King Arthur's Daughters
Did King Arthur have any children? Most people would probably think only of Mordred, his traitorous son/nephew. It's part of the essential tragedy of King Arthur: he's the greatest king of all time, yet he has no heir to succeed him. Except that in many versions of the story, he actually does have other children. King Arthur's Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, by Tyler R. Tichelaar, is the most in-depth look at this subject. It's well worth a read.
In the oldest Welsh sources, Arthur frequently has a son who dies young. Through the centuries, sons of Arthur popped up in romances now and again. Daughters of King Arthur are a much rarer subject, but not totally unknown.
The medieval legend of St. Ursula recounts how a British princess led eleven thousand virgins on a pilgrimage, only for them all to meet death as martyrs. There have been many retellings - one of them "De Sancta Ursula: De undecim milibus Virginum martirum," usually attributed to a monk named Hermann Joseph writing in 1183.
This version gives a prodigious list of names for Ursula's companions. One, mentioned in a single line, is Nathalia, "[f]ilia etiam Arthuri regis de Britannia" (daughter of Arthur, king of Britain).
There's very little to go on here. It's hard to say whether this is even the King Arthur we're looking for. The author tosses in a multitude of famous names from many different eras. There are royal names like Canute, Pepin and Cleopatra, and saint names like Columbanus, Balbina and Eulalia. Some of them might be traditionally connected to Ursula, but with others, one feels the author was using whatever names he could think of at the moment.
Anyway, a hypothetical historical Arthur would have lived around the late 5th to early 6th century. Ursula's date of death is usually given as 383, way too early.
Whatever her parentage, Nathalia is presumably martyred with the rest of the virgins at the end of the story.
In the Icelandic Thidrekssaga, composed in the first half of the 13th century, the titular Thidrek seeks a bride: Hild, daughter of King Artus of Bertangaland (Brittany). She falls in love with Thidrek's nephew Herburt instead. This is really only a footnote in the story and Hild isn't mentioned afterwards. There are other versions of the story, but this is the only one to connect the Hild character to King Arthur. The incident echoes the story of Tristan and Isolde.
Artus also has two sons in the Thidrekssaga, named Iron and Apollonius. Iron marries a woman named Isolde and has a daughter of his own, also named Isolde, who would be Arthur's granddaughter.
From the 14th century Icelandic Samsoms Saga Fougra (Saga of Samson the Fair). King Arthur of England and his queen, Silvia, have a son named Samson and a daughter named Grega. Unlike her brother, Grega is mentioned only once, when she's named in the introduction.
This is, however, King Arthur in name only. There's nothing to connect it to Arthurian canon except that it includes the Arthurian motif of the magical chastity-testing mantle.
A 14th-century Breton lai. Emaré is the daughter of a great emperor named Artyus and his late wife Erayne. Artyus is "‘the best manne / In the worlde that lyvede thanne," but he's also temporarily stricken with lust for his daughter, like the king in Donkeyskin. The story is peopled with names from Arthurian legend. Artyus is a form of "Arthur." Tristan and Isolde are mentioned as an example of famous lovers, and other characters have names like Kadore and Segramour. Erayne is reminiscent of Elaine or Igraine.
"Emare" is really not an Arthurian story, though. It takes place in France and Rome. Emare marries the king of Galys, which could be Wales but is more likely Galicia in Spain. There is a distinct lack of England.
The names are probably intentional references which set the stage and put readers in mind of Arthurian settings. This was common in many lais. The connections are interesting, but I would consider this the wrong Arthur.
Archfedd, Archvedd, Archwedd
In the Welsh genealogical tract Bonedd y Saint we get this line:
"Efadier a Gwrial plant Llawvrodedd varchoc o Archvedd verch Arthur i mam" (Efadier and Gwrial, children of Llawfrodedd the knight and Archfedd daughter of Arthur, their mother)
This is the only appearance of Archfedd, and it’s unclear if her father is the Arthur. On the other hand, Llawfrodedd is one of Arthur’s warriors in Culhwch and Olwen and The Dream of Rhonabwy. Also apparently he had a really nice cow.
The “Bonedd y Saint” genealogy was compiled in the 12th century and the earliest example survives from the 13th. However, Archfedd is a later addition from manuscripts written from 1565 to 1713. Many of these manuscripts were copied from each other.
