King Arthur’s Death (Mort le Roi Artu) Summary

Facts and Figures

The Death of King Arthur form part of the Vulgate Cycle or Prose Lancelot. The work written in Old French prose was titled La Mort le Roi Artu (c. 1237). It was often called Mort Artu.

Like Lancelot and Queste del Saint Graal, we don’t know who wrote Mort Artu. Nor are we sure that one or three different writers composed the Vulgate Cycle.

I have included a version of Arthur’s death, by Sir Thomas Malory, for comparison to the Vulgate text. Malory wrote a huge volume in Middle English called Le Morte d’Arthur (c. 1469). For the most part, Malory followed the Mort Artu as his source. Malory’s other sources were two Middle English works, the stanzaic Le Morte Arthur (c. 1350), and the alliterative Morte Arthure (c. 1400). Which explained why Malory’s work was different from Vulgate text.

La Mort le Roi Artu (Vulgate Cycle)

Red Sleeve and the Apple
Infidelity and Betrayal
Twilight of the Kingdom
Aftermath of the War


Previous related tales from the Vulgate Cycle that you should have read before you read this page:
Legend of Excalibur
the Quest of the Holy Grail (Galahad’s tradition).



La Mort le Roi Artu (Vulgate Cycle)

The stories about Arthur’s death found in Vulgate Cycle called La Mort le Roi Artu, and Sir Thomas Malory’s le Morte d’Arthur are mostly similar in content. However, I discovered that the order of Mort Artu was different from those written by Malory.

Most of what is told here, I have decided to followed Mort Artu, because order of events was more logical and easy to understand than those by Malory’s.

Though, the death of Arthur was central theme, the story was really about Lancelot: his adultery with Queen Guinevere that led to Arthur’s downfall and the end of the Golden Age of Chivalry.


Red Sleeve and the Apple

Bors returned to Camelot with news that Christ had taken the Holy Grail to heaven, as well as the death of Galahad, Lancelot’s son, and Perceval, the other Grail knight. However as many as thirty-two other knights were killed in the quest, mostly by Gawain, who had killed eighteen. Among them were Yvain the Bastard, the illegitimate son of Urien, and King Baudemagus.

(According to the Vulgate Queste, Gawain had killed his fellow-knights because he didn’t recognise them. In the Post-Vulgate version of the Queste, Gawain had deliberately and treacherously killed these knights, including Erec (Eric), son of King Lac and Palemedes, the Saracen knight. Both of these good knights were wounded from previous engagements, but Gawain ignored the protocol of not fighting injured knights.)

Lancelot tried to lead a repentant and chaste life, after his failure in the quest. This upset Guinevere, wife of King Arthur. Agravain, the brother of Gawain, suspected Guinevere was having an affair with Lancelot. Agravain persisted in telling Arthur. When Arthur was told of this, the king also did not believe it but allow Agravain to prove or catch his wife committing adultery with his champion and friend.

Arthur was holding a tournament in Winchester. Lancelot claimed that he wanted to rest in Camelot, and told his kinsmen – Hector (Lancelot’s brother) and his cousins Bors and Lionel – to go without him. Agravain, however, thought this was the perfect time to catch the lovers together. But Lancelot secretly left Camelot, hoping to joust in the touranment in disguise. Arthur and Girflet, however, saw that Lancelot in the street, realising that Lancelot wanted to secretly turn up at the tournament in Winchester. So Arthur thought that Lancelot was innocent of Agravain’s accusation.

When Lancelot lodged in Escolot (Astolot according to Malory) with a vavasour (called Bernard by Malory), asked to borrow one of the red shields from his host. The two shields belong to his two sons, newly knighted by King Arthur. One of his sons decided to accompany the hero to tournament (he was called Lavaine of Astolot, by Malory).

The vavasour’s daughter (unnamed in the Vulgate Cycle, but Malory called her Elaine le Blank or “Elaine the Fair”, otherwise known as the “Fair Maid of Astolot” or “Lady of Ascolot”) fell in love with the hero. Elaine managed to make Lancelot promised to wear her sleeve in the tournament at Winchester. Carrying a lady or damsel’s sleeve indicates a knight is carrying a token of the woman’s love. Lancelot reluctantly carried the red sleeve of Elaine.

