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Did you know that King Arthur’s sister Morgan le Fay was the lover of Ogier the Dane, one of Charlemagne’s great knights? In fact, they knew each other since Ogier the Dane was first born. In my new novel Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three, I explore their relationship.

Following is the opening scene in the novel where Ogier begins to tell his story, beginning with his first meeting the legendary woman who would be a guiding influence throughout his life.

From Ogier’s Prayer:

The first remarkable occurrence of my life took place when I was just days old, during my initial presentation to the court; it was not the day of my baptism or christening as the Christians would call it—for my parents and all of Denmark in those days were followers of the old Gods, Odin and Thor and all those who dwelled in the halls of Asgaard—but it was the day I was named and presented to the court as my father’s son and heir.

Although it was a great day of celebration, considering that an heir had been born to the king, the presentation was not expected to be anything beyond the ordinary for such events. But it soon became an extraordinary day because of a visit from unexpected guests. I remember little of the early years of my life, but that day, as I lay in my mother’s arms, facing the court, I witnessed such marvelous events that even a mere babe could not forget them.

From the Red Romance Book by Andrew Lang. The caption reads "How the Fairies Came to See Ogier the Dane." Ogier is a major character in the Charlemagne legends and beloved of Morgan le Fay. He is the major character in my upcoming novel "Ogier's Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three.

From the Red Romance Book by Andrew Lang. The caption reads “How the Fairies Came to See Ogier the Dane.” Ogier is a major character in the Charlemagne legends and beloved of Morgan le Fay. He is the major character in my upcoming novel “Ogier’s Prayer: The Children of Arthur, Book Three.

My memory of that day begins just as my father presented me to the court, and the nobles and his other liegemen had formed a line to pay me homage and to swear to serve my father, the king, and his newborn heir. In the midst of this ceremony, first faintly, then growing ever louder, came the sweetest music that mortals ever heard. It seemed to originate from right outside the castle wall, but then it soared, as if carried on the wind, through the open window, and into the throne room. Nobody knew from whence such bewitching sounds could come, but many murmured how the music was so heavenly that they could only think we were to be visited by an angel.

But that misperception was soon corrected when through the window floated six female fairies. Each bore in her hands a garland of flowers and rich gifts of gold, gems, and other priceless valuables. I will never forget, from where I sat upon my mother’s lap, the sight of these lovely creatures. They were so beautiful and so aglow with light that the courtiers later admitted to feeling great awe and fear at the sight of them, but I only laughed with glee to see their radiant beauty, and I felt a great happiness descend upon me.

My mother, however, seemed afraid of the fairies’ presence, for I could feel her trembling once they had positioned themselves before the throne, the crowd having drawn back to provide a place for them to land, but instead, these six gracious beings hovered a few inches above the floor, their gossamer wings making a gentle, quiet, and cooling breeze.

Then the first fairy approached my mother and me, and said, “Fear not, good queen. We are here to bestow blessings upon your son.”

The fairy took me in her arms, kissed me upon my forehead, and said, facing the court so all could hear, “Better than kingly crown, or lands, or rich heritage, fair babe, I give thee a brave, strong heart. Be fearless as the eagle, and bold as the lion; be the bravest knight among men.”

I remember feeling such deep peace, and at the same time, such joy as she held me in her arms, and that peace and joy continued as I was passed into the arms of each of the fairies in turn.

When the second fairy took me into her arms, she sat down on my mother’s throne for my mother had risen and later stepped aside when the first fairy approached, and though it would have been treason for anyone else to sit on my mother’s throne, not a word was spoken when this fairy did so. For a moment, she dandled me fondly upon her knee, giggling with me, and then she looked me in the eye long and lovingly before she said, “What is a brave heart without the ability to do brave deeds? I give to thee many an opportunity for manly action.”

The third fairy then approached while I was yet on the second fairy’s knee, and kneeling before me, she took one of my hands in her own, and with her other hand, she stroked my hair, saying, “Strong-hearted boy, for whom so many noble deeds are waiting, I, too, will give thee a boon. My gift is skill and strength such as shall never fail thee in fight, nor allow thee to be beaten by a foe. Success to thee, fair Holger!”

