Last time I continued the tale of the great wizard Merlyn and his connection to Arthurian legend. As court wizard to Uther Pendragon, king of Britain, Merlyn devised an ambitious plan to form the Table Round. He envisioned ideals of justice; it didn’t quite work out that way.
After Merlyn had build the table for Uther, the monarch invited many nobles and knights to join the Table Round. One who accepted was Gorlois, the king of Cornwall. At the inauguration ceremony, Gorlois brought with him his wife, the beautiful Igraine. Uther fell in love at first sight, but Gorlois didn’t like all the attention the British kind was paying to his queen. He took Igraine and departed in the night, seeking refuge in his castle at Tintagel.
Uther was furious. Not only was it a grave insult for a guest to flee his host, but he had been deprived of Igraine’s longed-for company. He forgot all about the Table Round and declared war on Cornwall. Many battles raged. Although Britain’s eventual victory seemed certain, this was all taking too long for Uther. The king summoned his court wizard and demanded help.
Merlyn used his magic arts to transform Uther into an exact copy of Gorlois. Uther then rode right into Tintagel Castle and immediately made his way to Igraine’s chamber. Meanwhile, Merlyn directed Uther’s forces where to ambush the Cornish troops. Gorlois was killed in the fighting.
Word reached Igraine the following day, after Uther had already left Tintagel. She knew something was terribly wrong, since “Gorlois” had been with her the previous night, but she did not suspect Uther’s duplicity when he immediately arrived to console her. They married soon after, a handy way to consolidate two realms, but then Igraine discovered she was pregnant with the imposter’s child.
Fearing Uther’s wrath, Igraine told him of her condition. She thought she was bearing a bastard child, disaster for a virtuous queen. Rather than being angry, Uther was delighted. He explained the whole situation and gladly claimed the child as his own.
Nothing is said of Igraine’s feelings on the matter, only that she was relieved to have a legitimate child after all. Personally, I’d think such a cruel deception would cast the entire relationship in a very different light. Likewise, the story doesn’t say what Merlyn thought about the unravelling of his grand idea for justice in Britain. However, some say that Merlyn had foreseen all of these events and considered them part of a greater good.
Or maybe he wasn’t perfectly forgiving. It turned out there was a price for his part in the impersonation scheme. I’ll go on with that story next week.