparked talks about his lack of participation in the tournament and adventure. When Enide heard of the talks she was distressed, since they were blaming her for bewitching their lord. When she revealed to Erec of what they have been saying, Erec assumed that his own wife had low esteem for his prowess and skills.

Erec proved to her that he had lost none of his prowess that he had displayed when he defeated Yder and won Enide’s hand in marriage, as they journey through the forest beset with bandits, giants and treacherous counts. Enide also proved to Erec of her love and loyalty to him, as she goes through all the ordeals in their adventure.

Erec’s greatest heroic deeds when he arrived at the town of Brandigan, when he ended the evil custom known as the Joy of the Court. The enchantment only ended when he defeated the knight and blew the horn. Erec gained greater glory as one of the greatest knights from the Round Table, after this adventure.

See Erec and Enide for the full story of Erec’s adventure with Enide.

According to the Post-Vulgate version of the Grail Quest, Erec took part in the adventure. Like the other knights he performed poorly, which ended in tragedy and disgrace. Erec made a promise to one evil maiden without realising the price he must pay. When Erec met his sister, the evil maiden asked for his sister’s head. Aghast of this boon, he tried to persuade the maiden to ask anything else, because Erec loved his sister. The damsel refused to listen to any plea. So Erec killed his sister, giving her head to the evil maiden. The maiden did not leave the place alive. Lightning struck the evil damsel dead.

Later, Erec encountered another knight, where neither one could recognise the other, because they both wore different armour. Erec mortally wounded the knight, and discovered that was Yvain of the White Hands, a fellow-knight in this sorrowful quest (not to be confused with Yvain the Valiant, son of King Lac. Erec grieved that he had killed his friend. Yvain had also badly wounded Erec in the combat.

When Gawain arrived and found that Erec had killed Yvain, Gawain challenged the wounded Erec to combat. Erec was astonished that Gawain would attack him, while he was injured. Gawain killed Erec’s horse, who rebuked him for such cowardly act. Gawain then mortally wounded Erec where he lay. Thinking that he was dead, Gawain departed.

The Brave Geraint (Geraint and Enid or Erec and Enide)
Arthur Hughes
Oil on canvas, 1860
Lady Anne Tennant

Both Pellinor and his brother Alan were suffering from some illness and won’t be healed until the Grail is achieved. But in the Suite du Merlin (Post-Vulgate, c. 1240) and Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur (1469), the Maimed King was Parlan or Parlam, not Pellinor.

According to the Suite du Merlin and Morte d’Arthur, it was a different story, and Pellinor was a different person. Pellinor was the Hunter of the Questing Beast (Bizzare Beast). Pellinor (Pellinore or Pellehen) was the father of Lamorak (Lamerocke), Agloval and Perceval. In the Suite du Merlin (Post-Vulgate), it mentioned that Melodiam was the eldest son. Melodiam could be Lamorak. He was also the father of Tor, who was his illegitimate son. Pellinor had seduced the wife of Aries the cowherd. In Chretien’s story of the grail, none of Perceval’s relatives were given any name, including his father and mother and brothers.

Malory called him Pellinore of Listinoise. Pellinor was known as the “Knight of the Strange Beast” (or Questing Beast). The knight who hunted the Questing Beast. At his death, the Saracen knight named Palemedes (Palomides) would take over his role as the Knight of the Questing Beast.

According to the La Suite du Merlin and Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Pellinor hunted the Questing Beast, before meeting Arthur. Arthur and Pellinor fought in single combat, where Pellinor broke Arthur’s sword the sword of the stone that won Arthur, his kingdom. Pellinor would have killed Arthur, had Merlin not saved Arthur’s life by putting Pellinor to sleep with his spell. Merlin brought Arthur to the Lady of the Lake, who gave Arthur a new sword, Excalibur. (See The Life of King Arthur, the Legend of Excalibur)

Later, Pellinor would killed King Lot of Orkney, when King Rience and elven other kings warred upon Arthur.

Pellinor became one of knight Round Table during the marriage of Arthur and Guinevere. Merlin sent Pellinor joined Gawain and Tor in the quest of the White Hart, brachet (bitch-hound) and the lady. Pellinor was given the responsibility to rescue the lady.

On his quest to find the lady, Pellinor failed to help a damsel in distress, over the wounded knight. When he succeeded in the quest, he returned to where he had found the damsel with the wounded knight. The wounded knight had died and the grief-stricken damsel cursed him, before taking her own life. Pellinor was distressed that he could not help the damsel. When he returned to Camelot, Merlin told them that the damsel who died was his own daughter Elaine, whose mother was the Lady of the Rule.

The lady Pellinor brought back on his quest was named Niniane, the Lady of the Lake.

Roald le Foytenant (Rual), Rivalen’s marshal, was also Tristan’s foster father. His faithful tutor and companion was named Governal (Gorvenal), had trained him in art, music and fighting.

Originally, the medieval romances of Tristan and Isolde came from Celtic myths in Brittany. The popularity of the romance was that it soon spread over other countries, such as France, Germany, Britain and Ireland. Later tales have all the characters assimilated into the Arthurian legend.