The Portuguese novel Memorial das Proezas da Segunda Távola Redonda (Memorial of the Deeds of the Second Round Table), by Jorge Ferreira de Vasconcelos, was first printed in 1567. Here, Sagramor Constantino (a combination of Sir Sagramore and Arthur's canonical successor Constantine) takes the throne after Arthur's death. He marries "infante Seleucia que el rey Artur ouve em Liscanor filha do conde Sevauo sua primeyra molher" - the princess Seleucia who King Arthur [begat?] on Liscanor daughter of Count Sevauo, his first wife. It seems Liscanor died in childbirth.
The author didn't pull those names out of nowhere. In the Vulgate cycle, Lisanor is the daughter of Count Sevain and the mother of Arthur's illegitimate son Loholt. Similarly, in Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Lionors, daughter of Sanam, is the mother of Arthur's illegitimate son Borre. This would make Seleucia the full sister of Loholt and/or Borre. However, she was born in wedlock and is Arthur's legitimate heir.
Guinevere (or Genebra in this version) is conveniently removed from the scene when she dies in childbirth with Sir Lancelot's twins, Florismarte and Andronia. Many other second-generation knights appear around Sagramor Constantino's resurrected Round Table.
It's rare enough for stories to include Arthur's daughters. Seleucia is particularly rare in that she succeeds Arthur's throne. Sagramor and Seleucia may even have their own child - near the end, they appear accompanied by a Princess Licorida who is eight years old. Unfortunately, I do not know of any English translations.
Baedo (Badda, Baddo, Bado, Bauda, Badona)
Baddo was the wife of the Visigothic Spanish king Reccared. She was present at the Third Council of Toledo, 589. She was not Reccared’s first wife. Their son was Suintila or Swinthila (ca. 588-633). Little else is known about her.
Almost a thousand years later, in 1571, Esteban de Garibay y Zamalloa’s Compendio Historial described her thus: "Badda, dizen, auer sido hija de Arturo Rey de Inglaterra" (Badda, they say, was the daughter of Arthur, King of England).
Other Spanish and Portuguese manuscripts followed suit, many of them quoting Garibay. Differing sources call her father Fontus (Annals of the Queens of Spain).
The link to Arthur may have been drawn because of the similarity of her name to the Battle of Badon, one of the battles historically associated with Arthur. If nothing else, Queen Baedo could have lived in the same century as an Arthur who fought at Badon, if a bit late to be his daughter.
Sir Thomas Urquhart's Pantochronachanon (1652) says Arthur had a daughter named Tortolina, who married a man named Nicharcos and begot a son named Marsidalio born in 540. This work traces Urquhart's family tree back to Adam and Eve and is probably intended as a parody.
Sir Laurence Gardner in Bloodline of the Holy Grail (1996) says with no sources that Tortolina was actually Mordred’s daughter.
The Irish “Mhelóra agus Orlando” has survived in three manuscripts dated between the 17th and 18th centuries (one manuscript is dated 1679).
Melora is Arthur and Guinevere's daughter who falls in love with Orlando, the prince of Thessaly. When he is enchanted by his rival, Melora disguises herself as the Knight of the Blue Surcoat and travels the world to save him. This romance includes strong fairy-tale elements. It might have been influenced by Ariosto's epic Orlando Furioso (which also features a maiden knight) or by another Irish romance, The Tragedy of the Sons of Tuireann (with its globe-trotting quest for magical objects).
Melora is one of the more well-known daughters of Arthur, but still deserves much more attention.
Arthur and Queen Dollalolla's daughter in Henry Fielding's "Tom Thumb" (1730). This satirical play features nonsense names and comically tragic deaths.
The warrior daughter of Arthur with the fairy queen Guendolen, in Sir Walter Scott's The Bridal of Triermain (1813). Merlin casts her into a magic sleep until her true love awakens her centuries later. (Incidentally, Geneth is also a Welsh name meaning "girl.")
In the fairytale Childe Rowland, first published in 1814, King Arthur has four children including Rowland and a daughter named Ellen. I've written about Childe Rowland and its dubious ties to Arthurian canon here. Basically, the collector of the tale heard a version that included Merlin, and added in Arthur, Guinevere and Excalibur himself.