Lancelot performed the best on the tournament, unhorsing many knights, including his own brother (Hector). His own cousin Bors had unseated Lancelot, giving Lancelot a serious wound. Arthur realised that this knight who bore the red shield must be Lancelot. Gawain wanted to find out the identity of the red knight.

After tournament, Lancelot quickly left with Lavaine, and stayed with his companion’s aunt, to recovered from his wound.

Gawain was disappointed that he could not find the red knight who won the tournament in Winchester. By chance, Gawain stayed in the same lodging in Escolot as Lancelot’s and met Elaine. Gawain was captivated by Elaine’s beauty and wanted to woo her. She, however, rejected Gawain’s love, claiming that she was in love with the red knight who performed so well in Winchester. Gawain recognised the shield that Lancelot and thought his friend was in love with Elaine, since he worn her red sleeve.

Gawain told Arthur, about Lancelot’s love for Elaine. The king thought that if Lancelot was in love with Elaine, then Guinevere and Lancelot was innocent of committing adultery. Arthur revealed to his favourite nephew for the first time, of Agravain’s accusation against Lancelot and Guinevere. Gawain also did not believe in his own brother’s accusation against Lancelot.

Gawain returned to Camelot, and told the queen who won the tournament. When Guinevere found that the red knight was Lancelot, she became distressed and angry when she thought her lover was seeing another woman.

When Bors returned to Camelot, he became distressed by Gawain’s news, that he had wounded his cousin at the news. Bors also became even more distressed when he talk to the queen, who was angry with Lancelot. Gawain, Bors, Lionel and Hector decided to find Lancelot.

When a couple weeks later, Lancelot found out that Arthur was holding another tournament, and that was Queen Guinevere was attending. Lancelot became so distressed with news, that his wound was reopened. Lancelot’s physician managed to persuade Lancelot not to attend any tournament, until he fully recovered. Elaine told Lancelot of her love for him, and wanted to marry the hero. Lancelot informed her, that as beautiful as she was, he did not love her.

When Gawain and Bors found Lancelot, they discovered the hero had almost fully recovered from his wound. Lancelot was a surprise that it was his cousin who had wounded, while Bors was embarrassed and ashamed that he had wounded his cousin.

When Lancelot was about to leave, Elaine tried to get the hero to marry her without any success. Elaine revealed to the hero, he had broken her heart and she would soon die. Lancelot was unmoved and departed for Camelot. Elaine returned to her bed and never got up again.

When Arthur became lost in the forest, he came across the castle to belong to his sister, Morgan le Fay. Years ago, Morgan le Fay had imprisoned Lancelot in her castle for a year and a half. Lancelot had foolishly painted on the walls and recorded his early adventure and his love for Guinevere when he was first dubbed knight. Arthur stayed in the same room, and found out that Guinevere had an affair with Lancelot since the war against Galeholt (king of the Distant Isles). Morgan kept insisting that her brother should avenge his dishonour upon the adulterous pairs.

Upon returning to Camelot, the queen would not see them. Bors later found out from Guinevere that Lancelot was no longer welcome here, because her lover was unfaithful to her. When Bors told his cousin, Lancelot became greatly distressed. They left Camelot together, promising to meet at the tournament at Camelot.

Again, Lancelot missed another tournament, because while he was lodged with a hermit in the forest, he fell asleep beside a creek. One of Arthur’s huntsmen accidentally shot his crossbow what he thought was a stag; instead he wounded Lancelot’s left thigh. The huntsman recognised Lancelot and fled in terror.

