Igraine

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In Arthurian legend, Igraine /ɪˈɡrnˌ ˈɡrn/ is the mother of King Arthur. She is also known in Latin as Igerna, in Welsh as Eigyr, in French as Igerne, in Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur as Ygrayne— often modernized as Igraine—and in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival as Arnive. She becomes the wife of Uther Pendragon, but her first husband was Gorlois; her daughters by Gorlois are Elaine, Morgause and Morgan le Fay.

Welsh tradition[edit]

In Pre-Galfridian (pre-Geoffrey of Monmouth) Welsh tradition, Eigyr is one of several children of Amlawdd Wledig (Prince Amlawdd). Her siblings include Gwyar, the mother of Gwalchmai (Gawain), who is mentioned in Culhwch and Olwen. The same source mentions Gormant son of Rica, half-brother to Arthur on his father's side, his father the chief elder of Cornwall. One might suppose Rica to be another name for Gorlois (though Welsh translations of Geoffrey name him Gwrlais), but we also have in Geoffrey's account a Gormant, "king of the Africans", who has taken Ireland (perhaps based on the villain of the French chançon de geste called Gormant et Isenbart) and this Gormant might be hiding here also as Gormant ap Rica, this being a possible corruption of Gormant africa.[citation needed]

Geoffrey of Monmouth[edit]

In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, Igerna enters the story as the wife of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. King Uther Pendragon falls in love with her and attempts to force his attentions on her at his court. She informs her husband who departs with her to Cornwall without asking leave. This sudden departure gives Uther Pendragon an excuse to make war on Gorlois. Gorlois conducts the war from the castle of Dimilioc but places his wife in safety in the castle of Tintagel.

Disguised as Gorlois by Merlin, Uther Pendragon is able to enter Tintagel to satisfy his lust. He manages to rape Igraine by deceit - she believes that she is lying with her husband and becomes pregnant with Arthur. Her husband Gorlois dies in battle that same night. This basic account has been adapted into media such as the film Excalibur.

Geoffrey does not say, and later accounts disagree, as to whether Gorlois died before or after Arthur was begotten (something that might be important in determining whether or not a child could be made legitimate by a later marriage to its true father). Uther Pendragon later marries Igraine.

According to Geoffrey, Igraine also bore a daughter Anna (referred to as Morgause in other works) to Uther Pendragon, this Anna later becoming the mother of Gawain and Mordred. Yet Geoffrey also refers to King Hoel of Brittany as Arthur's nephew and presents a prophecy that to Uther's daughter will be born a line of seven kings, something true if Hoel is Anna's son, but not true if only Gawain or Mordred are Anna's sons. There is confusion here, especially as Welsh genealogies name an Anna as Hoel's mother but one not connected to Uther Pendragon.

Robert de Boron[edit]

In Robert de Boron's later Merlin, Igraine's previous husband is an unnamed Duke of Tintagel and it is by him that she becomes the mother of two unnamed daughters. One marries King Lot and by him becomes the mother of Gawain, Mordred, Gaheriet and Guerrehet. A second daughter, also unnamed in some variants but in some named Morgaine, is married to a certain King Nentres of Garlot. A third illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Tintagel is sent to a school and there learns so much she becomes the great sorceress Morgan le Fay.

In fact Morgan and Morgaine are respectively the nominative and oblique forms of the same name. Indeed no accounts outside of de Boron's Merlin mentions that Morgan le Fay is illegitimate and therefore in this version Arthur's stepsister. According to Robert de Boron, Igraine died before her second husband.

Vulgate Merlin[edit]

In the Vulgate Merlin Igraine is provided with two earlier husbands, one named Hoel who is the father of two daughters: Gawain's mother and a daughter named Blasine who marries King Nentres of Garlot. After Hoel's death Ygraine marries the Duke of Tintagel and by him becomes mother of three more daughters: a third daughter who marries a King Briadas and becomes mother of King Angusel of Scotland (in no other extant text made Arthur's nephew), a fourth daughter named Hermesent who marries King Urien and becomes mother of Ywain the Great, and a fifth daughter who is Morgan le Fay.

(It is possible this Hoel derives from Geoffrey's confused statement that Igraine's eldest daughter had by her first husband Howel which was misunderstood to refer instead to a supposed first husband of Igraine named Howel/Hoel.)

Other accounts[edit]

Illustration of Merlin taking away the infant Arthur by N.C. Wyeth for The Boy's King Arthur (1922): "So the child was delivered unto Merlin, and so he bare it forth."

In the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, it is Morgan le Fay who becomes the wife of King Urien and mother of Ywain (and Malory adds this information). In other accounts Ywain is not Arthur's nephew at all, though sometimes still made Gawain's cousin through their two fathers who are sometimes presented as brothers.

In the Brut Tysilio, Duke Cador of Cornwall is the son of Gorlois, one would guess by Igraine. The same appears in Richard Hardyng's Chronicle where Cador is called Arthur's brother "of his mother's syde." Opposing views appear in Layamon's Brut where Cador appears first as a leader who takes charge of Uther's host when they are attacked by Gorlois while Uther is secretly lying beside Igraine in Tintagel. In the English Alliterative Morte Arthure Cador is continually called Arthur's "cousin".

Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur names the first daughter Margawse, the second Elayne and the third Morgan the Fay with no mention of Morgan's illegitimacy. Lancelot is the son of Arthur's sister Clarine in Ulrich von Zatzikhoven's Lanzelet, Caradoc Breifbras is Arthur's sister's son in the Prose Lancelot, Percival is son of Arthur's sister Acheflour in the English romance Syr Percyvelle. Arthurian tales are not consistent with one another and sisters of Arthur seem to have been created at desire by any teller who wished to make a hero into Arthur's nephew.

The Prose Lancelot relates that when Igraine became Uther's wife she left behind in the dukedom of Tintagel a son of the Duke of Tintagel by a previous marriage. Some romances show her alive after Uther's death. In Chrétien de Troyes's Perceval, le Conte du Graal she and her daughter Gawain's mother are discovered by Gawain in an enchanted castle named the Castle of Marvels. Gawain had thought both his mother and grandmother to be long dead. This same account appears in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival and in Heinrich von dem Türlin's Diu Krone. In both of these latter it is explained that Igraine was abducted (and it is hinted that she was willingly abducted) by the magician who has enchanted the castle. In the French Livre d'Artus, an incomplete alternate conclusion to the French Vulgate Merlin, it is mentioned that Ygraine dwells hidden in the Grail castle. This is apparently a version of the same tradition since in the late Vulgate cycle the enchantments of the Grail castle are very similar to and seem to be based on the enchantments found in Chrétien's Castle of Marvels.

Author Jack Whyte's A Dream of Eagles portrays Igraine as the daughter of Athol, a ruler from Éire. She is married off to Lot, the Duke of Cornwall. She flees the cruel Lot for his arch enemy, Uther Pendragon. She is killed by Derek, king of Ravenglass, one of Lot's allies, shortly after he kills Uther. She dies telling Merlyn, Uther's cousin and commander of the forces of Camulod, of her son by Uther, Arthur Pendragon.

In the BBC series Merlin, Ygraine is the wife of Uther, but dead for many years by the time the events of the series begins. She could not conceive, and so Uther asked for the help of the sorceress Nimueh so that they could have a child. Igraine gives birth to Arthur, but because magic was invoked in his conception, Uther had to pay the price of asking for a life from magic—that of losing the life of someone he treasured equally, his wife. It is Igraine's death that sparks Uther's hatred and persecution of all magic users within his kingdom.

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