NIGHTBRINGER | The Arthurian Encyclopedia

Laudine’s Seneschal and His Brothers

Described as neither stammerer nor laggard, although either unwilling on for some reason himself ineligible to take on the role of guardian of the marvelous spring, this knight urges Laudine’s council to advise her to take Ywaine as her new husband after the death of Esclados.

Arthur is coming, and the seneschal emphasizes Arthur’s supposed intention of warring against them and laying waste their land. The thought that a single good man as their lady’s husband and the spring’s protector can avert this catastrophe shows the perceived value of strong leadership; the context also shows that the seneschal feels himself unqualified to provide the same leadership. His moral defects appear later: when Ywaine overstays the year’s leave of absence Laudine granted him, the seneschal charges Lunette with treason for having promoted the marriage.

Feeling cocky in her innocence, Lunette offers to have her case defended in trial by combat by one against three. Instead of declining this offer, which would have been the courtly course and one she expected him to take, he enlists his two brothers to help him await her single champion. Then, when Ywaine shows up (incognito) with his lion, the seneschal insist on the beast’s staying out of the three-against-one combat. The seneschal’s foresight is foiled, however, disobeying Ywaine’s orders, the lion eventually jumps into the fray and wounds the seneschal mortally, facilitating Ywaine’s victory. Laudine’s seneschal and his brothers end burnt on the pyre originally intended for Lunette.

Phyllis Ann Karr suspect a connection between this seneschal and Laudines’ unnamned damsel, but can find no allusion in the text to any such liaison. Instead, Lunette herself states envy of her own position to have been the seneschal’s motive. It also occurs to me that the seneschal’s original speech to Laudine’s council plays in so beautifully with Lunette’s own matchmaking as to suggest that when the marraige seems to go badly sour, the seneschal may turn against Lunette in order to forestall being accused himself.

See also
Laudine’s Damsel | The Legend of King Arthur
Laudine’s Ring | The Legend of King Arthur
Spring of Barenton | The Legend of King Arthur