Normally when Guinevere have dinner in court, she would normally give a fruit to Gawain. A knight named Avarlan (Pinel le Savage, cousin of Lamorak, according to Malory) knew of the queen’s habit, decided to put poison in an apple. Avarlan hoped that this would kill Gawain. Guinevere was still distressed over Lancelot’s apparent unfaithfulness. Guinevere absently gave the apple to Gaheris le Blanc of Karahan, instead of Gawain. Gaheris died from the poison. Everyone at the table was shocked. Many thought the queen had deliberately poisoned Gaheris .

Gaheris was the brother of Mador de la Porte, one of the strongest knights of the Round Table. When Mador found out about his brother’s death, he accused the queen of poisoning her brother, and will challenge any knight who would faced him. Otherwise she would be burnt at the stake. Arthur had no choice, but to accept Mador’s demand for justice, but gave Guinevere’s forty days grace, to find a knight who would be her champion. None of the Round Table knights volunteered to be her champion, since quite a few witnessed Gaheris’ death. It was believed that if you do defend someone that you knew was guilty, and even if you were to win the single combat, you would lose your honour. To a knight, life was honour.

One day, Arthur and Gawain saw a beautiful boat arriving at Camelot. They decided to investigate and saw a beautiful dead maiden lying on a bed. Gawain recognised it was the Fair Maid of Astolot. They found the letter on her body, telling why she died. They buried the girl with great honour, with inscription of why she died. When Guinevere found out about the girl, learning the truth about Lancelot, she grieved for sending her lover away. She realised that Lancelot was never unfaithful to her, and her champion would not defend her.

As Lancelot was recovery from his new wound, he met a knight who was riding by the hermit’s hut. When he heard the news about Mador de la Porte’s challenge and the possibility that Guinevere would be stake, he was quite horrified that none of the knight would defend the queen’s honour. But soon, he met with his brother Hector and later Bors. By then Lancelot was fully healed. Lancelot decided to defend the queen, if she had not forgiven him. Lancelot decided to go in disguise. Lancelot and his kin returned to Camelot.

At Camelot, Guinevere was becoming increasingly distress that she could find no one willing to defend her. Though Arthur knew of his wife’s adultery, he still loved Guinevere. The king tried to order Gawain to defend her, but his nephew would not do so if he would lose his honour.

When Guinevere met Bors, she thought she found someone who would defend her. Instead, Bors rebuked her for hating his cousin (Lancelot) and sending him away. Bors told the queen that she justly deserved this. Obvious this upset her more.

When the time came for her to face her trial, she begged Bors to save her. Taking pity on the queen, Bors told her that he would defend her if no better knight would do so. Guinevere realised that Lancelot would come and save her again.

When Mador accuse of her intentionally and treacherously murdered his brother, Lancelot (disguised, by not bearing his own arms) came before the court to defend the queen. They threw challenged at one another. In the single combat, Lancelot unhorsed Mador in the joust. Lancelot then dismount his own horse, and attacked his opponent with a sword. Mador was no match for Lancelot, and was soundly defeated when Mador lost his sword. Lancelot and Mador had been friends; the hero had no intention of killing an honourable knight. Lancelot spared Mador when he surrendered. Charges against the queen were dropped and Guinevere was freed.

Related Information
Mort le roi Artu, 1237 (Vulgate Cycle).
Post-Vulgate version of the Death of King Arthur, c. 1250.
The Middle English stanzaic Le Morte Arthur, c. 1350.
Sir Thomas Malory
Le Morte d’Arthur, 1469.
Related Articles
Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawain, Bors, Elaine le Blank, Morgan le Fay.


John Atkinson Grimshaw
Oil on canvas, 1877
Private collection


Infidelity and Betrayal

The Rescue of Guinevere

Guinevere and Lancelot were reconciled. The love between the two was as strong as ever. They were becoming evidently discreet. Even Gawain recognised it, and was troubled by it. However, Gawain and his brother Gaheriet were not willing to bring this to the king’s attention. Gawain knew the war between his king and his best friend (Lancelot) could very well destroy the kingdom, as well dividing the fellowship of the Round Table.

However, Agravain was determined to inform the king. When Arthur heard them talking about this, Gawain and Gaheriet refused to take part in this. Even at the pain of death, Gawain refused to tell the king about affair between the queen and her lover. Gawain and Gaheriet left and warned Arthur, he would destroy the kingdom for getting involved in this.