The fourth fairy then took me from the second, who, with the third fairy, returned to her sisters, and this fairy then tenderly stroked my mouth and my brow before she said, “Be fair of speech, be noble in action, be courteous, be kind: these are the gifts I bring thee. For what will a strong heart, or a bold undertaking, or success in every endeavor, avail, unless one has the respect and love of one’s fellow men?”

Then the fifth fairy came forward; she clasped me against her breast and held me tenderly for a long time without saying a word. Finally, she looked at all the court, and she then held me away from her so she could look into my eyes and said, “The gifts my sisters have given thee will scarcely bring thee happiness, for, while they add to thy honor, they may make thee dangerous to others. They may lead thee into the practice of selfishness and base acts of tyranny. That man is little to be envied who loves not his fellow men. The boon, therefore, that I bring thee is the power and the will to esteem others as frail mortals equally deserving with thyself.”

And then the sixth fairy, the most beautiful of all, took me from the fifth; she lifted me high and danced about the room with me in rapturous joy, all the while singing sweetly a lullaby of fairyland and the island vale of Avalon, and then, although she never said her name, somehow I and all the court knew she was that fabled one, Morgan le Fay, sister to the great King Arthur and the Queen of Avalon.

When she had finished singing, Morgan le Fay placed a crown of laurel upon my head, and then a fairy torch appeared in her hand; when it lit by itself, it created a gasp of astonishment from all assembled. And then the Queen of Avalon said, “This torch is the measure of thy earthly days; and it shall not cease to burn until thou hast visited me in Avalon, and sat at table with King Arthur and the heroes who dwell there in that eternal summerland.”

And then Morgan le Fay gently placed me back into my mother’s arms, and with the torch still in her hand, she and the other fairies strewed the floor of the throne room with rich flowers and gems until all the air was filled with perfume and the angelic music resumed, and suddenly, a radiant sunbeam broke through the open windows until the room grew brighter and brighter and the light forced all to close their eyes, and at that moment, the music ended. After a second, when everyone opened his or her eyes, the fairies were nowhere to be seen, although the flowers and jewels remained.

And then I felt a great coldness come over me for the fairy’s blessings and their prophecies of my future fortune and mighty deeds were all that a mother could ever desire for her child, and this overwhelming joy must have filled my mother’s heart until it could not be contained and thereby burst. And in another second, my nurse ran to catch me as I tumbled from my mother’s lifeless arms.

 

Learn more about Ogier’s Prayer and purchase a copy of the novel at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, and the upcoming Lilith’s Love and Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly work King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can learn more about him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

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 Prologue

 Roncesvaux Pass in the Pyrenees

Between France and Spain

August 15, 778 A.D.

 

When Roland woke, he felt immense relief—he had been dreaming—or had he been? His body was still exhausted. Was it true? Had they been ambushed? He remembered marching with the army, and then—yes, there had definitely been a battle. He remembered the feel of his sword as he slid it out of a Saracen throat and the sight of the blood squirting out, and then—and then a great soaring pain through his whole body, but most of all in his chest, as another Saracen sliced—but—was he dead then?

Melusine's Gift tells the story of a fairy connected to King "Melusine's Gift" tells the story of Roland, Charlemagne's nephew, his grandmother, the fairy Melusine, and how they are connected to King Arthur and Avalon.

“Melusine’s Gift” tells the story of Roland, Charlemagne’s nephew, his grandmother, the fairy Melusine, and how they are connected to King Arthur and Avalon.

His eyes bolted open, and he tried to sit up, but the pain soared through his chest again so that he was quickly afraid to move and hurt himself worse. He bit his tongue, trying to keep from screaming over the agonizing pain that shot through his body.

After a moment, when the pain lessened, Roland looked about him, conscious that it was now night. He strained his eyes to see anything he could about him, but he could only make out shadows—of what he knew not. Where was he? Lying on the battlefield, not quite dead? Was the enemy still near? He closed his eyes again, fearing that if an enemy warrior or a grave robber should come and see he lived, he would be struck dead. He listened, waiting to hear footsteps, but all he heard was the great squawking of birds—carrion birds come to feast on the dead. In a moment, no doubt, they would be nibbling on him. He had to get up and make his way to shelter somehow—to see whether any of King Charles’ brave men remained to look after the dead and wounded—or were they all dead or wounded?

“Be still.”