The best known story about Tristan, was the love triangle between his uncle, Isolde and himself. (Four, if you add Isolde of the White Hands in the equation.) Tristan and Isolde fell in love with one another, because they accidentally drank the love potion, meant for Mark and Isolde.

Tristan’s horse was called Passe-Brewel or Bel Joeor. His dog was Husdant, comforted him in a brief banishment from Cornwall. When he went into exile in Brittany, Tristan gave Husdant to Isolde.

His bow was called Fail-not.

When he left Cornwall in exile, Tristan returned to Brittany, where he married another woman named Isolde. The Breton Isolde was known as Isolde of the White Hands. The marriage was not happy one, since Tristan was still in love with Isolde the Fair (Mark’s wife). The Breton Isolde remained a virgin throughout their marriage.

The Madness of Sir Tristan
Sir Edward Burne-Jones
Watercolor, 1862
Private collection

Originally, Morholt did not belong in the Arthurian legend, but was associated with Tristan and Isolde romances. In all the tales of Tristan and Isolde, Tristan killed Morholt in single combat.

It was Isolde the Fair who recognised Tristan (Tristan was disguised as Tantris), as her uncle’s killer. She threatened to kill while Tristan was in the bath, but relented, because she would have otherwise married to the cowardly seneschal of her father, whom she despised. Eventually Gorman and Isolde the Elder pardoned Tristan for Morholt’s death and allowed Tristan to escort their daughter to Cornwall, to marry King Mark, Tristan’s uncle. See Tristan and Isolde.

In Le Morte d’Arthur (written by Sir Thomas Malory), Morholt was called Marhaus. Marhaus was listed as one of the six knights who were better than Gawain. Marhaus was companions of Gawain and Yvain (or Uwain), and undertook one of the adventures of the Three Damosels of the Fountain. He chose to follow damosel, who was 30 years old with gold circlet on her head. Marhaus killed a Duke of the South March and his six sons. Marhaus also killed the giant, rescuing 24 maidens and 12 knights from imprisonment at the giant’s castle. Marhaus later became one of the knights of the Round Table.

Morholt Fights Tristan
Julek Heller
Illustration, 1990

After the death of King Pellinor, Palemedes inherited the king’s role as the “Knight of the Strange Beast” (or Questing Beast).

Palemedes was a rival of Tristan for Isolde’s love. Palemedes was in love with Isolde and was jealous of Tristan. Though Isolde pitied Palemedes, she was not in love with the Saracen hero. Palemedes hated Tristan, yet he could not help admiring the rival’s superior prowess as a knight.

Palemedes was as noble as any Knight of the Round Table. In fact, Palemedes was even more Christian than some of the established heroes from the Round Table. However, he was a Saracen trapped in a Christian world and Christian ideal. The knights of the Round Table admired Palemedes’ prowess and skills as a brave knight, yet some of them envied Palemedes, so he became victim of their prejudices and enmity.

In the Post-Vulgate, Palemedes took part in the Grail quest. Palemedes encountered Galahad, the Grail hero, who had defeated him. From Galahad, Palemedes accepted Christianity, and was baptised. Palemedes also became the newest member of the Round Table. (In other version about Palemedes, he never was baptised.)

Palemedes had also taken over the Quest of the Questing Beast, after the death of King Pellinor. It was with the help of Galahad, that Palemedes was able to track down the monster. Palemedes had finally killed the Questing Beast.

Though he was actually half-brother of Arthur, Geoffrey says that he was Arthur’s cousin.

Cador was one of the earliest followers of Arthur. Cador took part in the war against the Saxons, France and Rome.

According to Geoffrey, Wace and Layamon, Guinevere was Cador’s ward when Arthur met and fell in love with her. They were soon married.

There is some confusion by Geoffrey of Monmouth, of whether Hoel was Arthur’s cousin or nephew. If Anna was Arthur’s sister, then Hoel was his nephew, but most say that Anna was the wife of Lot and mother of Gawain. However, if Anna was the sister of Aurelius and Uther, then Hoel was Arthur’s first cousin. Or else there are two women with the name of Anna.

Hoel took part in the war against Frollo, and later against the Roman Emperor, Lucius. In the second war, a giant of Mont-Saint Michel abducted Hoel’s niece, named Helena (by Geoffrey, Eleine by Wace, Elaine by Layamon). She died when the giant raped her. Arthur avenged her death, by killing the giant.

When Arthur returned to Logres (Britain) to quell a rebellion by his nephew Mordred, Hoel was left in charge of Gaul (France).

In Lancelot, a romance in the Vulgate Cycle, Hoel was also known by another name – Aramont. Aramont was the overlord of two brothers: King Ban of Banoic and King Bors of Gaunes. However, since there are a couple of Hoel in Brittany, I am not sure they ate the same.