Arthur was determined to catch his wife’s infidelity ordered his nephews Agravain and Mordred to prove their claims. Agravain told of his plan, in which the king should invite the Round Table to going hunting trip, without Lancelot. Agravain and his brothers (Guerrehet and Mordred) would take some knights to capture Lancelot.

Arthur left with his knights on the hunting trip without Lancelot. That night Guinevere sends a message to come to her apartment. When Lancelot and the queen was in bed together, Agravain would have taken them by surprise, had Lancelot not locked the heavy door. When they realised that they were trapped.

Lancelot armed with a sword but had no armour, fearlessly opened the door. Lancelot killed the first man who entered through the door. The others knights were fearful to entered the room. Lancelot quickly put on the dead knight’s armour, before leaping out the door. Lancelot then attacked and killed a few other knights. Agravain and the rest dared not face Lancelot. (In Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, Agravain was killed by Lancelot in Guinevere’s bedchamber.)

Leaving Guinevere behind, Lancelot returned to his brother and his cousins. Realising the possibility of facing a war. They decided to wait before rescuing the queen.

Arthur returned, learning of his nephew’s capturing the queen, but that Lancelot had escaped, he decided to have the queen burnt at the stake, without a trial. Gawain and Gaheriet opposed the summary execution of the queen. Arthur sends Agravain with forty men to escort Guinevere outside of Camelot to be burnt. Arthur ordered his nephew Gaheriet to also escort the queen. At first Gaheriet refused then reluctantly agreed to the king’s command. Gaheriet loved Lancelot enough that he was saddened by this whole situation.

Lancelot learned of Guinevere’s fate, decided it was time to rescue the Queen. Lancelot and his knights immediately went to rescue the queen. In the fight, Lancelot killed Agravain, while Bors killed Guerrehet.

At first, Gaheriet did not wanted to draw his weapon against his friends, but seeing that his brothers were killed, he decided to defend himself. Gaheriet killed two of Lancelot’s followers. Hector seeing Gaheriet’s deeds in combat, swung his sword at Gaheriet’s head, as he rode past.

Hector knocked Gaheriet’s helmet off his head. Lancelot was busy swinging his sword left and right, as he rode the enemy rank. Lancelot did not recognised Gaheriet, Lancelot unwittingly killed his friend. (Gaheris (Gaheriet) and Gareth (Guerrehet) were both killed by Lancelot according to Malory.)

Only Mordred had escaped with two knights. Had Lancelot been able to recognise Gaheriet, Gaheriet would have still been alive. Lancelot was distressed that he had killed one of his closest friends. Lancelot realised that a war was inevitable between himself against the king and Gawain, because he had killed Gaheriet.

Lancelot decided to take Guinevere to the Joyous Guard. The castle was formerly known as Dolorous Guard, which he had conquered single-handedly in his first year of knighthood. Joyous Guard would be able to withstand a long siege.

Arthur and Gawain were overcome with grief; particularly when they found that Lancelot had killed Gaheriet. Gawain had been one of Lancelot’s closest friends; now he had earned Gawain’s enmity. Gawain over-exaggerated grief and irrational rage let him overcome his normally wisdom.

Arthur gathered an army to besiege Lancelot in Dolorous Guard. Outside of Lancelot’s castle, a girl bringing a message to Arthur and Gawain, tried to deliver peace offer for the king. She also told them, of Lancelot’s past aid, where he had rescued Arthur and his nephew many times. Gawain flatly refused any offer of peace because of his brother’s death.

The girl then told them how Gawain saw the vision of a dragon and leopard fighting. The dragon signifying Arthur, losing to leopard (Lancelot), not only in the war, but he would lose his kingdom and his honour. Her warning was ignored. (See Vulgate Lancelot about Gawain’s vision.)