He jerked in fright at the unexpected voice. He had not heard anyone approach, but it sounded like a male voice, and an elderly one. It spoke to him in French, not the Saracen tongue, and not the tongue of the surrounding provinces—rather the French of Paris, the French of King Charles’ court.

“It’s all right. You’re safe now.”

He slowly opened his eyes; it took a minute for them to adjust. It was growing dark, the sun nearly set now. Beside him knelt a shadowy figure.

“Lie still; your wounds mustn’t be exasperated further. I’ve given you some medicine to help with the pain—that is what woke you, when I poured it down your throat. It should numb the pain in a few more minutes.”

“My men, what of them?”

“Most are slaughtered; a few escaped; a few were taken prisoners.”

“Oliver and Ogier, what of them?”

The old man hesitated a moment, then said, “Ogier survived.”

Roland struggled to hold back his grief over the death of Oliver, his companion since childhood. After a moment, he asked the old man, “Can I speak to Ogier?”

“Ogier is gone now. The king and his men all thought you dead. They could not find your body. You were buried beneath the corpse of the Saracen who tried to slay you; he fell dead upon you when another struck him from behind. He covered your body, protecting it from further harm, but hiding it from view. Nevertheless, Ogier is the one of all King Charles’ court whom you will see again when the time is right.”

“Right for what?”

“That is too difficult a question to answer at this moment, but it will all be revealed.”

“If my body was buried beneath another,” Roland asked, “how did you find me?”

“I have my ways. I watched the battle from up in the mountains. I kept an eye on you.”

“Thank you. Then you were not with the army?”

“No.”

“But you know me and my companions?” Roland tried to read the old man’s eyes in the dim light as his own eyes finally began to focus in the darkness.

“Yes, I know you, Roland, King Charles’ nephew,” the man solemnly replied.

A bolt of fear swept through Roland’s body. How did the old man know him if he were not with the army? Roland knew he wore nothing to distinguish himself as the king’s nephew.

“How do you know who I am?” he asked.

“Why, all your life I have watched you—I knew you when you were yet in your mother’s womb.”

“Who are you?” Roland asked, fearing he might have fallen into the hands of a sorcerer.

“I have many names,” said the man, leaning back. “You would be surprised by them all.”

Roland’s eyes widened as the man spoke. Although the sun had set and there was no candle or other source of light, the man’s face suddenly became illuminated. He was bearded—a long white beard, his hair long and falling about his shoulders—and his eyes were ancient, wise, and mesmerizing.

“Who are you?” Roland repeated, his eyes growing with amazement.

“I am of your father’s people, the Britons,” the man replied, “although perhaps even you yourself do not know of that aspect of your heritage after all these generations, but no matter, I am many other things as well.”

“I don’t understand,” Roland replied. “Where did you come from? How did you get here, and what is your interest in me?”

“Most recently, I have resided in the Forest of Broceliande. In a cave where it is said by mortals that I sleep; if you think upon it, you will know me.”

Roland barely dared think the name that came into his mind, but as he stared at the old man, trying to regain his ability to speak amid his astonishment, a glow slowly lit the old man’s face, emanating from a ball the man held up near his chin. Roland had never seen this man before, and yet, he knew instinctively who he was, and finally, the name came to his tongue.

“Mer-lin?”

The ancient wizard nodded, and then the light diminished from his face.

“But—but,” Roland stuttered in confusion, “I thought you were enchanted, in a cave, unable to…. Oh, how can this be? It doesn’t make sense. Am I dreaming? I don’t understand. Am I dead? Is that why you are here?”

“I am very much alive, brave Roland, and so are you. It is foolish, the stories men sometimes tell—that a great enchanter like I, one with such wisdom to live for centuries, could fall for a mere mortal woman barely past her youth and allow her to enchant and trap me. You mortals want to think romantic love is everything and even the greatest of wizards will fall for it, but it is not so. Most of the stories you have heard about me have been tainted by the fears of men and bear little resemblance to the truth, but just wait until you have lived long enough to hear the stories they will create about you.”

“Can I have some water?” Roland asked, beginning to cough from the dryness in his throat.

“You are thirsty. That is the healing potion taking effect. I gave it to you before you woke. Wait a few more moments and we will be ready to leave.”

“Leave? How? Do you think I’ll be able to walk?”

