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Igraine and Gorlois in Władysław T. Benda's illustration for Uther and Igraine by Warwick Deeping (1903)

In Arthurian legend, Gorlois (Welsh: Gwrlais) of Tintagel, Duke of Cornwall, is the first husband of Igraine, whose second husband is Uther Pendragon. Gorlois's name first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136).[1] A vassal of Ambrosius Aurelianus, his arrival at the Battle of Kaerconan ensures the defeat of Hengist.[2] In Wace's Roman de Brut, when Hengist's son Octa and his cousin Ossa rebel, Gorlois helps Uther defeat them at York.[3]


After he succeeds his brother, Ambrosius, Uther holds a feast for his nobles, and seeing Igraine, falls in love with her. Sensing Uther's interest, Igraine asks her husband to take her back home to Cornwall. He placed her at the more defensible Tintagel Castle, while he prepared to defend his territory from Dimilioc. Incensed at their departing without leave, Uther lays siege to Gorlois' castles to little effect. He consults his friend Ulfin who tells him that the lady can hardly look favorably on someone who makes war on her husband, and suggests the king seek advice from Merlin in gaining access to Tintagel. Merlin devises an enchantment that disguises Uther in the form of Gorlois. In this form he approaches his love and they sleep together, conceiving Arthur. Unbeknownst to either of them, the real Gorlois has been killed that very night in battle against Uther's troops.[2] Eventually Igraine is persuaded to marry Uther.

Gorlois is the father of Morgan le Fay, Morgause, and Elaine of Garlot.[2] Later treatments, such as the Vulgate Cycle and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. expand on this outline by having Gorlois's daughters married off to vassals of Uther: Elaine to King Nentres of Garlot, Morgause to King Lot of Orkney, and (after she has received an education in a convent) Morgan to King Urien. Arthur is spared any knowledge of his half-sisters after he is whisked away by Merlin to be raised by Sir Ector.

Later mentions[edit]

In the Brut Tysilio, a Welsh version of Georffrey's work, Gorlois is the father of Cador, Duke of Cornwall, presumably by Igraine. In Thomas Hughes' 1587 play The Misfortunes of Arthur, Gorlois' ghost condemns Arthur for his father's treachery.


  1. ^ Jones, Mary (2005), "Gorlois", Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia, retrieved 13 December 2012
  2. ^ a b c Bruce, Christopher W., The Arthurian Name Dictionary, Taylor & Francis, 1999 ISBN 9780815328650
  3. ^ The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation, (Norris J. Lacy, James J. Wilhelm, ed.), Routledge, 2015, p.94 ISBN 9781317341840
Legendary titles
Last known title holder:
as king
Duke of Cornwall Succeeded by