Lancelot had no choice but to fight with the king and Gawain, whom he loved. During the first day combat, Lancelot distinguished himself so well in the battlefield, that Arthur feared defeat. Arthur charged at Lancelot with a lance. Lancelot seeing Arthur come to attack him, he refused to raise his weapon against his beloved king. Lancelot waited with the shield ready to protect him from the oncoming enemy, but did not level his lance at Arthur. Arthur unhorsed Lancelot.

Hector seeing his brother unhorsed, angrily attacked Arthur with his sword. Arthur was also unhorsed. Hector ripped the helmet off Arthur’s head. He called to his brother, asking Lancelot to kill the king. Lancelot rebuked his brother, saying that he will never harm the king. He helped dazed Arthur to mount his horse, protecting and escorting the king safely out of the battle.

When Arthur returned to his army, he told everyone what had happen, praising his enemy for his gallantry and courtesy. Yet, Arthur was unable stop the war, because his nephew refused to see reason, until either Lancelot or himself is dead.

The war lasted for two months, until the Pope heard of it. When the Pope learnt that Arthur was going to put his wife and queen to death, without proof and trial, the Pope was angry with the king. The Pope threatened to excommunicate Arthur, if the king doesn’t take back the queen and love her before.

The bishop of Rochester, acting as messenger, told the king, about Pope’s commandment. Arthur was angry about the Pope’s demand, yet he was still willing to take his wife, since he still loved Guinevere. Arthur was willing to take Guinevere and love her. When Guinevere heard that her husband was willing to take her back and love her as if she had not committed adultery. She was determined to return to her husband, but on the condition, that Lancelot and his kin were given safe conduct to return home to Gaul (France). Arthur agreed.

Though, Lancelot loved Guinevere and would preferred her to stay with him, but he thought it was better to restore the queen’s honour. Since Lancelot was willingly returning the queen to Arthur, the king was having doubts that his wife and former friend ever committed adultery.

Yet, Arthur was unable to go against Gawain’s wish to continue the war in Lancelot’s kingdoms in France. The theme was no longer about the adultery of Lancelot and Guinevere. Arthur was mainly continuing the war against Lancelot, for Gawain’s sake than the adultery. Gawain refused to let go of his enmity towards his former companion until Lancelot was dead. Lancelot tried to dissuade Arthur and Gawain, that he had previously rescued their lives, were met with deaf ears.

Lancelot and his cousins left the kingdom of Logres. Lancelot made Bors king of Banoic (Benwick), while his other cousin received the kingdom of Gaunes. Lancelot had received Gaul from Arthur as a reward in his early adventures; now he returned Gaul to Arthur. They prepared themselves for war against Arthur.


The Duel and the Betrayal of Mordred

As Arthur wintered in Camelot, he prepared his army for campaign in Banoic and Gaunes. Arthur left his nephew Mordred in charge of the kingdom, while he will be absent. By leaving Mordred in charge of his wife and the treasury, Arthur had sealed his own doom as well as the destruction of his own kingdom.

When Arthur arrived in Gaunes, he set about besieging the city of Gaunes. An old woman told Arthur and Gawain that they were sealing their own destruction for not making peace with Lancelot.

Lancelot, Bors and Gawain distinguished themselves in battle. However, Arthur was slowly losing the war. Realising that he was unable to win the war, Arthur rebuked his nephew for his enmity and hatred for Lancelot. Gawain decided to challenge Lancelot to single combat.

Lancelot never wanted to harm Gawain, but he was left with no choice, when he was accused of treacherously killing Gaheriet. The combat at first favoured Lancelot, until noon, when Gawain magically regained his strength. It was as if Gawain was fresh, like he did not fight at all that morning. Gawain had gained the upper hand in battle. Lancelot could do nothing but defend himself. Gradually, the fighting began to swing again in Lancelot’s favour as Gawain began to feel weary by None.

Gawain received a terrible head wound to the head, yet refused to give up until Gawain was brought to his knees. Even then he refused to give in and dropped his accusation against Lancelot. He preferred that Lancelot kill him. However, Lancelot’s name was cleared, because he had stood up against his accuser by Vesper. Rather than disposed of his enemy, he left the field of battle. This mean, though Gawain was defeated, Gawain’s honour was still intact, since Lancelot left the field. This show Lancelot was a man of compassion and great courtesy.

