King Lot

Lot, Loth or Lothus /ˈlɒt/ is the king of Lothian, the realm of the Picts in the Arthurian legend. Such a ruler first appeared late in the 1st millennium's hagiographical material concerning Saint Kentigern (also known as Saint Mungo), which feature a Leudonus, king of Leudonia, a Latin name for Lothian. In the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth adapted this to Lot, king of Lothian, in his influential chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae, portraying him as King Arthur's brother-in-law and ally. In the wake of Geoffrey's writings, Lot appeared regularly in later romance.

Lot chiefly figures as king of Lothian, but in other sources he also rules Orkney and sometimes Norway. He is generally depicted as the husband of Arthur's sister or half-sister, often known as Anna or Morgause. The names and number of his children vary depending on the source, but the later romance tradition gives him the sons Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth, and Mordred.

Early literature

A king of Lothian appears in both early Latin and Welsh sources. An early fragmentary Life of St Kentigern contains a Leudonus of Leudonia as the maternal grandfather of Saint Kentigern, also known as Mungo.[1] In this text, Leudonus becomes enraged when he discovers that his daughter, Kentigern's mother Teneu, had been raped and become pregnant by Owain mab Urien, and has her thrown from a cliff. However, she survives the ordeal with divine protection and goes to Saint Serf's community, where she gives birth to Kentigern.

Welsh sources call this same character Lewdwn or Llewdwn Lluydauc (Llewdwn of the Hosts) and make him king of Gododdin. Geoffrey of Monmouth seems to recall this earlier figure in the king whom he called Lot or Loth in his Historia Regum Britanniae. His sources are obscure, but his choice of name is probably based on its similarity to "Lodonesia", a typical Latinized name for Lothian.[1] This toponymical connection parallels Geoffrey's association of King Leir with Leicester and Coel with Colchester, and William of Malmesbury's assertion that Gawain was king of Galloway. In the Middle Ages, no principle of historiography was more solidly established than the idea that places took their names from persons.[2] The name Lot may be connected to the Norse name Hlot or Ljot, which appears in the Norse sagas and was known in Orkney. It may also be connected to the standing stone called the Stone Lud.[3]

Geoffrey's Lot is one of three brothers, each of whom rules a part of northern Britain: Lot rules Lodonesia, while his brothers Urien (the father of Owain, both generally reckoned historical kings of Rheged) and Angusel rule over Mureif (Moray) and "Scotland", respectively.[4] Lot is first mentioned as a loyal vassal to Uther Pendragon, King of Britain, in the king's wars against Octa, the Saxon King of Kent. When Uther falls ill, he marries his daughter Anna to Lot and entrusts them with the oversight of the kingdom.[5] Lot and Anna have sons Gawain and Mordred. When Uther's son Arthur takes up the kingship, he helps Lot and his brothers regain their territories, which have fallen to the Saxons.[4] Lot is also the heir to the Kingdom of Norway, as nephew to the previous king Sichelm. With Arthur's aid, he takes the kingdom from the usurper Riculf.[6] Lot later leads one of Arthur's armies in his war against Emperor Lucius of Rome.[7]

In the wake of Geoffrey, Lot entered into Welsh Arthurian tradition as Lleu.[1] The Welsh Triads maintain Geoffrey's association between Lot and Urien as brothers, drawing Lot into the historical Urien's genealogical tradition as a son of Cynfarch and Nefyn, daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog.[8] Lleu ap Cynfarch shares his name with the figure Lleu Llaw Gyffes, likely a euhemerized deity known from the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, though the extent of this connection is conjectural.[9] Charles Squire further identified Lot with the British hero Lludd Llaw Eraint.[10]

Chivalric romances

The early romances, such as those of Chrétien de Troyes, often refer to Lot, but he rarely receives more than a mention in connection to his more famous son Gawain.[11] In some romances Lot's wife is called Morcades, a name which Roger Sherman Loomis argued was a variant of Morgan le Fay.[2]

