Vortigern was soon after defeated in a great battle by Uther and Pendragon, the surviving brothers of Moines, and Pendragon ascended the throne.
This prince had great confidence in the wisdom of Merlin, and made him his chief adviser. About this time a dreadful war arose between the Saxons and Britons. Merlin obliged the royal brothers to swear fidelity to each other, but predicted that one of them must fall in the first battle. The Saxons were routed, and Pendragon, being slain, was succeeded by Uther, who now assumed in addition to his own name the appellation of Pendragon.
Merlin still continued a favorite counsellor. At the request of Uther he transported by magic art enormous stones from Ireland, to form the sepulchre of Pendragon. These stones constitute the monument now called Stonehenge, on Salisbury plain.
Merlin next proceeded to Carlisle to prepare the Round Table, at which he seated an assemblage of the great nobles of the country. The companions admitted to this high order were bound by oath to assist each other at the hazard of their own lives, to attempt singly the most perilous adventures, to lead, when necessary, a life of monastic solitude, to fly to arms at the first summons, and never to retire from battle till they had defeated the enemy, unless night intervened and separated the combatants.
Soon after this institution, the king invited all his barons to the celebration of a great festival, which he proposed holding annually at Carlisle.
As the knights had obtained the sovereign’s permission to bring their ladies along with them, the beautiful Igerne accompanied her husband, Gorlois, Duke of Tintadel, to one of these anniversaries. The king became deeply enamoured of the duchess, and disclosed his passion; but Igerne repelled his advances, and revealed his solicitations to her husband. On hearing this, the duke instantly removed from court with Igerne, and without taking leave of Uther. The king complained to his council of this want of duty, and they decided that the duke should be summoned to court, and, if refractory, should be treated as a rebel. As he refused to obey the citation, the king carried war into the estates of his vassal and besieged him in the strong castle of Tintadel. Merlin transformed the king into the likeness of Gorlois, and enabled him to have many stolen interviews with Igerne. At length the duke was killed in battle and the king espoused Igerne.
From this union sprang Arthur, who succeeded his father, Uther, upon the throne.
Arthur, though only fifteen years old at his father’s death, was elected king, at a general meeting of the nobles. It was not done without opposition, for there were many ambitious competitors.