King Arthur and Mordred - Medieval England
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Arthur and Mordred

King Arthur
King Arthur (Flores Historiarum, 1200s AD)

Mordred first shows up in writing as early as 960 AD, in the Annales Cambriae, in the entry for the year 537 AD. He may even have been a real person, though stories grew up around him later.

The story tells us that as King Arthur got older, he realized that Queen Guinevere was never going to have any children, and he would not have any sons of his own to rule after him. Arthur began looking around for an heir to the throne. Mordred was Arthur's nephew, the son of Arthur's sister Morgause, and so he was a good choice to rule after Arthur.

But Arthur had to go away to France to fight Emperor Lucius of Rome (possibly originally Glycerius, who was a real emperor in 473 AD), and while he was away, Mordred married Guinevere and took power for himself. King Arthur came back to fight for his throne, and Arthur and Mordred met at the Battle of Camlann, but Arthur was badly wounded, and Mordred was killed. Morgaine and Nimue took Arthur off to Avalon to heal him, but that was the end of Camelot.

(Compare this story to the older Parthian story of Vis and Ramin).

Bibliography and further reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table:

Tristan and Isolde
Knights of the Round Table
Lancelot and Guenivere
Arthur and Morgaine
Medieval literature home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 27 April, 2017