Kinsmen of Arthur

Sir Agravain was the son of King Lot of Orkney and Morgawse or Anna. Agravain was also the brother of Gawain. Chretien de Troyes knew him as Agravain the Proud Knight. It was Agravain who tried to prove to his uncle, King Arthur, that Queen Guinevere was committing adultery with Lancelot. When Agravain tried to catch the adulterous lovers in bed. According to the Vulgate text, Agravain was killed by Lancelot, when he was escorting the queen to the stake, while Malory say that Lancelot killed him earlier, just outside of Guinevere’s bedchamber.

According to the tale of his brother Sir Gareth in Book VII of Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, Agravain married Lady Lyonesse’s niece, Dame Laurel.

Sir Gaheris (called Gaheriet in the Vulgate Cycle, or Keheriet) was the son of King Lot of Orkney and Morgawse or Anna. Gaheris was also the brother of Gawain. According to Malory [le Morte d’Arthur, Vol. 2, Book X Chapter 24], he killed his own mother, Morgawse, when he found her bed with Sir Lamorak.

Gaheriet had opposed of Agravain’s plan to exposed the Queen and Lancelot of treachery to the king, because he and Gawain were good friend of Lancelot. By the order of Arthur, Gaheriet (Gaheris) and his brother Guerrehet (Gareth) were reluctant escorts of Guinevere to be executed. The queen was to be burnt at the stake. According to the Mort Artu (Vulgate Cycle), Bors killed Gaheriet (Gaheris), while Lancelot had unknowingly killed Gaheriet (Gaheris). In Mort Artu, it was Gaheriet’s death that caused Gawain’s enmity towards Lancelot, and prolonged the war war between Lancelot and Arthur. While in Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur say that he and Garth were killed by Lancelot.

According to the tale of his brother Sir Gareth in Book VII of Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, Gaheris married Lady Lyonesse’s sister, Dame Lynet (Lynette).

Sir Gareth (Guerrehet) was the son of King Lot of Orkney and Morgawse or Anna. Gareth was also the brother of Gawain.

In the final episode of the First Grail Continuation, as Guerrehet avenged the dead knight in the swan-drawn boat.

Before he was knighted, Sir Kay had called him Beaumains and placed him in the kitchen, because he did not reveal his identity in Arthur’s court. A whole book [Book VII] of le Morte d’Arthur, was devoted to Gareth’s adventures, where he defeated the Red Knight of the Red Launds, thereby winning the hands of Dame Lyonesse. See Sir Gareth in the Tales of the Knights.

When Guinevere was to be burn at the stake for committing adultery with Lancelot, Gareth and his brother Gaheris were the reluctant escorts of the queen. According to Mort Artu (Vulgate Cycle), Bors killed Guerrehet (Gareth) during the rescue attempt to save the queen, but in Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Gareth was killed by Lancelot. Gawain’s grief over Gareth’s death prolonged the war against Lancelot, which would cause the destruction of the Round Table and Arthur’s kingdom.

Mordred (Modred) was the son of King Lot of Orkney and Anna (according to Geoffrey of Monmouth), but of Morgawse and Lot or her brother Arthur in the Post-Vulgate Cycle. (See Mordred, under Minor Characters for full detail.)

Galeshin (Galescalain). Galeshin was the son of King Neutres (Nentres) of Garlot and Blasine (Elaine), the half-sister of King Arthur. This make Galeshin nephew of Arthur, and cousin to Gawain and Yvain. Galeshin was commonly known as the Duke of Clarence. Galeshin was the cousin of Dodinel the Wildman.

Galeshin was one of the three knights who tried to rescue Gawain (the other knights being Lancelot and Yvain), when his cousin was abducted by Caradoc of Dolorous Tower. In the end, Galeshin and Yvain was also captured, but was eventually rescued by Lancelot.

Galeshin was frequently mentioned, but in most Arthurian tales, he had minor or no role in the legend.

Sir Yvain the Bastard (Ywain, Owain, Owein, Uwain. Malory called him Uwain les Avoutres). Yvain was the illegitimated son of Urien, so he was not really related to Arthur. In the Vulgate Merlin, Yvain’s mother was the wife of Urien’s seneschal. Which was why he was named Yvain the Bastard, and he should not to be confused with his more famous half-brother, Yvain, known as the Knight of the Lion, who married the Lady of Fountain. In the Grail quest (Vulgate Cycle), Yvain was one of the knights killed by Gawain.

Guinglain (Giglain or Gingalin) was famously known as the Fair Unknown. Guinglain was the son of Sir Gawain and a fay named Floree (Wolfram von Eschenbach called her Blancemal which is Blanchemains in French while in English romance, her name was Ragnell).

Guinglain was the hero of 12th century romance called Le Bel Inconnu, where the hero did not know his name, until he rescued Blonde Esmerée (Fair Esmerée), a princess, who had been turned into a dragon by two evil sorcerers. Though, in the end, Guinglain married Blonde Esmerée, he was loved by another woman named La Pucelle, who was known as the Fée aux Blanches Mains (Fay of the White Hands). His mother only called him Fair Son. See the Fair Unknown article in the Tales of the Knights for the full story.

Guinglain often appeared in the Grail stories. In the Second Grail Continuation (Wauchier de Denain Continuation or Perceval Continuation), where Guinglain fought the Grail hero to a draw, and later meets his father, during a long episode of Gawain’s adventure.