“You will be healed completely; you may feel some bodily exhaustion for a day or two, but after that, you will be your old self.”

“I don’t believe this. I can’t be alive; I must be dead or at least dreaming.”

Merlin placed a drinking flask to his lips.

“Here, this will make you feel alive still.”

The water was cold and felt wonderful on Roland’s parched lips. He had not tasted water since early that morning before the ambush that had caused his companions’ deaths.

A Medieval Depiction of the Battle at Roncesvaux Pass where Roland is said to have died.

A Medieval Depiction of the Battle at Roncesvaux Pass where Roland is said to have died.

“Will you take me to the army, to my uncle the king?” Roland asked when he had drunk his fill, and far more than he would have imagined could fill the small flask.

“No,” said Merlin. “You have other work to do.”

“I will need my sword and a horse and my men to pursue the Saracens.”

“No, your fighting days have passed,” said Merlin. “You have a more important task now.”

“I am the king’s nephew, one of his paladins; I fight by King Charles’ side. There is no more important task.”

“Do you think that I, who served the great King Arthur, do not know better than you?” Merlin asked. “You men and your wars. Trust me. You need not worry about your honor. Your uncle the king will claim to have your body so he may give you a fitting burial in the great tomb of the Kings of France at Blaye. Your great deeds will be remembered in song and story for more than a thousand years to come. You have no need to worry.”

“What of Alda, my betrothed?”

“She—I’m sorry to say that she will be heartbroken to know you are dead; she will go to an early grave. It is sad, but you will see her in the next life, though it will be many, many years from now.”

“I need to go to her. I cannot break her heart that way.”

“No, you will not be returning to France,” Merlin repeated.

“Who are you to tell me where I may go?” snapped Roland, his strength having now been restored to him, and with it came the full pain of knowing that he would never again see his dead companions and his fiancée.

“I serve a higher power than you or your king,” said Merlin, “and now it is time for you to do the same.”

“What do you want with me, wizard?” Roland demanded. “I’ll have none of your trickery.”

Roland sat up in anger, but although he winced in anticipation of pain at the effort, he was amazed to feel his chest and stomach whole again.

“Trickery, hey?” said Merlin. “I suppose my healing you was trickery.”

Roland looked only amazed, and perhaps he felt a bit of fear, for swords he knew of, battles he could fight, but from sorcery he did not know how to defend himself, and sorcery that called him to serve a higher power than his king—that was frightening indeed.

“You will know soon enough what is wanted of you,” said Merlin, rising to his feet. “Come; you are able to stand and walk now. We must hurry before the Saracens return.”

“Where are you taking me?” asked Roland, first kneeling and then standing, amazed by his sudden renewed vigor; unbelievably, he felt stronger than he had before the battle.

“We go south, to your grandfather,” said Merlin, turning and beginning to walk away.

“My grandfather? I know no grandfather.”

“No, you wouldn’t; he retired to the monastery at Montserrat before you were born,” Merlin called over his shoulder.

“I don’t understand,” said Roland.

“Your father’s father,” said Merlin, turning back to look at Roland, “Raimond, the former Count of Poitou.”

“I did not know my father’s father lived. My father died before I was born so I never met my grandfather.”

“Come; you have much to learn that you were never told before. You, my boy, are far more than the nephew of a king—even if that king will soon title himself Holy Roman Emperor. You come from a far more ancient line. It is time you learn the truth of your family.”

“The truth of my family?” Roland whispered to himself. What was it Merlin had said at first, that he was of “his father’s people”—that he was a Briton? But how could any of that be? He knew his father had been born in France, and Raimond of Poitou—he remembered hearing the name—from his mother’s lips when he was a child, after his father had died. But he had dim memories of what his mother had said, not remembering much beyond that revelation that she was the king’s sister, that he was the nephew to the great King Charles of the Franks. There had been something more—about his father’s past and about a strange legend that his grandmother…but his thoughts felt all muddled. He could not remember it all at the moment….

And Merlin was walking off into the darkness.

Roland quickly ran after him, no longer doubting that he was healed and well.

“Here is a horse,” said Merlin when Roland was beside him again. In actuality, there were two horses hidden behind a rock in the pass. In another moment, the wizard and the warrior were mounted and galloping south, toward the monastery of Montserrat—where secrets were kept that Roland could scarcely imagine.