Both Lancelot and Gawain received many wounds from the single combat, but received the worse. The wound to his head would later kill Gawain.


Back in Britain, Mordred had forged a letter. The letter says that Gawain was dead and Arthur was mortally wounded. It stated that Arthur wanted Mordred to be king, and that Guinevere would become his wife. Mordred had already bribed many nobles with generous gifts. They had readily agreed to crown Mordred as their new king. Mordred and the nobles committed high treason.

Mordred commanded Guinevere to marry him, as Arthur’s last wish. Guinevere knew that Arthur was alive and had committed treason. She tricked Mordred into letting her think about his proposal. Guinevere went to the Tower of London (which was not built at that time), with some loyal supporters of Arthur, prepared to defy Mordred.

Mordred found out he had been duped, besieged Guinevere in the Tower of London. Guinevere sent one of her pages as messenger to Arthur, urging her husband to come back to Logres at once. The messenger was to seek out Arthur in Gaul.


War Against Rome

Bad news arrived for Arthur, the next day. The Romans had invaded Gaul (France). The emperor Lucius decided to take Gaul by war, overrunning Burgundy. In the fighting, Kay was killed. Gawain killed one of Lucius’ nephews, and would have killed the emperor, but Lucius’ bodyguard overcame Gawain and reopened the wound he had received from Lancelot. The battle ended when Arthur killed Emperor Lucius.

Two thing should be noted about this war against the Romans, Lucius was killed by unknown hand according to the early tradition, not by Arthur as in this Vulgate version and in Thomas Malory’s version. The second thing is that Malory’s version had the Roman campaigns as one of Arthur’s early war, and that Kay did not died (which make it very confusing).

The detail of the war was different to that of Goeffrey and Wace. See Life of King Arthur, for comparison.

Related Information
The Rescue of Guinevere
The Duel and Betrayal of Mordred
War Against Rome
Related Articles
Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawain, Mordred.

The Rescue of Guinevere

Lancelot Rescues Guinevere
W. Hatherell
Oil on canvas, 1910
King Arthur’s Great Halls, Tintagel


Twilight of the Kingdom

Final Battle

Shortly after the battle, Guinevere’s messenger came before Arthur with news, that Mordred had betrayed him and committed high treason. Arthur revealed to everyone that Mordred was his son, not King Lot, and that he would kill Mordred.

Arthur had to postpone his invasion into Italy. He prepared his army to ferried home (Logres) and quell his son’s rebellion.

As they departed from France, and sailed across the English Channel, Gawain revealed that he was dying. Gawain wrote a letter for Lancelot, asking for his forgiveness, and that his obsessive hatred and excessive sorrow (over his brother’s death) had caused between Lancelot and himself (as well as the king).

Gawain tried to persuade Arthur to wait for Lancelot’s aid in the war against Mordred. With Lancelot at his side, Arthur could not lose. Arthur foolishly refused to do so. Gawain died not long after reaching Britain. He was buried at Dover Castle.

That night, Arthur had a dream of his nephew, who had been received by God, because of his generous nature and his willingness to help the poor. Gawain warned Arthur again not to face Mordred in battle until Lancelot was there to help.

The next night, Arthur dreamed of sitting on top of the wheel, where he encountered a girl. The wheel signified the Wheel of Fortune. The girl informed Arthur that no other kings ever reached the height that Arthur had reached. The prize of reaching this height would be every high. The girl pushed the king down, where Arthur broke all his bones. When Arthur told of his visions to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishop tried to dissuade from waging a war against Mordred without Lancelot. In his pride, Arthur refused to heed all warnings at the cost of countless lives and the inevitable destruction of his kingdom.

Mordred hearing the news of Arthur’s arrival, abandoned siege on the Tower of London, and retreated west towards Cornwall. Guinevere also fled from London. She secretly sought refuge in an abbey. The moment she heard of Arthur’s death and the outcome of the war, Guinevere took the vow as a nun.