The daughter of Arthur and Ginevra (Guinevere) in “Edgar,” a dramatic poem in five acts by Dr. Adolph Schütt, published in German in 1839.
The play evidently takes place during the time of the Heptarchy, the seven kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England from the 5th to 10th centuries. Arthur is king of the Silures (an ancient British tribe settled in southeast Wales.) Edgar is an English prince, unjustly banished, who becomes a knight of the Round Table and falls in love with Princess Iduna. Although she returns his affections, her father has promised her to whichever knight accomplishes the mightiest task. Iduna is apparently an only child, as the aged Arthur is anxious for her to marry a man who will make a good king. Edgar marries her by the end of the play, of course.
A rather scathing review (from what I can tell via Google Translate) calls the five acts "building blocks to a temple for the god of boredom."
Apparently, a daughter of Arthur named Poppet appeared in the 1853 pantomime "Harlequin and Tom Thumb; or, Gog and Magog and Mother Goose's Golden Goslings." Like Huncamunca before her, she fell for Tom Thumb.
Saint Tryphine is the subject of a Breton legend with similarities to the story of Bluebeard. Usually, her husband's name is Conomor, and Tryphine and her son Tremeur are venerated as martyrs. In 1863, folklorist François-Marie Luzel collected a mystery play with eight acts, in which Tryphine is merged with Guinevere as the wife of King Arthur. This is not the Bluebeard-style legend. The villain of the story is Tryphine's brother Kervoura, who sets out to remove Arthur’s legitimate heirs so that he can inherit the kingdom. First he kidnaps Tryphine’s newborn son and accuses her of infanticide. Arthur is about to have her executed, but she survives in hiding for six years, until Arthur accepts her innocence and takes her back. She gives birth to his daughter. Kervoura’s still at it, though, and frames Tryphine for adultery. Fortunately, her son has survived and exposes the truth just before she can be executed.
The boy might be named Tremeur, but that name isn’t used. When he returns to the narrative, he is referred to only as “the Malouin,” or inhabitant of Saint Malo, where he was secretly raised.
Arthur and Tryphine’s daughter is mentioned in the sixth act and disappears for the rest of the play. I don’t think she gets a name. Her birth enforces that Arthur is still in need of a male heir, and gives Kervoura a chance to gain Arthur’s confidence moving into the final act.
It ends with the villains punished and the royal family of Arthur, Tryphine and the Malouin reunited. In this scene of family unity, it’s strange that the youngest child isn’t mentioned. One wonders whether she died or whether, since the crown prince has returned, she’s simply not important. There’s also the possibility that the daughter appeared in some productions despite not being mentioned in Luzel's transcript.
In Jean Cocteau's 1937 play, Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde, Guinevere has a son and daughter named Segramor and Blandine. Arthur believes they are his. Segramor is actually Guinevere's son with Lancelot. Blandine, the fiancee of Gauvain (Gawaine), is evidently Arthur's biological daughter.
When searching for daughters of Arthur, it can be easy to stumble across daughters of the wrong King Arthur. In some of these examples (e.g. Emare or Grega), the authors are simply borrowing names and motifs from Arthurian tradition to craft original stories. On the other hand, there are stories like Melora's or Seleucia's.
There could be other works which give Arthur a daughter, but which haven't come to light yet. That may be because they're too obscure or because they're written in other languages. I hope to see translations of such works in the future. And with modern retellings, daughters of Arthur have made more frequent appearances than ever before.
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6/9/2019 03:15:09 am
Not really. Only in welsh mythology (which is not considered to be apart of the Arthurian canon) does Arthur have any actual children (though they all died). In everything else, his so called “children” are restricted to satires or propaganda and have no basis or even a role to play in Arthurian legend. Nor have any of them been canonized except for Mordred. While it seems that in the early tradition Llacheu/Loholt/Borre were prominent. And most certainly Amr too. But once again, they all died and before Arthur too at that.
Writing in Margins
6/9/2019 07:13:26 pm
I know and I agree - indeed, that's what I said in the blog post. I'm not looking at Arthurian canon, though. I'm focusing on any pre-modern works that portray King Arthur as having a daughter, including satires and propaganda, since that theme is so fascinatingly rare. Again, I'd recommend Tyler Tichelaar's book as a great look at unusual variations on Arthurian legend.
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Researching folktales and fairies, with a focus on common tale types.