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Melusine

I’ve always been fascinated with genealogy and famous people’s descendants. The possibility that King Arthur may have had children besides Mordred and that his descendants live today led to my researching the topic and writing my book King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition.

But King Arthur is not the only legendary or mythical person who may have had descendants. Here are just a few others who have always fascinated me.

Melusine: The fairy Melusine, who was supposedly half-serpent or a mermaid, is another whom royal and noble people have tried to claim descent from over the years, specifically the House of Lusignan, which would make her ancestress to the Plantagenets who became rulers of England as well as people like Guy of Lusignan, who was King of Jerusalem until Saladin removed him from his throne and he ended up instead as King of Cyprus. One branch of Melusine’s alleged descendants continues today in the Weir family, who are descended in turn from the de Vere family who were Earls of Oxford.

Vlad Tepes

Dracula: While the vampire Count Dracula is fictional, he is based on Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, commonly called Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476). Claims have frequently been made by various people that they are descendants of Dracula, although all of these claims appear to be either false publicity stunts or misuses of the term “descendant.” In Dracula, Prince of Many Faces, the authors Radu R. Florescu and Raymond T. McNally devote a chapter to discussion of Vlad Tepes’ descendants that reveals all of his children’s known lines died out by the seventeenth century. It is possible that some of Vlad Tepes’ descendants are still alive that have not been documented. However, those claims to be descendants are usually a stretch of the truth and really these people are descendants of one of his brothers. Recently, Charles, Prince of Wales, stated that genealogy proved he was a relative to Vlad Tepes. Some websites state Charles is a descendant, but the truth is that the Prince of Wales and his mother Queen Elizabeth II are descended from Vlad Tepes’ brother. Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Mary of Teck, was the granddaughter of Countess Claudine Rhédey de Kis-Rhéde, who was the 10th great-granddaughter of Vlad IV “the Monk” who also ruled Wallachia (1482-95); he was Vlad Tepes’ half-brother. (See Countess Claudine’s entry at Wikipedia). So Vlad Tepes is an ancestral uncle to the British royal family and probably many of the royal and noble families of Europe, but not a direct ancestor.

Cassandra of Troy: Another fascinating descendants theory comes from ancient Troy. When Troy fell, it’s a well-known story that Aeneas escaped and eventually founded Rome. His descendants included Brutus, who traveled to Britain and became it’s king and for whom Britain is named. But Marion Zimmer Bradley, in her novel about the Trojan War, The Firebrand (probably her best novel after The Mists of Avalon) offers an interesting possibility about the Princess Cassandra, daughter of King Priam. In the novel’s Postscript, Bradley states that while the Iliad says nothing of Cassandra’s fate, there is a statement on tablet #803 in the Archaelological Museum in Athens that says, “Agathon, son of Ekhephylos, the Zakynthian Family, consuls of the Molossians and their allies, descended for 30 Generations from Kassandra of Troy.” I wish we knew for sure whether this statement is true. Even if it were, who Agathon was and his descendants have equally been lost to history.

The Death of Roland by N.C. Wyeth

Roland the Paladin: Recently, in researching the Charlemagne legends, I came across several websites that listed Charlemagne’s nephew, Roland, as having had descendants. Roland is often regarded as mythical although it seems there was a Roland who was the military governor of the Breton march. Roland traditionally is said to have died at the Battle of Roncesvaux Pass in 778. At the time of Roland’s death, he was engaged to Alda, who died of grief having heard of his death. But there exists a tradition that by an unknown woman Roland had a son named Faralando d’Angleria. This son married a woman named Flora Valdez and they had a child named Diego Valdez. In turn, Diego’s descendants would measure in the thousands today and among them are King George I of England and all his descendants, Otto Bismarck, and Winston Churchill. Could Roland have lived through the Battle of Roncesvaux Pass and married a woman living in what today is Spain? Furthermore, while I have found this list of descendants for Roland on a few different websites, I have not seen any source for it, although at least one notes that Roland’s descendants are likely false. If any of my readers know of the source for Roland having descendants, I would really like to hear from you.