On Salisbury Plain (or at Camlann, in other tales), two mighty armies clashed. Mordred’s army outnumbered Arthur two to one. Also Mordred’s men was fresh yet inexperienced. Arthur’s knights were tired and weary after fighting two wars in the continent. However, his men, particularly the knights of the Round Table were hardened veterans.

Yvain was Arthur’s champion, whose prowess in battle prevented Arthur’s army become overwhelmed by the heavy numbers that favoured Mordred. In the end, Mordred killed the tired Yvain. The Round Table knights managed to destroy much of Mordred’s army, but they were finally overcome. Only Arthur, Girflet and Lucan the Butler were the only members of the Round Table to survive.

While Girflet and Lucan fought off and drove Mordred’s men from battlefield, Mordred and Arthur faced one another. Arthur ran Mordred through with his lance. Dying, Mordred gave Arthur a mortal wound to the head with his sword. Arthur killed Mordred.

Girflet and Lucan helped Arthur leave the battlefield and came upon the Black Chapel. Here, Arthur accidentally killed Lucan, whom the king had embraced. Since Lucan was not wearing armour, all his guts fell out from his belly.



The Last Act

Arthur and Girflet left the chapel and rode towards the sea. Arthur commanded Girflet to throw Excalibur in a nearby lake. Since the Lady of the Lake gave Excalibur to the king, he must now return the sword to the Lady of the Lake (See the New Sword in the legend of Excalibur).

Girflet did not want to throw the sword, so he threw his own sword into the lake while he hid Excalibur. Arthur knew that Girflet had disobeyed him when Girflet saw nothing happened. He again ordered to throw Excalibur into the lake. Again, Girflet disobeyed, by throwing Excalibur’s scabbard into the lake.

Arthur realised that Girflet had not thrown Excalibur into the lake. The king became angry, and told Girflet if obeyed his order he would witness a miracle. Girflet was with no choice, and returned to the sword. Girflet threw the sword into the middle of the lake. The knight witnessed a hand coming out of the water, catching Excalibur by the hilt. The arm brandished Excalibur three times before disappearing into the lake.

When Girflet returned to Arthur, and told the king what he saw. Arthur realised his life had come to an end. The king informed Girflet to ride away. Girflet reluctantly obeyed his king.

As Girflet reached the top of the hill, overlooking Arthur, he saw a black ship filled with women. Morgan le Fay led his brother aboard the ship. Then it sailed away. Girflet was overcome with grief. The next day, Girflet returned to the Black Chapel, where he found Arthur’s tomb. Girflet gave up the knighthood and become a hermit, but died eighteen days later.

Related Information
Camlann (Welsh).
Camble, Camblam, Camelford.
Salisbury Plain (in Vulgate Cycle).
Final Battle
The Last Act
The Death of King Arthur (Malory’s Version)
Related Articles
Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawain, Mordred, Morgan le Fay, Niniane, Yvain, Bedivere, Girflet.

Combat of Arthur and Mordred

Combat of Arthur and Mordred
Arthur Rackham


Death of King Arthur

La Mort d’Arthur
by James Archer
Oil on canvas, 1860
Manchester City Art Galleries, Manchester



The Death of King Arthur (Malory’s Version)

Sir Thomas Malory’s ending in Le Morte d’Arthur (c. 1469) was almost the same as that of Mort Artu (Vulgate Cycle) and that of the short Post-Vulgate version, except it was Bedivere, not Girflet, who threw Excalibur in the lake (most people today preferred this version by Malory). Malory had derived his version about Bedivere and Excalibur from the Middle English text, the stanzaic Le Morte Arthur, c. 1350.

Arthur was dying from his mortal wound, ordered Bedivere to throw Excalibur into the lake. Bedivere went to the lake but was reluctant to throw the magnificant sword. Bedivere hid Excalibur behind a tree, and return to his king, claiming that Excalibur now resided in the depth of the lake. When Arthur asked Bedivere what he saw at the lake, Bedivere said he saw nothing. Arthur knew immediately that Bedivere had not thrown the sword into the lake. Again, Arthur ordered Bedivere to throw the sword into the lake.

