Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Alisander Le Orphelin

Alexander the Orphan, Alisandre

Son of Prince Bodwyne (Boudwin) and Angledis, and nephew of King Mark of Cornwall. When King Mark murdered his father, Angledis fled with her infant son from Cornwall to Sussex to escape Mark’s reach. She reached Magouns Castle where Alisander was raised by Berengier the Constable.

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 le Fay heard of him and determined to meet him. King Mark had put a piece of price on Alisander’s head, and it wasn’t long before he ran afoul of the minions of Morgan, Mark’s ally. After the tournament, Alisander fought and killed Sir Malgrin (Malagrin the Felon) 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, to the castle Fair Guard. 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 took 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.

Though he rejected her advances, he was forced to pledge to remain at Fair Guard for a year, as a condition of Morgan’s succor. The damsel who was rightful owner of La Beale Regard helped Alisander by summoning her uncle, the Count of the Pass, 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. 

A passing maiden, Alice La Beale Pilgrim, heard of this oath, and offered herself to any knight who could defeat him. Many rose to the challenge, but none succeeded. She 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 (Benoic).

According to Palamedes, he was killed by a knight named Helin, but Malory says that King Mark eventually caught up with him and killed him, and that Bellangere (Bellengerus) avenged the deaths of his father and grandfather. 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

Palamedes | c. 1240
Prose Tristan | 1230-1240
Les Prophecies de Merlin | Richart d’Irlande, 1272-1279
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470