Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Baldwin of Brittany

Baudewin, Baudewins, Baudewyn, Baudwin, Bawdewin, Bawdewyne, Bawdwyne, Bawdin, Bedwin, Bodwine

A knight or bishop in Arthur’s court who pops up in a number of fifteenth-century Middle English verse romances. He is perhaps derived from the Welsh Bitwini.

Malory names him as an early supporter of Arthur who fought beside the king against the rebellious British kings at Caerleon and Bedegraine. In reward, Arthur gave Baldwin the title of constable and appointed him regent of Britain during the Roman War (in which the Alliterative Morte Arthure says he died). He eventually retired to a hermitage near Camelot.

Baldwin also appears among Arthur’s knights in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sir Gawain and the Carl of Carlisle, and The Avowing of King Arthur, Sir Gawain, Sir Kay, and Baldwin of Britain. Both of the Carl romances portray him as a somewhat conceited and churlish bishop, a rather unclerical role. Avowing, however, features an episode in which Arthur tests Baldwin, who has resolved never to be jealous over a woman, never to fear death, and never to deny hospitality to anyone who asks for it. Baldwin passes each test. In each of the latter three poems, he appears as a companion of Gawain and Kay.

He appears under the name Bedwin in the Welsh Triads as the chief Bishop of Kelliwig (Celliwig), while in Sir Gawain and the Carl of Carlisle he sits on the dais beside Sir Ywaine under the name of Baldwin, and made a companion of Gawain. He plays a major, if rather unclerical, role in this romance. He is also mentioned by this name in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Very likely this notable churchman of Arthur’s in pre-Malory romances is to be identified with Sir Baudwin of Britain.

Other sources name him as the father of Alisander Le Orphelin by Anglides, and state that he was murdered by King Mark.