Kinsmen of King Ban

Sir Hector (Hestor, Ector de Maris or Mares or Hector of the Marsh) was the illegitimate son of King Ban and the daughter of li Sires des Mares (or Maris). Hector was the half-brother of Lancelot, who appeared in the Vulgate Cycle and Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

Hector took part of the Grail quest, mostly in the company of Gawain. They had no success in the Quest, and Hector return to Arthur’s court after Gawain was badly wounded.

Hector supported his brother, when Lancelot came into conflict with Arthur and Gawain. Hector took part in the rescue of Guinevere and two battles against Arthur. Hector took part in the war against Mordred’s sons after Arthur’s death.

At the end of the Vulgate Cycle, he found Lancelot had taken the monk’s habit and Hector died before his brother.

Sir Lionel was the son of King Bors of Gaunes and Evainne. Lionel was also the brother of Bors de Ganis (Grail hero). He was the cousin of Lancelot in the Vulgate Cycle, but nephew of Lancelot according to Malory. He was named Lionel at birth, because his mother Evainne saw a strange birth mark his chest, in the shape of lion and the baby strangled it. Lionel became Lancelot’s squire during Arthur’s war against Galehaut. Lionel was knighted after Arthur’s war against the Saxons at La Roche (the “Rock”).

Lionel, like the other knights of the Round Table, he took part in the Grail quest. Lionel was captured by two knights where he was badly beaten. His brother Bors had to choose either to save him or a damsel who was about to rape. Because his honour as a knight demand that save a woman before a fellow-knight, even if that the knight in trouble was his own brother. Bors rescued the damsel. Bors discovered later that his brother had managed to escape from his tormentors. Lionel selfishly accused his brother of saving the damsel but not him. Lionel challenged Bors into a duel, who refused to his own brother. A hermit, who tried to intervene and save Bors, was killed. Calogrenant, a fellow-knight had also tried to intervene on behalf of Bors, but he was no match for Lionel, and he too died in combat. Only God saved Bors from Lionel’s vengeance by hurling a lightning between the two brothers. Only then did Lionel realised his error. Lionel buried Calogrenant and the hermit, while Bors continued on his quest, meeting Perceval and Galahad.

Lionel sided with his cousin Lancelot, when there was conflict between his kinsman and Arthur. Lionel took part in the rescue of Guinevere, the war at Joyeuse Guard and the war in Gaune, France.

After the battle of Camlann (or Salisbury Plain), Melehan, the son of Mordred, had killed Lionel in the Battle of Winchester according to Mort Artu (Vulgate Cycle).

Other Sons of Pellinor

Sir Lamorak de Gales (Lamerocke) was the son of Pellehen (Pellinor) and brother of Agloval and Perceval (according to Malory). Lamorak was one of six knights listed as better than Gawain. Gawain and his brethren blamed Lamorak’s father for the death of their father (Lot). Gawain and his brothers continued their feud with Lamorak. Gawain and his brothers killed Lamorak. (In Chretien’s story of the grail, none of Perceval’s brothers or other relatives was given any name, including his father and mother.)

Agloval was the son of Pellehen (Pellinor) and brother of Lamorak and Perceval. Agloval and Perceval were two of the knights who found Lancelot and Elaine living on Pelles’ island castle. During the Quest, Agloval was another victim of Gawain.

King Baudemagus (Bademagu, Bagdemagus) was the king of Gorre, and father of Meleagant (Meliagaunt), who had kidnapped Queen Guinevere, but was killed by Lancelot in single combat (this episode is told by Chretien de Troyes’ Knight of the Cart, and Vulgate Cycle called Lancelot). Baudemagus opposed his son about the abduction of Guinevere.

Baudemagus was a nephew of King Urien of Gorre. Baudemagus became king of Gorre, after he surrendered Gorre to King Uther, when Uther had captured Urien. Uther rewarded Baudemagus for his loyalty by crowning Baudemagus as king of Gorre. Urien retire to a hermitage.

In the early part of the Prose Lancelot (Vulgate Cycle), Baudemagus was one of the allies of Galehaut, when Galehaut was at war against Arthur. Baudemagus became Galehaut’s deputy. Later, some time after Meleagant’s death (after the Vulgate version of the Charrette), Baudemagus became a member of the Round Table, when a knight named Sir Ganor of Scotland died from his wounds he had received from Lancelot at the tournament at Camelot. See Lancelot’s adventure in the Tericam.

Gawain killed Baudemagus during the Grail quest (Vulgate Cycle). According to Malory, however, Baudemagus did not died at the quest, and was one of knights, who opposed Arthur when Arthur warred against Lancelot.

Sir Sagremor played a number of minor roles throughout the later Arthurian tradition. Sagremor was the son of Duke Nabur the Unruly. According to the Suite du Merlin, Sagremor became the foster-brother of Mordred, when a fisherman found Mordred in a cradle on the seashore. The fisherman gave the infant to Nabur. (See Morgawse and the Questing Beast.)

