Archbishop of Canterbury

Bishop of Canterbury

In the Vulgate and Post-Vulgate Cycles, and in Malory, the Archbishop of Canterbury is perhaps the chief Christian leader in Britain.

The cycles tell us that the archbishop, who was related to Guenevere, threatened to excommunicate all of Logres if Arthur did not restore Guenevere as queen, following the exposé of her affair with Lancelot. Retiring to a hermitage after Arthur’s death, he was joined by several former Knights of the Round Table. This churchman blessed the seats (siege) of the Round Table at the ordination of Arthur’s first knights of the Table.

The Post-Vulgate Mort Artu places him on the field after the battle of Salisbury, where he helped Sir Bleoberis build the Tower of the Dead. The story further relates that King Mark of Cornwall murdered him, and that he was avenged by Sir Paulas.

The Stanzaic Morte Arthur says that when Mordred seized the throne of Britain and besieged Queen Guinevere in the Tower of London, the archbishop met him and rebuked him for lying about Arthur’s death and tormenting the poor Queen. He threatened to

curse [Mordred] with book, bell, and candle

if he did not abandon his attempts. In response, Mordred tried to kill him, and the archbishop fled to a hermitage in Glastonbury, where he received Arthur’s body from Morgan, and had it buried in the churchyard. As in the Vulgate and Post-Vulgate, he was joined by several of Arthur’s knights in his retirement.

A political power as bishop, he seems also to have been a holy man, as evidenced by his life as a hermit. After burying the body of Arthur when the queens brought it to him, he became the nucleus of a group that finally included Bedivere, Bors, Lancelot, and others who embraced the religious life at Arthur’s grave.

When Lancelot died, the former Archbishop saw a vision of angels heaving up Lancelot’s soul into Heaven. Chrétien de Troyes mentions that the Archbishop of Canterbury officiated at Erec and Enide’s Pentecost wedding.

In Malory, the Archbishop of Canterbury takes on a number of roles given to the Archbishop of Brice in the Vulgate version, including summoning Britain’s nobles to the Sword in the Stone tournament, supporting Arthur’s claim to the throne, and blessing the Round Table. In contrast to the archbishop’s murder in the Post-Vulgate, Malory says that King Constantine, who ruled Britain after Arthur, restored the Archbishop of Canterbury to his archbishopric.

The inclusion of an Archbishop of Canterbury in Arthurian saga is probably an anachronism, rather than an assertion that there was a bishopric of Canterbury in pre-Saxon times.

This archbishop might perhaps be identified with Dubric.

The Stanzaic Le Morte Arthur | 14th century
Post-Vulgate Mort Artu | 1230-1240
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470