NIGHTBRINGER | The Arthurian Encyclopedia

Galeholt of Sorelois

Galahalt the Haut Prince, Galahad, Galahaus, Galahaut, Galahos, Galahot, Galahoz, Galaiotos, Galaus, Galehaus, Galehaut, Galehaz, Galeheud, Galehols, Galehos, Galehot, Galehous, Galeotto, Galeus, Galios, Galiot, Galot, Galyot

Duke of the Distant Isles and Surluse (Sorelois).

A noble, imperialistic knight from the early French Lancelot romances. He has a significant role in the first half of the Vulgate Lancelot, which is somewhat muted in the Prose Tristan, and then changed markedly by Malory. Do not confuse him with Sir Galahad, Lancelot’s son. Malory, in Pollard’s edition at least, spells their name identically or almost identically, and, to keep matters simple, sometimes even calls Lancelot’s son “the high prince”, although that title seems more commonly to belong to the older Galahalt. To try to avoid confusion, I have followed a spelling P.A. Karr uses and also tried to use Galeholt’s title of Duke consistently rather than sporadically.

Malory makes Duke Galeholt the son of the evil Sir Breunor of Castle Pluere, but perhaps we can take this with a grain of salt. At least, Galeholt does not condone Breunor’s evil customs, nor start a feud to avenge his death. His sister was called Delice or Riccarda. Vulgate IV calls Galeholt “the son of the beautiful giantess” (named in La Tavola Ritonda as Bagotta).

In the Vulgate, Duke Galeholt is prominent for a longer time than Sir Galahad. Although called “Duke”, he had conquered thirty kingdoms, of which Surluse (Sorelois) was his favorite. Malory’s mentioning the Long Isles (Distant Isles, District Isles) specifically, along with Surluse, suggests that Galeholt considered them his second best kingdom. Some of the kingdoms, of course, were probably little more than city-castles, and the majority of them may not have been too far-flung; still, Duke Galeholt was one of the strongest as well as one of the most lovable of Arthur’s early foes. Galeholt hated to eat fish.

Arthur’s own knight Galegantin, the only member of Arthur’s court who had yet seen him, described him as

a young bachelor, most gentle, kind-hearted, and generous.

Brunor inhabited the Castle of Tears on the Giant’s Isle, the customs of which drove Galehaut away from home to seek his own kingdom. He conquered a number of kings including Bagdemagus, the King with a Hundred Knights, the First Conquered King, the King from Land Beyond the Borders of Galone, and King Gloier of Sorelois. Gloier he killed, seizing Sorelois, but he looked after Gloier’s orphaned daughter. Tristan slew his father, for which Galehaut tried to seek revenge but later relented.

In time, he decided to conquer Arthur, and attacked the land of Selice, which was under Arthur’s protection. Arthur had difficulty summoning all of his men to the battle site, but a mysterious “Red Knight” (Lancelot in disguise) and Gawaine saved the day for Arthur. In the meantime, Galehaut realized that he would defeat Arthur from sheer force of his numbers, and decided to give Arthur a year to gather his entire army before attacking again. A year later, the two kings met again in battle, but Galehaut still had the greater number of men, and would have won almost immediately if it were not for Gawain and a “Black Knight” (Lancelot, again, in disguise) fighting on Arthur’s side. Galehaut so admired the deeds of the Black Knight that he met him after the battle and begged him to lodge with him that night. Lancelot agreed after extracting a promise from Galehaut to surrender to Arthur the following day. Galehaut consented, and peace was made between the two kings.

Lancelot and Galehaut became fast friends, accompanying each other on a series of adventures both in Arthur’s lands and Galehaut’s. When Lancelot was made a Knight of the Round Table, Galehaut requested the same honor so that he might remain Lancelot’s companion. He supported Lancelot in the affair with Guenevere. The Lady of Malahaut, who had been in love with Lancelot, became Guenevere’s confidante and Galeholt’s paramour. During the affair of “the false Guenevere” (Genievre), Galeholt gave Lancelot and Guenevere shelter in Surluse. Is it possible that Lancelot’s son was named as much in honor of Lancelot’s friend as because Lancelot’s own baptismal name had been Galahad?

Duke Galeholt was one of the wisest of princes. In order to make himself a still worthier knight, he went to mix with Arthur’s court, first deputizing King Bagdemagus of Gore to administer his terrories and turn them over to Galeholt’s nephew Galihodin, in the event of Galeholt’s death. Malory lists him, perhaps posthumously, among the would-be healers of Sir Urre; but it would be surprising if the illustrious Haut Prince had been kept out of that company

Galeholt’s clerks, especially Helyes of Thoulouse, determined by study that he had only a few more years to live, but could prolong his life by keeping his friend Lancelot with him. Despite this, Galeholt unprotestingly let Lancelot return to Arthur’s court. Later, while Lancelot was wandering in a fit of madness, Galeholt came to believe that Lancelot had been killed and he himself had not been there to help. Galeholt went into a slump of melancholy which so weakened him that a wound breaking open and a strange illness attacking him simultaneously killed him. Lancelot found his body buried in a religious house and carried it to Joyous Garde for reburial.

At one point, Malory has King Mark learning that Galeholt and Bagdemagus have arranged the Surluse tournament with intent to slay or shame Lancelot for jealousy. This is very difficult to reconcile with the Vulgate’s insistence on the friendship between Galeholt and Lancelot and with Malory’s own depiction of Bagdemagus’ character. Possibly Mark misunderstood the situation, or possibly Malory just needed an occasion for Mark to exercise his malice, and triumphed up a pecularly flimsy and inconsistent one.

Later romances tended to minimize the importance of his character. The Italian Tristano Riccardiano says that he died of wounds received in his fight with Tristan at the Castle of Tears. In contrast to the earlier romances, Malory gives Galehaut the “High Prince” a somewhat wicked character, eliminating his friendship with Lancelot and, indeed, including a plot by Galehaut and Bagdemagus, jealous of Lancelot’s prowess, to kill him. In Malory, he opposes Arthur in two tournaments, at Sorelois and Leverzep.

Galeholt is sometimes associated with his own shield. The design of his shield can vary, but it often incorporates imagery related to his noble lineage, such as a heraldic device representing his family or ancestral symbols.

In La Tavola Ritonda, the castle Ferelois is ruled by Galehaut’s son, Abastunagio. Galehaut could be Galeholt of Sorelois, considering the name of the castle being a variation of Sorelois.

See also
Ossa Cylellaur | The Legend of King Arthur
Giant | The Legend of King Arthur

FATHER: Breunor of Castle Pleure
MOTHER: “a beautiful giantess”
NEPHEW: Galihodin
LOVER: Lady of Malohaut
WARD: King Gloier’s Daughter
CLERK: Helyes of Thoulouse
PROTEGE: King Marsil
ALLIES: King ‘Doutre le Marches’King ‘Premier Conquis’King of the Hundred Knights
SPECIAL FRIEND: Lancelot of the Lake

Lancelot do Lac | 1215-1220
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Prose Tristan | 1230-1240
Conti di Antichi Cavalier | 13th century
Tristano Riccardiano | Late 13th century
La Tavola Ritonda | 1325–1350
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470