7 Virtues Of Chivalry

Chivalry was an overall system of proper knightly conduct. Its borders were loosely defined and often extended beyond the battlefield and into everyday behavior. The codes of conduct and etiquette were extremely strict, but their essence could be condensed into the vows a knight made during his dubbing ceremony. A knight should never traffic with traitors. He should never give evil counsel to a lady (regardless of her marital status) and should always treat her with respect and defend her against any danger. What&rsquos more, he must take part in fasts and abstinences, attend daily Mass and make offerings to the Church.

The last of those vows was obviously inserted into the ceremony by the Church themselves. When they started preaching for the First Crusade in the 11th Century, they devised a cunning plan to get knights on board with their mission. The Church introduced its own code of chivalry, a code of conduct all knights were to follow. Unsurprisingly, it revolved largely around doing what the Church said and upholding Christianity.

Although chivalrous behavior was common at social events, not many knights kept to chivalrous ideals when they entered battle. Instead, most opted to butcher and pillage as much as they wanted. They were soldiers and practical men, after all&mdashthey weren&rsquot going to risk getting killed because their opponent might be less chivalrous than them.

In order to become a Knight of the Round Table, a knight had to prove he was chivalrous (polite) enough. In the legend, the knights swore a Code of Chivalry, which is much like an oath is today. This meant that they promised to uphold the rules given to them once they became a Knight of the Round Table.

Sir Thomas Malory wrote a book based on the legend of King Arthur. It was called Le Morte d'Arthur. In it, he wrote his version of the Code of Chivalry:

  • To never do outrage nor murder (not to assault or murder anybody)
  • Always to flee treason (do not commit treason, a crime against your country or king)
  • To by no means be cruel but to give mercy unto him who asks for mercy (Do not be mean. Grant mercy to those who ask, even in combat.)
  • To always do ladies, gentlewomen and widows succor ('succor' is an old word for help this means that the knight must promise to help women if they need it.)
  • To never force ladies, gentlewomen or widows (never 'harm' women.)
  • Not to take up battles in wrongful quarrels for love or worldly goods (do not ever join in fights over anything less than God or country)
  • To fear God and maintain His Church

In different stories, there are different numbers of knights, ranging from 12 to more than 150. The Winchester Round Table shows 25 Knights. The most commonly mentioned in literature include:

This is a list of other knights mentioned as being Knights of the Round Table.

Kingsman: The Secret Service Edit

In the 2014 movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service, each of the Kingsman agents is named after one of the knights of the Round Table. Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, the main character, has the code name 'Galahad'. This is also the code name of Harry Hart, Eggsy's mentor. Roxy Morton, the only female Kingsman, has the codename 'Lancelot'. 'Arthur' is the codename for the leader of Kingsman, while 'Merlin' is the codename for their trainer and tech coordinator.

One of the fictional Fate media franchise's most well known characters, "Saber" aka Artoria Pendragon, is a female character based on King Arthur. In the mobile game Fate/Grand Order, she alongside various other Knights of the Round Table (Lancelot, Gawain, Bedivere, Tristan), as well as Mordred, can be summoned as usable characters. Additionally, in Fate/Grand Order, Sir Galahad is the Heroic Spirit that was summoned into the body of another character in the game, Mash Kyrielight, and therefore is the one to bestow her his powers.

6 King Urien Of Gorre

King Urien was a Celtic monarch who ruled Rheged, the region southwest of Hadrian&rsquos Wall. He was included in one of the famous poetic Welsh Triads as one of the three greatest warrior-kings in Britain. His death was lamented as one of the three unfortunate assassinations in British history.

His many successes and victories are preserved today in the medieval manuscript The Book of Taliesin. Together with several other local kings, Urien resisted the northern expansion of the Anglo-Saxon invaders. He was eventually assassinated on the orders of Morgant Bwlch, another northern king, who was jealous of Urien&rsquos power and reputation.

Over time, his exploits became popular in Welsh myth and he became King Urien of Gorre, a legendary figure and Knight of the Round Table. He was a peaceful vassal during the reign of Uther Pendragon, Arthur&rsquos father, and happily married the wicked witch Morgan le Fay.

Upon Uther&rsquos death, however, Urien and many other powerful men in the kingdom opposed Arthur&rsquos rise to the throne and rebelled against him. Arthur defeated them, and Urien was one of his most loyal vassals thereafter and a trusted Knight of the Round Table.

Neither Morgan nor Urien was happy with their marriage. Morgan hatched a secret plot to steal Excalibur, murder Urien and Arthur, and install her lover, Sir Accolon, on the throne. She failed in her plan to kill Urien when his bastard son Owain caught her trying to stab him and forced them apart. [5]

Were the Knights of the Round Table real figures?

King Arthur's heroic adventures, his castle at Camelot, and his magical sword Excalibur are very well-known, and they have even entered popular culture. The Arthurian legends and stories have inspired countless books, plays, tv-series, and of course, movies.