Can we prove that any of these or other famous legendary people had descendants? To do so is even more difficult than proving they were historical people since that criteria would need to be proven first. But it is great fun to think such descendants live on, mixed in among us and perhaps we might even be among them.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. You can also visit him at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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I’ve long been interested in the story of Melusine, the fairy with a serpent’s tale. However, it is very difficult to find any scholarly works in English about her – most are in French, so I was delighted to discover Gareth Knight’s recently published “Melusine of Lusignan & The Cult of the Faery Woman.”

Gareth Knight is well-known in esoteric circles and for his work on myths and legends. His previous book on European faery tradition was “The Faery Gates of Avalon,” which I have not read but now am curious to.

“Melusine of Lusignan” is a relatively short book – 124 pages, and I wouldn’t consider it an academic work but rather an attempt just to shed light upon the tale of Melusine. In fact, Knight retells the story at length blending together various versions without specificying which piece he got from where so that I wish he had been more academic about it since bits of the legend that he cites I have not seen elsewhere. That said, I admit I have only read what I could find online about Melusine and a translation of Coudrette’s “The Romans of Partenay” and Lainez’s “The Wandering Unicorn,” which I previously reviewed here. I am no expert but rather an enthusiast on the subject.

What I most valued about Knight’s book is how he retells the story, then breaks it into pieces and offers commentary on each section, including what was added later to the legend and what might be the earlier versions. For example, Melusine’s ten children, excepting Geoffrey, seem to be mostly fictional and added as ways to link the genealogy of several European houses as descendants of Melusine. It’s also interesting that Pressyne’s curse on her daughters for how they punished their father is probably an addition to the story made by chroniclers to explain her serpent’s tale. I think Knight is probably correct that in reality Melusine needed each Saturday alone because it was the Sabbath day, a day of rest, a day for her to reenergize after a week of masquerading as a human.

Knight also offers a lot of historical commentary to the other children of Melusine and the sources for the tales of her sisters which do not appear to be original.

Finally, he speculates that Melusine’s mother Pressyne could be the sister of Morgan le Fay, which links her to Arthurian literature, although I don’t think this connection will ever be fully clarified.

I wish I could find more scholarly works in English about Melusine and also how the Arthurian legends influenced the French romances of Melusine and Charlemagne, since Avalon is connected to both.

Anyone interested in Melusine will want to read Gareth Knight’s book. Much remains to be said on this subject, but Knight has provided a good start for English audiences interested in what is probably France’s most famous fairy tale or legend. Like King Arthur, we will probably never know just who the historical Melusine or who her real descendants are, but it’s always fun to speculate.

Gareth Knight’s “Melusine of Lusignan & The Cult of the Faery Woman” is available at Amazon and at http://rjstewart.net/

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Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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Recently, I received a comment on one of my previous posts Is the British Royal Family Descended from King Arthur? where the respondent said, “So please take haste in removing such a travesty from the eyes that would believe.” In other words, he feared my readers would believe that King Arthur was real and the royal family descended from King Arthur. Obviously, I didn’t remove the post. The theories that the British Royal Family might be descended from King Arthur are so old that I doubt my post will make any difference; when generations of scholars and hopeful royals have tried to prove such a connection, I’m certainly not going to be able to find the missing evidence.

But the idea of Arthurian genealogy and a link to the British royal family is more important than just a matter of whether it is true or not. What really matters is that people want to believe in King Arthur and claim a connection to him. Back in the Middle Ages, the English royalty wanted to make such a claim to legitimize somehow their right to rule. Of course, if King Arthur did live, scholars are pretty certain he was more likely a warrior chief of some sort and not the ruler over all of Britain.

The Irish have a saying, “We are all the sons and daughters of kings.” The British and all people might as well have the same saying because it’s true. Anyone interested in genealogy knows that it is not difficult to find a link between oneself and a royal family. Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but usually if you can go back far enough and the records exist, then you can find that link. I have found such links. I am twice over descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, son to King Edward III (r. 1327-1377). Edward III was one of those Arthurian enthusiasts who reputedly had the Round Table at Winchester built to support his claim to being Arthur’s descendant. And once you find you are related to one royal, you are pretty much related to all of them since all the royal houses intermarried with one another.

The Round Table at Winchester Castle

The Round Table at Winchester Castle

Whether being related to royals is something to be proud of is another thing–many people start working on their family trees in the hopes to find royalty in their background, but the truth is most of those old kings and queens acted like monsters, constantly fighting one another, usurping thrones from their parents, brothers, sisters, burning people at the stake, spurning one wife or husband for another, basically acting like spoiled children – trust me, a royal lineage is not something to be wildly proud of.

