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.
“For while he linger’d
A doubt that ever smoulder’d in the hearts
Of those great Lords and Barons of his realm
Flash’d forth and into war: for most of these
Made head against him, crying, ’Who is he
That he should rule us? who hath proven him
King Uther’s son? for lo! we look at him,
And find nor face nor bearing, limbs nor voice,
Are like to those of Uther whom we knew.”
—Coming of Arthur.
But Bishop Brice, a person of great sanctity, on Christmas eve addressed the assembly, and represented that it would well become them, at that solemn season, to put up their prayers for some token which should manifest the intentions of Providence respecting their future sovereign. This was done, and with such success, that the service was scarcely ended when a miraculous stone was discovered before the church door, and in the stone was firmly fixed a sword, with the following words engraven on its hilt:
“I am hight Escalibore,
Unto a king fair tresore.”
Bishop Brice, after exhorting the assembly to offer up their thanksgiving for this signal miracle, proposed a law, that whoever should be able to draw out the sword from the stone, should be acknowledged as sovereign of the Britons; and his proposal was decreed by general acclamation. The tributary kings of Uther, and the most famous knights, successively put their strength to the proof, but the miraculous sword resisted all