One of the fascinating stories in the Arthurian cycle of legends is those on adventures of the Knights of the Round Table. They are among the best-known characters in the Arthurian cycle of stories, including memorable figures as Lancelot, Gawain, and Perceval. The knights who gathered around the circular table are regarded as the paragons of knightly virtue.

They inspired many nobles during the Middle Ages to abide by the code of chivalry. However, did the Knights of the Round Table exist, and are they based on historical figures. This article examines if the fabled knights have some basis in fact. It argues that the story of the Round Table probably has no real basis in fact, but that the chivalrous warriors were likely based on stories of elite fighters who fought for early medieval warlords and possibly some historical figures whose memory survived in folklore.

The Arthurian Legend

King Arthur was once believed to have lived in the Dark Ages in Britain and had fought the invading pagan Anglo-Saxons, and he brought peace and plenty to the land. It was once widely accepted that he was a historical figure, but later, he came to be regarded as only a myth or a figure out of folklore. Today, many believe that Arthur was a composite figure. He was based on many Romano-Britain warlords that fought against Germanic invaders in the wake of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. [1]

The source of the Arthurian legend is in several Welsh chronicles and epic poems. In these, Arthur is a ‘king’ who fights many battles against the Anglo-Saxons. His story was well-known and became popular and French writers later took it up. These added to the Welsh tales and added many of the characters and the details that we are all now familiar with. The first reference to the Knights of the Round Table was in a Breton poet's work in the 11th century.

Later poets added details to the Knights and created characters such as Gawain. Chrétien de Troyes is widely credited with weaving the Quest for the Holy Grail's story into the tale of the Knights of the Round Table. [2] de Troyes had the knights search for the Grail, which was the cup used by Jesus and the Apostles during the Last Supper. Since then, the Knights of the Round Table have become an integral part of the much-loved Arthurian cycle of stories. However, there are practically no other references to the knights and the Round Table in any other medieval sources, other than those associated with the Arthurian legends. Although some place names in Wales and England are called after the Table, all of these are probably later inventions.

The Knights of the Round Table

The Round Table was, according to the sources, a large circular table and was so big that up to 150 knights could be seated at it. Unlike the typical rectangular version, the table was round because there was to be no knight who sat at the head of the table. It was a symbol of equality and represented the fellowship of all the knights. According to the Arthurian cycle, the table was a gift to Arthur and his Queen Guinevere from her father, a monarch. [3] There were 100 knights in attendance on Arthur, but there was room at the table for up to fifty more.

As was his custom, Camelot's ruler asked the advice of the magician Merlin concerning selecting more knights who would serve him and protect his realm. The wizard was to select the knights based on their nobility and their record of chivalry. Merlin assembled the required number, and he ordained that they should treat each as brothers. Each knight had their own particular place at the table. One chair was left unfilled, and that was to be destined for a great knight. This was ultimately revealed to be Sir Galahad. The number of knights varied from story to story. Arthur's group of noble warriors is charged with keeping peace in the land, protecting the weak, and they were expected to abide by a stern code of chivalry. [4]

After their formation, they slay many dragons and monsters, making the land safe and subdue Arthur's enemies. The adventures of the heroes inspired some great literature, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The knights vow to go on a quest to retrieve the Holy Grail, the cup from the Last Supper, and their subsequent adventures are portrayed in many medieval works. The works vary but several of the knights, including Galahad, secured the grail. Despite their chivalrous code, most knights were killed on a variety of battlefields or searching for the grail. New members replaced the dead, but some sources present them as inferior in character and bravery to the original band.

Only a handful of knights survived the terrible Battle of Camlann, which left Arthur mortally wounded. The warriors' brotherhood effectively ended after the battle, and the handful of survivors became monks or wanders. [5] There is no more mention of the Round Table, but it was presumably destroyed when Camelot was sacked and razed to the ground by the treacherous King of Cornwall. The Knights of the Round Table stories have proven enormously influential and helped spread chivalry and courtly love ideas in the Medieval period.

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Winchester Round Table

Winchester Castle is one of the greatest castles in England, and it played an essential part in English history. It was originally built by William the Conqueror and later rebuilt by Henry II, the Angevin Empire's ruler. There is around oaken table hanging on the wall in the Great Hall, which is brightly painted. This was reputed to be the original Round Table, of the loyal warriors of Arthur, and around which they agreed to search for the Holy Grail.

In fact, this table is not from the period when the ruler of Camelot reigned. It was probably built as part of one of the many ‘round table’ tournaments in Europe during the Middle Ages. These were tournaments with jousting, ceremonies, and festivities and were based on Arthurian legend. This Round table was probably made on the orders of King Edward I during one such celebration. [6]

The Amphitheater theory

The Romans had occupied much of modern-day Britain from the 1st to the early 5th century. They transformed British society, and they built roads and cities throughout the island. During their centuries of rule, the local people were often Romanized, especially those who lived in towns and cities. They adopted Roman norms and customs, and one of the most popular of these was the games, especially gladiatorial games. [7] Many Romano-British cities and towns had amphitheaters and based on the remaining evidence, they hosted Roman-style games. Many of these can still be seen, and there were a great many in Britain at one time. In 2010 a theory emerged that was widely reported in the media and on the internet. A historian claimed that the amphitheaters inspired the legend of the Round Table. He claimed that the circular buildings formed the basis for the round table legend.

