Mordred was the son (and nephew) of King Arthur.
He betrayed King Arthur and helped destroy King Arthur’s reign at Camelot. Learn more about Mordred’s life and test your knowledge with a quiz.
Early Childhood of Mordred
In Thomas Malory’s prose piece Le Morte D’Arthur, Merlin the magician predicted Mordred would be born. Mordred was the son and nephew of King Arthur from an intimate encounter King Arthur had with his half-sister Morgause, when he did not know they were related. King Arthur was devastated when he learned Morgause was his half-sister. To hide their incestuous affair, King Arthur tried to kill Mordred by having all of the children born on the same day as Mordred, May Day, the first day of summer, sent to sea. King Arthur arranged to have all of the children sent away on a ship.
However, the ship carrying Mordred wrecked and he survived. Mordred was found by a fisherman and given to the Duke Nabur to be raised as a foster child.
Sir Gawain was Mordred’s half-brother; his parents were King Arthur’s half-sister Morgause and King Loth of Norway. When Mordred grew up, he became a knight along with Gawain. Mordred was not liked by other knights, but they tolerated him because of Gawain. Mordred had affairs with married women and sometimes beat the husbands of the women he was having an affair with.
He also raped women and murdered people, but never paid for his crimes. Mordred was known to mock and scorn other knights as well and secretly wanted to destroy his father, King Arthur. Eventually Mordred destroyed King Arthur by using the two people King Arthur loved the most, Lancelot, his best knight, and Guinevere, his wife.
Mordred’s Final Days
When Guinevere and Lancelot fell in love, other knights knew about their relationship, including Mordred. One day when King Arthur was away hunting, Lancelot and Guinevere met up with each other. Mordred and the other knights were there and Lancelot killed all of the knights except Mordred, who went to King Arthur to inform him of Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair. King Arthur was focused to punish Lancelot and Guinevere.
He decided to burn Queen Guinevere at the stake, but Lancelot saved her. While King Arthur was away at battle with Lancelot, he left Mordred in charge of Camelot and Guinevere.Mordred decided to overtake King Arthur’s throne and tried to take Guinevere as his wife. Guinevere pretended to go along with Mordred’s plan, but tricked him into letting her go to London where she hid in the Tower of London. When King Arthur heard of Mordred’s betrayal, he returned to Camelot to recapture his throne.
At that time, Guinevere fled to a nunnery where she stayed until her death. When King Arthur and Mordred battled each other, they were both fatally wounded, and several of the Knights of the Roundtable died as well.
Significance of Mordred
Mordred is a significant character in Arthurian legend because he is the illegitimate son of King Arthur and causes the end of King Arthur’s reign at Camelot. Although King Arthur initially tried to kill Mordred because of his embarrassment concerning Mordred’s incestuous birth, he eventually trusts him enough to leave his kingdom in Mordred’s care when he goes to battle Lancelot.
Mordred was one of King Arthur’s knights who was thought to be a chivalrous man but in the end, like so may others, he betrayed King Arthur’s trust.
Mordred was the son of King Arthur and his half-sister Morgause. At the time of their affair, King Arthur did not know Morgause was his relative, though his birth was predicted by the wizard, Merlin. When he learned of their kinship, King Arthur was embarrassed and tried to right his wrong by having all of the children born on the same day as Mordred killed by being sent to sea, known as May Day, or the first day of summer. Unfortunately for King Arthur, Mordred survived and was trained to be a knight along with his half-brother Gawain.
When he grew up, Mordred became a knight of King Arthur’s Roundtable. He did not have a good reputation and ended King Arthur’s reign and his life, although he too was killed in his battle with Arthur.