Igraine

They Rode All Night to Their Own Castle

Igraine

CharactersName Variants: Ygrayne, Yguerne, IgerneBackground Essay Author: Alan Lupack
Igraine is the wife of Uther Pendragon and the mother of Arthur. Uther falls in love with her when she is married to the Duke of Cornwall, who in some sources is named Gorlois. Uther’s attention to Igraine causes a rift between him and her husband, who secures her in his impregnable castle at Tintagel. Enlisted by Uther to help satisfy his lust, Merlin transforms Uther into the shape of the duke so that he is able to enter the castle and spend the night with Igraine. From this union, Igraine conceives Arthur. After the duke dies in battle, Uther and Igraine marry; but when Arthur is born, he is given to Merlin, a condition to which Uther agreed when he first sought Merlin’s assistance. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth and other chroniclers, Igraine and Uther are also the parents of a daughter named Anna. In Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, Igraine has three daughters before she marries Uther: Morgause, Morgan le Fay, and Elaine. In the thirteenth-century romance Arthour and Merlin, Ygerne is said to have been married to King Harinan of Gascony, then to Duke Hoel of Cornwall, and then to his successor (called Tintagel and not Gorlois) in Cornwall before marrying Uther.
            In Tennyson’s account of Arthur’s birth, Uther and Igraine conceive Arthur in lawful marriage after the death of Gorlois (though there is an alternate tale in which Arthur is washed ashore at Merlin’s feet on a ninth wave and thus is not related to Uther and Igraine). T. H. White has Gawain and his brothers recount the tale of the affront to their...

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