His argument was as follows. After the Romans' withdrawal, the local people continued to live in the cities at least in the fifth and sixth centuries. Local Brythonic warlords led the fight against the Anglo-Saxons, and others used these declining urban centers as strongholds. The amphitheaters were perfect assembly points, and presumably, a local leader would gather his fighting men in these buildings for meetings. From this practice, there emerged the story of a group of Christian knights. However, the theory that abandoned Roman amphitheaters inspired the Knights of the Round Table stories is a controversial one. There is no archaeological or documentary evidence that these Roman constructions had been used in the Dark Ages or Romano-British warriors.

Arthur and his warband

The origin of the Arthurian legend is in the Dark Ages, when, as we have seen, warlords carved out their own kingdoms and fought endless wars. An examination of Romano-British and Celtic culture can help us understand the inspiration for the story about the gallant knights. Arthur was based on one or more Brythonic warlords, who would have had an elite group of fighters. [8]

They would typically be high-born warriors who had been trained since childhood in the art of war. These may have been sub-kings or chieftains, and they often helped him to administer his territory. These elite warriors would have been similar to the ‘sworn swords’ who had pledged to fight for their lord or king and often acted as his personal bodyguard. They were the companions of the monarch and expected to die for their ruler.

Furthermore, they were expected to abide by a good of honor. There are definite similarities between these Dark Age warriors and the Knights of the Round Table. The noble swordsmen who fought for Arthur can be considered a Christianised version of an older warrior tradition [9] .

Warriors from folklore?

Lancelot and the other heroes are all possibly derived from stories about brave companions to the warlords and kings. It seems highly likely that many of the knights who served Arthur were originally based on Folklore figures. One of the best-known characters among the Round Table knights is Sir Lancelot was ultimately derived from a folktale. Many scholars suggest that he was originally based on a Welsh hero. This is also the case with many others who served Arthur. Another example of this is Sir Caradoc, who appears to have been based on the Welsh kings of Gwent's ancestors. Many of the knights mentioned in the Arthurian story-cycle are accepted by many that some knights are based on Celtic heroes. [10]

It has been suggested that Arthur’s band of loyal men were based on very ancient warrior fellowships from Celtic myths. Some believe that some of the heroes, such as Sir Gawain and his adventures, are based on European myths and lore.</ref>W. P. Ker. “The Roman Dumézilvan Walewein (Gawain),” Folklore 5, no. 2 [1894], 121-8 </ref> It is also entirely possible that the emblematic Round Table was also sourced from a now lost folk tale.


There are so many great legends involving the heroic band who served King Arthur. Modern media has popularized these stories all over the globe. The story of the fellowship of the Round Table was most likely an invention, but it may have been based on some historical precedent, but we do not simply know. The story held in Winchester Castle is a charming fabrication, while the theory that the Round Table was based on a Roman Amphitheatre is not credible. The Knights of the Round Table are not modeled on historical figures but are likely composite figures, drawn from several sources.

The knights' story, heroism, and chivalry are probably based on ancient folktales from the early Medieval period. The French writers who introduced the Round Table into the Arthurian cycle of tales also drew on contemporary notions of a Christian warrior and the emerging chivalrous code to create the world of the Knights of the Round Table. They also added distinctively Christian motifs such as the Holy Grail to the story of Arthur’s companions. This led them to produce the memorable tales of the Knights of the Round Table.

Further Reading

The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. Strahan and Company, 1868

Wright, Thomas, ed. La Mort D'Arthure: The History of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Vol. 3. JR Smith, 1858

Biddle, Martin, and Sally Badham. King Arthur's Round Table: an archaeological investigation. Boydell & Brewer, 2000.


When most people think about knights, they think of feudal knights serving a sovereign. Probably the most famous knights in the English speaking world were King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. These knights served their king and also went on sacred quests to find the Holy Grai. The German writer Wolfram von Eschenbach, in his immortal medieval work Parzifal, equated the Grail Knights with the Knights Templar. Both the Grail Knights of Arthur’s realm and the Knights Templar were dedicated to achieving purity of heart: the spiritual attribute that would allow one to have a vision of the Grail—or to see God, as the Beatitudes stated.

The essential quality of knighthood was complete devotion to one’s sovereign, in the case of secular knights, or complete devotion to Jesus Christ and His church, in the case of knights belonging to one of the religious Orders. Knights of both types devoted themselves to skill of arms. Whether religious or secular, however, a knight was expected to be unrelenting in battle, fearless in the face of hopeless odds, and magnanimous in victory.

Knights are not just a thing of the past, however. There are a number of chivalric Orders that exist today. The British monarchy still grants knighthoods, as does the Papacy with the Order of Christ. Two religious Orders that still grant knighthoods are the Knights of Malta (Order of St. John) and this Order, The Supreme Military Order of the Jerusalem Temple. In all cases where a secular knighthood is granted, it is for exceptional service to the sovereign or to certain worthwhile causes, while knighthoods granted by religious Orders are in recognition of service to God and one’s fellow man.