Bedivere returned to the lake. Again Bedivere disobeyed his king. The knight threw his own sword into the lake, before returning to Arthur. Arthur became angry with Bedivere when the knight said he saw nothing. Arthur told Bedivere that if he throw Excalibur into the lake, Bedivere would witness a great miracle.

Bedivere returned to the lake for the third time. Reluctantly, the knight threw Excalibur into the middle of the lake. A hand raised out of the lake, revealing its arm up to its elbow. The hand caught the king’s sword, brandished the blade three times, before the hand and Excalibur disappeared into the lake. Excalibur had finally returned to the Lady of the Lake, who had given the sword to Arthur (read The New Sword for details).


After, Bedivere threw Excalibur into the lake; Morgan le Fay arrived with three other women – the Queen of Northgales, Queen of the Waste Lands, and Niniane (Nimue), the Lady of the Lake. They were taking Arthur to Avalon where she could heal his wounds.

The next day however, Bedivere came upon the body of Arthur in a hermitage, but Malory says that was probably not the “real” Arthur.

For further comparison, you might tried to read Geoffrey and Wace’s version about the death of Arthur.

Bedwyr and Dying Arthur

Bedwyr (Bedivere) and Dying Arthur
John Duncan
Illustration, 1862
Fine Art Photographic Library


The aftermath of the War

Lancelot returned to Logres with an army because of the letter written by Gawain, but he arrived too late to help Arthur. They learned that two of Mordred’s sons had seized power. Lancelot then heard news that Guinevere had became a nun and died, but died on the day that would face Mordred’s sons in the Battle at Winchester.

Mordred’s eldest son, named Melehan, killed Lionel. Bors avenged his brother’s death, by splitting Melehan’s head in the middle. The younger son of Mordred (unnamed) fled in terror when he was faced with Lancelot. Lancelot pursued and killed him, but became lost in the forest.

Lancelot met the Archbishop of Canterbury and his cousin Bleobleeris (in Malory’s le Morte d’Arthur, it was Bedievere), both of them had decided to become monks. Lancelot decided to join them.

After the battle at Winchester, Bors decided to return home in Gaunes, while Hector went to search for his brother. Constantine, the son of Duke Cador of Cornwall became king of Logres.

When Hector found Lancelot, he decided to stayed with his brother, until he died four years later. Lancelot contracted an illness. He asked his cousin and the former archbishop that he wished to be entombed with his friend Galehaut (Galeholt), at Joyous Guard.

Five days later, the archbishop had a vision of Lancelot was taken to heaven by many angels. When he woke up he knew that Lancelot was dead. They found Lancelot had died in bed. When they took Lancelot’s body to Joyous Guard, they met with Bors, who had come at the order of his dream.

Though it grieved Bors that his cousin had died, he was happy that Lancelot was taken to heaven. Instead of returning to his kingdom, he joined Bleobleeris and the archbishop, and became a monk. This is how Mort Artu ended.



Again Malory ended, differently. There was no “Battle of Winchester”. Lancelot met Guinevere one last time, but the former queen had become a nun at the abbey in Almesbury. Refusing to return to a worldly life, she died before seeing Lancelot again. Lancelot, who had become a hermit when he left the queen, the first time, brought her body back with him, to be buried at Glastonbury.

His cousins Lionel (not dead) and Bleobleeris and some other knights became hermits with Lancelot. When Lancelot died from illness, his brother Hector (also not dead), found his Lancelot, who was about to bury in Joyous Guard.

Related Information
Related Articles
Lancelot, Guinevere, Bors, Lionel, Hector, Duke Cador of Cornwall.

Lancelot and Guinevere at the Tomb of Arthur

Lancelot and Guinevere at the Tomb of Arthur
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Watercolour, 1854
Christie’s, London

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