The White Knight
Estor, Hector des Mares, Hestor des Mares
Malory seems first to mention Ector de Maris in Book VI. Lancelot left court with his cousin Lionel to seek adventure. Lancelot was napping under a tree when Lionel saw Sir Turquine ride by, pursued him without waking Lancelot, and was captured by Turquine, while Morgan and her cohorts chanced along from another direction and kidnaped the slumbering Lancelot. Ector, meanwhile, learning how Lancelot had left court, “was wroth with himself” and went out to find and join him.
Coming to Turquine’s stronghold and being informed of the danger by a local forester, Ector challenged Turquine and defeated in his turn, stripped, beaten with thorns, and imprisoned along with Lionel and others until Lancelot could come to rescue them. A little later Ector, Sagramore, Gawaine, and Ywaine saw Lancelot riding in Kay’s arms, thought it was indeed Kay, and tried – unsuccessfully, of course – to joust him down. When Mark sent Tristram (Tristan) to Ireland for La Beale Isoud (Isolde), a storm drove him ashore “fast by Camelot“. Ector de Maris and another knight of Arthur’s, Morganore, welcomed Tristram with a joust.
Alas, said Sir Ector [on being defeated], now I am ashamed that ever any Cornish knight should overcome me. And then for despite Sir Ector puff off his armour from him, and went on foot, and would not ride.
When Tristram later dropped out of sight after the Castle of Maidens tournament, however, Ector was one of nine knights who joined Lancelot in a vow to search for him.
Despite the defeats mentioned above, Ector was a good man of arms, showing up well at tourneys. At least once during Duke Galeholt’s tournament in Surluse (Sorelois), Ector got the better of the formidable Palomides.
Chancing to meet during a search for Lancelot, Ector and Percivale took time out for a friendly little fight that ended with both wounded nigh unto death and lying helpless on the ground. At Percivale’s prayer, the Sangreal (the Grail) came and healed them. Traveling on together, Ector and Percivale found Lancelot living with Elaine of Carbonek at Joyous Isle and persuaded him to return to Arthur’s court.
While on the Grail Quest, Ector met and rode for a while with Gawaine. One night each had a vision. In Ector’s vision, he saw Lancelot humbled and himself turned away from a rich man’s wedding feast. Later, when Ector came knocking at Carbonek (his brother Lancelot being already within), King Pellam denied him admittance, saying that he was
one of them which hath served the fiend, and hast left the service of Our Lord.
This may reflect the high standards of the Grail rather than Ector’s depravity, for Ector seems no worse than most “wordly” knights and a good deal better-living than many.
Naturally rallying at once to Lancelot’s side when the break came with Arthur, Ector helped rescue Guenevere from the stake. He afterward accompanied Lancelot into exile and was crowned King of Benwick. Later, he was one of the last to refind Lancelot at the hermitage of the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Ector did not arrive until Lancelot was dead.
[A]nd then Sir Ector threw his shield, sword, and helm from him. And when he beheld Sir Launcelot's visage, he fell down in a swoon. And when he waked it were hard for any tounge to tell the doleful complaints that he made for his brother. Ah Launcelot, he said, thou were head of all Christian knights, and now I dare say ... that thou were never matched of earthly knight's hand.
Ector’s first love was Perse whom he rescued from Zelotes to whom she had been promised by her father. Later he took a niece of Lady of Roestoc’s dwarf and and cousin of the Lady of Roestoc. She died, and he was eventually reunited with Perse.
Do not confuse Ector de Maris with the older Ector who was Arthur’s foster father.