The traditional role of the knight was to defend the defenseless, to be pious in worship and in dealings with others, and to maintain one’s personal honor above all costs. Such knightly values might seem out of place in the 21st century, with so much emphasis on “me,” money, and materialism—but a few individuals still believe life is truly not worth living unless it serves a higher purpose. Such individuals believe that “living a holy life,” and not material success, is the most important thing to which we can aspire. These are the kind of men and women that we are seeking to join the Knights Templar!

What are the reasons for having knights in the 21st century?

First, there is the matter of commitment. As opposed to the past, most modern institutions do not ask much in the way of commitment. In the past, people were asked to give more of themselves to the church and to the community in many cases today, all that we are asked to give is money. There are few things in the modern age that ask for personal loyalty, or that reciprocate loyalty in turn. Seemingly, there is little expectation that people want to commit themselves to anything, or to receive a commitment in return. The man or woman who would become a knight, however, feels unfulfilled in such a world. These men and women are looking for something to give themselves to wholeheartedly, something in which to invest all of their heart, mind, and soul. Just as importantly, they are looking for something that will reciprocate their loyalty and devotion.

Those who become knights know that although there are government agencies and private charities to fight poverty, and military or police to fight the enemies of our country and its citizens, these are not enough. They know that unless good men and good women take personal responsibility for making the world a better place to live, none of the organizations and agencies in existence will be enough to keep the forces of darkness at bay.

Knighthood takes the concept of personal responsibility to the “next level.” Knowing that many of their fellow men and women will do nothing, those who aspire to knighthood believe that it is incumbent upon them to do that much more.

One example is poverty. As our Lord said, “The poor you will always have with you.” For all of the programs administered by the government, and charities operated by the churches and other organizations, there will always be the poor. We should not, however, let the existence of “programs” give us an excuse for inaction. The true knight has internalized the story about the “Good Samaritan,” and helps the poor or disadvantaged whenever he or she can. It is not necessary to always give money—a knight’s most precious gift may be his or her time, which may be spent teaching the illiterate how to read, or driving elderly persons to a doctor’s appointment. A true knight should never walk past someone who is truly in need without trying to help! Never. That is a knight’s creed.

A knight however, is distinguished from those who merely dispense aid to the poor and disadvantaged. That distinguishing feature is the willingness to engage in “knightly combat,” the battle against evil.

It will take men and women with the dedication of true knights to make the changes that are needed. It will take men and women with the courage of true knights to stand up and be counted, and to demand accountability from our respective governments on their relations with countries that persecute Christians. It will take men and woman like those of the Supreme Military Order of the Jerusalem Temple.

Our Order was founded in 1118 A.D. to protect Christians journeying to and from the Holy Land. Later, the Order was responsible for protecting Christians in the Holy Land itself. We have stayed true to our original charter by defending the persecuted church in foreign lands. Our mission is just as compelling today, if not more so, than it was 886 years ago.

Our Order believes that there is still a place for knights in the 21st century. We believe there will always be a place for knights as long as there is poverty, the needs of the elderly, the sick, the helpless, and the persecution of the church. This is not a question: “Do I have time?” Or, “I will get to that soon.” This is not subject to negotiation or scheduling. Fellowship and aid to the less fortunate, the helpless are a Templar’s duty, his sworn duty. His code of honor demands the core of knighthood in it’s unquestionable obligation to help the poor, the sick, the persecuted, the old, the needy, the helpless, the hungry, the cold, the unprotected. These duties are not stipulations they are a code gladly taken by a Knight Templar. If one attempts to join our Order merely as a fraternity “club”, or for a title, that or anything else could never make he or she a “Knight Templar.” Being a Knight Templar is not a remnant of the past, it is a way of life.

Camelot in later writings and culture

During the 15th century, the Arthurian legends, Camelot included, would be published in English thanks to the work of Sir Thomas Malory. His book, called "Morte d'Arthur," drew heavily on the French Vulgate cycles in addition to other Arthurian sources.

"Though little is known about Malory himself, the influence of his work has been considerable. Writers such as Alfred Tennyson, T.H. White, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, and countless others have encountered the Arthurian world through some version of Malory's work and reinterpreted it in their own writing," writes researcher Kara McShane in an article republished on the website of the University of Rochester's Camelot Project.

Indeed, in the 20th century the idea of Camelot was powerful and, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the name was used as a term used to describe the years of his presidency.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful post-medieval written works on Camelot comes from an 1833 poem by Alfred Tennyson called The Lady of Shalott. The start of the 1833 version reads:

On either side the river lie Long fields of barley and of rye, That clothe the wold and meet the sky And thro' the field the road runs by To many-tower'd Camelot And up and down the people go, Gazing where the lilies blow Round an island there below, The island of Shalott. Willows whiten, aspens quiver, Little breezes dusk and shiver Thro' the wave that runs for ever By the island in the river Flowing down to Camelot.

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