Furthermore, DNA and mathematical calculations make it clear that today, anyone of European descent can claim to be descended from anyone who lived in Europe prior to the year 1200 AD who had children. That means everyone who is of European descent is descended from King Arthur, as well as people we know are historical including Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, El Cid, Clovis, King of the Franks, and a host of others. And our African and Asian brothers are close to the same category. If an African went to Europe around the year 1200 and intermarried with a white person and they had children, then we are all descended from that African as well, which means we are probably descended from all the ancients of the African world from the Pharoahs of Egypt and onward. In my own family tree, I have found Maharajahs of India, Chinese and Byzantine emperors and kings from every house in Europe.

Cardinal Beaufort Tomb Winchester Cathedral

Tomb of my ancestor Cardinal Beaufort, son of John of Gaunt - I am descended from his illegitimate daughter Lady Jane Beaufort, whose mother was the Archbishop of Canterbury's niece. Not only did Cardinal Beaufort have a child out of wedlock, but he also was responsible for burning Joan of Arc at the stake - obviously a member of the royal family whose descendant I am proud to be.

How is this possible? Do the math. You have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great grandparents, and so on. Each generation back the number of your ancestors double: 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16384, 32768 – do you think you’d ever be able to document all 32,768 ancestors who make up your 13-greats grandparents? That generation would have probably lived in the 1500s–the time of Henry VIII, the Spanish Inquisition, Michelangelo – think how many people you might be descended from and just another half dozen back and you have over 1,000,000 ancestors, which would be about 1400 A.D. and another six generations back to about the mid-1200s and you have 64 million ancestors – there weren’t even that many people living in Europe at that time, which means most of the Europeans alive at that time are your ancestors numerous times over. For example, I know of at least 28 different ways I am descended from King Alfred the Great of England (reigned 871-899 A.D.) through various of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

If this is the case, then if King Arthur lived, of course he is the British Royal Family’s ancestor – and he is also your ancestor.

But more importantly, not only are you descended from royalty, but you are descended from thousands of ancient peoples from every culture and nation, and that means, racism is ridiculous because race does not really exist. You have ancestors from England, Italy, Finland, Russia, Hungary, Spain, Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, Ethiopia, and in some cases, maybe even from the ancient peoples of North and South American, Oceania, Australia.

What does this mean? It means we are all closely connected. It means the human story in all its aspects is our story. It means we are all the sons and daughters of kings and queens and farmers and goatherders and merchants and traders and slaves and peasants and dukes and knights and millers and barons and mariners and princesses. It means we should get along because we are all human and all not that far from being the same.

King Arthur’s Camelot was that bright shining moment we can aspire to. We have so many ancestors that we can never learn about them all, never remember all their names, so let us hang onto King Arthur and try to live by the ideals that Camelot inspires. To believe in such a glorious ancestry may have a tad of a fictional element to it, but it is also to aspire to a world where we are all a community–to see a person as a human, not a Jew, not a Christian, not a Muslim, not white or black, not British or Indian or Libyan but human–a brother or a sister–a family member.

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Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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The legend of Melusine has long fascinated people, although it is less well-known today than in the past. For centuries royal and noble houses tried to claim lineage from the fairy Melusine, although their reasoning for why has never been exactly clear. More interesting to Arthurian scholars and enthusiasts is how Melusine has been linked to the Arthurian legend.

Julius Hubner Melusine

German Painter Julius Hubner’s depiction of Melusine

For those who don’t know Melusine’s story, here is a summary of the legend as it appears on Wikipedia:

Elynas, the King of Albany (an old name for Albania) [Note that Wikipedia is wrong here – Albany was the old name for Scotland.] went hunting one day and came across a beautiful lady in the forest. She was Pressyne, mother of Melusine. He persuaded her to marry him but she agreed, only on the promise — for there is often a hard and fatal condition attached to any pairing of fay and mortal — that he must not enter her chamber when she birthed or bathed her children. She gave birth to triplets. When he violated this taboo, Pressyne left the kingdom, together with her three daughters, and traveled to the lost Isle of Avalon.

