Arthurian legend, Igraine is the mother of King Arthur. (She is also known in Latin as "Igerna", in Welsh as "Eigyr", in French as "Igerne", in Thomas Malory's "Le Morte d'Arthur" as "Ygrayne" --often modernized as "Igraine"-- and in Wolfram von Eschenbach's " Parzival" as "Arnive".) She becomes the wife of Uther Pendragon, but her first husband was Gorlois; her daughters by Gorlois are Elaine, Anna-Morgause, and Morgan le Fay.
Geoffrey of Monmouth
The first surviving mention is in
Geoffrey of Monmouth's " Historia Regum Britanniae", where she enters the story as the wife of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. King Uther Pendragonfalls in love with her and attempts to force his attentions on her at his court. She informs her husband who departs with her to Cornwall without asking leave. This sudden departure gives Uther Pendragon an excuse to make war on Gorlois. Gorlois conducts the war from the castle of Dimilioc but places his wife in safety in the castle of Tintagel.
Disguised as Gorlois by Merlin, Uther Pendragon is able to enter Tintagel to satisfy his lust. He manages to rape Igraine by deceit - Igraine believes that she is lying with her husband and becomes pregnant with Arthur. Her husband Gorlois dies in battle that same night. Geoffrey does not say, and later accounts disagree, as to whether Gorlois died before or after Arthur was begotten (something that might be important in determining whether or not a child could be made legitimate by a later marriage to its true father). Uther Pendragon later marries Igraine.
According to Geoffrey, Igraine also bore a daughter Anna to Uther Pendragon, this Anna later becoming the mother of
Gawainand Mordred. Yet Geoffrey also refers to King Hoelof Brittanyas Arthur's nephew and presents a prophecy that to Uther's daughter will be born a line of seven kings, something true if Howel is Anna's son, but not true if only Gawain or Mordred are Anna's sons. There is confusion here, especially as Welsh genealogies name an Anna as Howel's mother but one not connected to Uther Pendragon.
Robert de Boron
Robert de Boron's later "Merlin", Igraine's previous husband is an unnamed Duke of Tintagel and it is by him that she becomes the mother of two unnamed daughters. One marries King Lot and by him becomes the mother of Gawain, Mordred, Gaherietand Guerrehet. A second daughter, also unnamed in some variants but in some named Morgaine, is married to a certain King Nentres of Garlot. A third illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Tintagel is sent to a school and there learns so much she becomes the great sorceress Morgue la Fee.
In fact "Morgue" and "Morgaine" are respectively the nominative and oblique forms of the same name. Indeed no accounts outside of de Boron's "Merlin" mentions that
Morgan le Fayis illegitimate and therefore in this version Arthur's stepsister. According to Robert de Boron, Igraine died before her second husband.
In the Vulgate "Merlin" Ygraine is provided with two earlier husbands, one named Hoel who is the father of two daughters: Gawain's mother and a daughter named Blasine who marries King Nentres of Garlot. After Hoel's death Ygraine marries the Duke of Tintagel and by him becomes mother of three more daughters: a third daughter who marries a King Briadas and becomes mother of King Angusel of Scotland (in no other extant text made Arthur's nephew), a fourth daughter named Hermesent who marries King Urien and becomes mother of
Ywainthe Great, and a fifth daughter who is Morgan le Fay.
(It is possible this Hoel derives from Geoffrey's confused statement that Igraine's eldest daughter had by her first husband Howel which was misunderstood to refer instead to a supposed first husband of Igraine named Howel/Hoel.)
Culhwch and Olwen
The Welsh tale "
Culhwch and Olwen" also mentions Gormantson of Rica, half-brother to Arthur on his mother's side, his father the chief elder of Cornwall. One might suppose Rica to be another name for Gorlois (though Welsh translations of Geoffrey name him "Gwrlais"), but we also have in Geoffrey's account a Gormant the African who is king of Ireland (based on the villain of the French "chançon de geste" called "Gormant et Isenbart") and this Gormant might be hiding here also as "Gormant ap Rica", this being a possible corruption of "Gormant Africa".
Post-Vulgate Cycleand Sir Thomas Malory's " Le Morte d'Arthur", it is Morgan le Fay who becomes the wife of King Urien and mother of Ywain (and Malory adds this information). In other accounts Ywain is not Arthur's nephew at all, though sometimes still made Gawain's cousin through their two fathers who are sometimes presented as brothers. Thomas Malory's "Morte d'Arthur" names the first daughter Margawse, the second Elayne and the third Morgan the Fay with no mention of Morgan's illegitimacy. Lancelotis the son of Arthur's sister Clarine in Ulrich von Zatzikhoven's " Lanzelet", Caradoc Breifbrasis Arthur's sister's son in the "Prose Lancelot", Percivalis son of Arthur's sister Acheflour in the English romance "Syr Percyvelle". Arthurian tales are not consistent with one another and sisters of Arthur seem to have been created at desire by any teller who wished to make a hero into Arthur's nephew.
Welsh tradition says that Igraine was the daughter of a certain
Amlawd Wledig. In the "Brut Tysilio", the translator adds the information that Duke Cadorof Cornwall was son of Gorlois, one would guess by Igraine. The same appears in Richard Hardyng's "Chronicle" where Cador is called Arthur's brother "of his mother's syde." Opposing views appear in Layamon's "Brut" where Cador appears first as a leader who takes charge of Uther's host when they are attacked by Gorlois while Uther is secretly lying beside Igraine in Tintagel. In the English " Alliterative Morte Arthure" Cador is continually called Arthur's "cousin".
Prose Lancelot" relates that when Igraine became Uther's wife she left behind in the dukedom of Tintagel a son of the Duke of Tintagel by a previous marriage. Some romances show her alive after Uther's death. In Chrétien de Troyes's " Perceval, le Conte du Graal" she and her daughter Gawain's mother are discovered by Gawain in an enchanted castle named the Castle of Marvels. Gawain had thought both his mother and grandmother to be long dead. This same account appears in Wolfram von Eschenbach's " Parzival" and in Heinrich von dem Türlin's " Diu Krone". In both of these latter it is explained that Igraine was abducted (and it is hinted that she was willingly abducted) by the magician who has enchanted the castle. In the French "Livre d'Artus", an incomplete alternate conclusion to the French "Vulgate Merlin", it is mentioned that Ygraine dwells hidden in the Grailcastle. This is apparently a version of the same tradition since in the late Vulgate cycle the enchantments of the Grail castle are very similar to and seem to be based on the enchantments found in Chrétien's Castle of Marvels.
As with so many characters in Arthurian legend, there is little historical evidence for Igraine as described above. However, the mother of Artuir mac Áedáin, proposed by historian
Michael Woodas the basis for King Arthur, was called Ygerna ferch Amlawdd. The similarity to the Latin for Igraine, Igerna, is striking.
King Arthur's family
*Michael Wood. (2005). "In Search of Myths and Heroes".
* [http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/UIMenu.htm Uther and Igraine]
* [http://www.pantheon.org/articles/i/igraine.html Igraine] at Pantheon.com
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