Chretien's hero Yvain in Yvain, or the Knight of the Lion is identified in Welsh sources with Owain, son of Urien,[12] the supposed father of Kentigern. An article by J. C. Lozac'hmeur identifies similarities between Chrétien's tale and that of Kentigern.[13] In the romance, Owain travels from Carlisle to marry the lady of Landuc or the daughter of Duke Landuc: in one manuscript she is named as Laudine. It has been proposed that both of these names again derive from a form of "Lothian" and that Chrétien was drawing upon an unknown source[14] that resembled the saint's legend and the Breton lai Desiré.[13] The history of Urien, Owein and Kentigern refers to events among the Men of the North that took place up to a century after the timeframe generally associated with Arthur, but the romance, influenced by Geoffrey as well as the saint's tale, has ended up with both a King Lot and an eponymous princess' father.

Lot takes a more prominent role in the later cyclical narratives. Probably due to his earlier association with Norway, in these works he is king not only of Lothian, but Orkney as well.[1] In the Lancelot-Grail prose cycle, after Uther weds Igraine, he marries her daughters from her first marriage off to his political allies. Her oldest daughter, here named Morgause, is married to King Lot; they have five sons, Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth, and Mordred (whose biological father, becomes Arthur instead of Lot). Later, when Arthur comes to power, Lot at first opposes him, and with his brothers and several other Brittonic kings, raises an army against him. It is only after Arthur defeats the coalition at Bedegraine and helps them fend off the Saxons that Lot becomes Arthur's ally.[15]

The Post-Vulgate Cycle offers a different version of Lot's story. As in the Lancelot-Grail, Lot opposes Arthur until the defeat at Bedegraine. Afterwards, however, Arthur hears a prophecy that a child born on May Day will destroy him. He gathers up all noble babies born around that time, including his own bastard son Mordred, and puts them on a ship where they are to be taken elsewhere but are, however, believed to have perish instead. The incensed Lot joins Arthur's enemy King Rience and resumes his campaign against Arthur. In the ensuing battle, he is killed by Arthur's loyalist King Pellinore, leading to a long feud between their families.[15] This version of Lot's story was taken up by Thomas Malory in his English work Le Morte d'Arthur, and has subsequently appeared in a number of modern Arthurian works.


  1. Bromwich, pp. 414–415.
  2. R. S. Loomis, Scotland and the Arthurian Legend. Retrieved January 26, 2010.
  3. Leslie J. Myatt, The Standing Stones of Caithness, 2003.
  4. Historia Regum Britanniae, Book 9, ch. 9.
  5. Historia Regum Britanniae, Book 8, ch. 21.
  6. Historia Regum Britanniae, Book 9, ch. 11.
  7. Historia Regum Britanniae, Book 10, ch. 6.
  8. Bromwich, pp. 195–198.
  9. "lleu of lleuddiniawn". Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  10. Gresham, Celtic Myths and Legends, 1912, page 359 as republished by Paragon 1998, ISBN 0-7525-2676-6)
  11. Cf. Chrétien's Erec and Enide, verses 1691-1750, where he is actually present at Arthur's court, and Yvain verses 6229-6526, where he is mentioned as Gawain's father. DeTroyes, Chretien. "Four Arthurian Romances: Erec et Enide, Cliges, Yvain, and Lancelot". Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  12. Jeffrey Gantz (trans.) The Mabinogion, Harmondsworth 1976
  13. Lozac'hmeur, J. C. (1984). "Etudes Celtiques (quoted)". Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  14. D. D. R. Owen (trans.), Arthurian Romances, Everyman, p. 517
  15. Bruce, Christopher W. (1999). The Arthurian Name Dictionary. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-8153-2865-6. Retrieved January 11, 2010.


  • Bromwich, Rachel (2006). Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Triads of the Island of Britain. University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1386-8.
  • Bruce, Christopher W. (1999). The Arthurian Name Dictionary. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-8153-2865-6. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
  • Celtic Myths and Legends, Charles Squire (1912) ISBN 0-7525-2676-6
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