The three girls — Melusine, Melior, and Palatyne — grew up in Avalon. On their fifteenth birthday, Melusine, the eldest, asked why they had been taken to Avalon. Upon hearing of their father’s broken promise, Melusine sought revenge. She and her sisters captured Elynas and locked him, with his riches, in a mountain. Pressyne became enraged when she learned what the girls had done, and punished them for their disrespect to their father. Melusine was condemned to take the form of a serpent from the waist down every Saturday. In other stories, she takes on the form of a mermaid.

Raymond of Poitou came across Melusine in a forest in France, and proposed marriage. Just as her mother had done, she laid a condition, that he must never enter her chamber on a Saturday. He broke the promise and saw her in the form of a part-woman part-serpent. She forgave him. When during a disagreement, he called her a “serpent” in front of his court, she assumed the form of a dragon, provided him with two magic rings, and flew off, never to return.

What fascinates me about the legend is two-fold: the fact that Melusine is a fairy who grows up in Avalon (did she know Morgan le Fay and King Arthur?) and how royal lines, including the House of Lusignan, and their descendants, the royal family of England, claim descent from her–why want to be descended from a cursed fairy?

Recently, I discovered Manuel Mujica Lainez’s novel The Wandering Unicorn (1965). More than just a retelling of the Melusine legend, Lainez tells the story in first person from Melusine’s viewpoint but quickly sums up the known story in the first few pages. Rather than a retelling of the story, Lainez continues Melusine’s tale. Tired of hanging around the castle of Lusignan and being invisible, Melusine decides to accompany her strikingly gorgeous descendant Aiol (a fictional character to the best of my knowledge), on his quest to find the lance that pierced Christ, reputedly hidden somewhere in the Holy Land. The novel takes place during the time of the Crusades, and for those familiar with the movie, Kingdom of Heaven(2005), it basically recounts the same events surrounding the reign of the Leper King, Baldwin IV, his death, and the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin.

“The Wandering Unicorn” by Manuel Mujica Lainez

Today, the novel is a bit hard to find but used copies can be bought online. Some reviewers at Amazon have complained that it’s slow. I admit it isn’t an action-adventure novel or even one fully rich on character development, other than Melusine’s character. It reads less like a novel than an old-fashioned French romance or chronicle, with a touch of magical realism. In most of the narrative, Melusine describes what she sees since she is invisible and cannot interact with the other characters. Later, she is granted her request by her mother to be made human–only to be tricked by being transformed into a man so she cannot possess Aiol, whom she is crazy in love with. But Lainez’s prose is musical and magical, and his research into Jerusalem and the Holy Land in the 12th century must have been extensive for Lainez knows the gossip and autobiographical details (some of which I’m sure he makes up) for many of the key and minor players in the politics of the Holy Land during the Crusades.

I found The Wandering Unicorn a fascinating novel, and I can’t say how thrilled I was to discover it because as many of my readers know, my book King Arthur’s Children was written as a form of research into the legend and background for the series of novels I am currently writing about King Arthur, in which I plan to carry King Arthur’s descendants up to modern times, and I have long planned to have both Melusine and the Crusades play a role in those books, so it was fascinating to me that nearly half a century ago, someone else had the same idea. And why not? If Melusine grew up in Avalon and did know King Arthur and Morgan le Fay, how could she not be a significant character in the aftermath of events that happened following Camlann? If Morgan le Fay can show up in the Charlemagne legends, why not Melusine? Even one of my other favorite literary characters, the Wandering Jew, makes a cameo appearance in The Wandering Unicorn. What’s not to like?

It may be years before I finish writing my own novels and creating a new story for Melusine, but she leaves much room for imaginative possibilities; she has definitely become one of my muses, and as one of her descendants (through my descent from the Plantagenets), who can say that she is not guiding me to retell her story? I hope to post more about her in the future. Meanwhile, I encourage people to read Coudrette’s late medieval work The Romans of Partenay or of Lusignen: Otherwise known as the Tale of Melusine and Lainez’s fascinating The Wandering Unicorn. As Melusine herself says in The Wandering Unicorn:

“My name is Melusine, which should tell you all you need to know. But alas, at present it may not be enough. Indeed, what is enough these days, when students have to absorb so much abstruse and futile information that they have no time left for the fundamentals?”

Melusine’s legend is definitely one of the fundamental great legends of Western literature. Explore it.

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Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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