Alisander Le Orphelin

Alexander the Orphan

After King Mark murdered his brother Prince Boudwin, Boudwin’s wife Anglides escaped from Cornwall with her infant son Alisander. She reached Magouns Castle, where she raised Alisander. On the day he was made knight, she gave him his father’s bloody doublet and shirt, charging him to avenge Boudwin’s death. Sir Alisander bore his father’s shirt “with him always till his death day, in tokening to think of his father’s death”. (Unlike La Cote Male Taile, however, Alisander seems not to have actually worn it.)

Riding to London by Tristram’s advice, to seek Lancelot, Alisander took a wrong turn and ended up at a tournament of King Carados’, where he did so well that Morgan heard of him and determined to meet him. After the tournament, Alisander fought and killed Sir Malgrin for the sake of a damsel whom Malgrin was persecuting. Morgan arrived in time to watch at least part of this battle and then spirited Alisander, who “had sixteen great wounds, and in especial one of them was like to be his death”, away in a horse litter. She searched his wounds, first aggravating them further and then healing them, apparently to increase his gratitude. Next, putting him to sleep for three days, she toom him to the castle La Beale Regard, where she tried to make him her lover. He maintained, “I had liefer cut away my hangers than I would do her such pleasure”.

The damsel who was rightful owner of La Beale Regard helped Alisander by summoning her uncle to burn down the castle, thus driving Morgan away. Having escaped before the holocaust by a privy postern, Alisander and the Damsel of La Beale Regard returned to the site. Alisander had promised Morgan not to leave the castle for a year and a day, so he now announced he would defend what once had been his chamber against all comers for that period of time. Alice La Beale Pilgrim heard of this, came, helped him to gain his freedom, and fell in love with him, marrying him and giving him a son, Sir Bellengerus le Beuse. After his year at the ruins, Alisander returned with her to Benoye.

He never managed to avenge his father, being murdered in his turn by Mark first. Nor did Alisander ever reach Arthur’s court:

And it happend so that Alisander had never grace nor fortune to come to King Arthur’s court. For an he had come to Sir Lancelot, all knights said that they knew him, he was one of the strongest knights that was in Arthur’s days, and great dole was made for him.

Another source states: “Alisander was welcomed at Arthur’s court.” It’s most likely that Malory’s Alisander and Chrétien’s Greek knight Alexander both coincidentally derive their names from the quasilegendary historical figure of Alexander the Great, Alisander might conceivably derive from the father of Cligés, the state of orphanhood having gotten transferred in the intervening centuries. Of course, Alisander and Alexander’s biographies are so different as to keep them entirely separate characters.


See also
Morgan’s Castle | The Legend of King Arthur