Le Morte Darthur Book 21
Mordred has proclaimed Arthur dead and many lords sided with him. He intended to marry Guenever but she fled to the Tower of London where she is sieged. The bishop of Canterbury tried to talk with Mordred and reveals his lies but is threatened and turns hermit. Many barons see peace in Mordred and only war in Arthur. Mordred musters a host and goes to Dover. Most of England holds with him.
At Dover, many die. Gawain is seriously hurt and faints three times. He is finally writing to Lancelot requesting him to help Arthur as he, Gawain, is now dead. He also asks Lancelot to pray for him. [Weirdly he writes that his letter is written 2 ½ hours before his death… -> huh?]. He then dies and is buried in a chapel in Dover castel. Mordred prepares another field at Baramdoune. Arthur wins again. Mordred flees to Canterbury.
Many people join Arthur. Monday after Trinity Sunday. Arthur has a dream of him riding in a chair and falling down among serpents. Gawain appear with a number of ladies – all whom he helped in his life – to give him a warning with the allowance of god: if he does battle the next day, many will die and Arthur himself as well. If he waits, Lancelot will arrive. Arthur listens to the advice tells his men to make treaty with whatever they can. Mordred (who has 100.000 men) agrees to get Cornwall and Kent now and all England after his Arthur’s death.
They meet in the middle of the hosts. Both tell their men to attack if anybody draws a sword; nobody trusts the other. A serpent bites one knight and he slays it with his sword. A battle ensues. 100k die. Arthur sees his army devastated and espies Mordred alone. He attacks him and deals him a deadly blow. Dying, Mordred wounds Arthur who is taken into a chapel by Lucas the Butler and Bedewere. From outside, scavengers can be heard.
Sir Lucas dies of his wounds while caring for Arthur. Arthur requests Bedewere to take his sword and throw it into the sea and to tell him what he saw. Bedewere fails twice, hiding the sword instead of throwing it in and reporting to have seen only waves. The third time he succeeds and sees an arm caching the sword and vanishing. Then Bedewere helps Artur to the shore where a barge waits for him with many fair queens in black robes. Three queens receive Arthur and row away with him. Arthur tells Bedewere that he goes “to the vale of Avylyon” where they might heal him.
Bedewere meets the hermit who was the bishop of Canterbury. The ladies brought Arthur’s corpse there before and buried him. Bedewere stays. Malory says he found nothing more secured of Arthur in any book. The three queens are identified as Morgan le Fay, the Queen of North Galis, and the Queen of the Waste Lands; Ninive (who wedded Pellas etc.) the chief lady of the lake was also there. The hermit did not know for sure if it was really Arthur’s corpse, though.
Some say, Arthur shall come again and win the holy cross. On his tomb is inscribed: “Hic iacet Arthurus Rex quandoam Rex que futurus” (loosely but mostly translated like this: Here lies Arthur, once and future King; OR even more loosely: Here lies Arthur who was king and shall always be king). The queen learns of this and becomes a nun and later abbess.
Lancelot comes too late and learns of the events. He visits Gawain’s tomb and learns of Arthur’s death. He and his men give much money or masses for Gawain’s soul. Lancelot departs in search for Guenever.
Bors warns him that this country is hostile to them. Lancelot gets to the abbey of the Queen. She gives him a last command: to leave her so she can get her soul heal. Lancelot says he will also turn abbot; Guenever cannot believe this. Lancelot remembers the quest for the holy Grail and that he could have died there and passed all the other knights if he had not been rooted in worldly things too much: “I have had myn erthly Ioye”.
They agree to not kiss any more. Lancelot comes to the hermitage with Bedewere and the bishop. He sings mass with them and joins as a brother. In search for Lancelot, Lionel and many of his men get slain. Sir Bors searches Lancelot and finds him, joins as a brother as do some other knights afterwards They stay for 6 years. Lancelot then has a vision that the queen is dead and that he shall search her corpse – the vision appears three times in one night.
Lancelot departs for the abbey and arrives half an hour after the queen died. She said that Lancelot would come to get her body. Lancelot looks upon her face and sighs, he sins mass, wraps her in clothes and faints when they bury here. The bishop scolds him but he says he did not faint for being in sin still but because he remembered all the goodness of Guenevere and Arthur etc.
Lancelot slowly dwindles away. He always lies grovelling on the tomb of Arthur and Guenever. Within six weeks he asks for the last rites a he has “warning more than I will say”. He asks for his body to be taken to Ioyous Gard as he once vowed. One night the bishop is awakened by the knights and tells of a vision: angels (more than ever he saw) elevating Lancelot to heaven. Consequently, Lancelot is found dead, smiling. They take the body to IG. Ector de Maris meets them; he fought 7 years in England and Scotland seeking his brother Lancelot.
Ector proclaims that Lancelot was head of all Christian kings an unmathed by earthly man. Sir Constantine, son of Cador of Cornwall, is chosen as king of England and rules wise. The knights leave the country to their homes, even though Constantine would have liked them to stay. Mallory discredits English books saying otherwise – “that was but favours of makers”. Bors, Ector, Blamour, and Bleoberis went into the Holy Land as Lancelot requested before. The four of them died one Good Friday “for goddess sake”. Mallory closes by en-numbering the Knights of the Round Table in the high time to 150 and by a request to pray for him and given the composue of the book as under the reign of Edward IV. (Finished 1485, July, Westminster).