Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Leir of Britain

A legendary early British king who was the prototype of William Shakespeare’s tragic King Lear.

The son of King Bladud, Leir ruled for sixty years and founded the town of Kaerleir (“City of Leir”) or Leicester. He had three daughters – Cordelia, Regan and Goneril.

The two eldest, Regan and Goneril, played on his vanity and persuaded him to give them each one-quarter of his kingdom as their dowries. Cordelia refused to have any part of this and remained faithful to her father until his death. Goneril and Regan, along with Regan’s two husbands, Maglaurus, Duke of Albany, and Henwinus, Duke of Cornwall, then seized the remainder of Leir’s kingdom.

Maglaurus allowed Leir to keep a retinue of 140 men, but Goneril reduced this to eighty. Regan then had her turn and reduced to just five, before Goneril finally recuded it to just one man.

Leir exiled himself to France, where he was greeted and treated as an honoured guest by Cordelia and her husband Aganippus, who equipped an army and sailed back to Britain and restored Leir to the throne. Three years later Leir died. Cordelia buried him in a vault dedicated to the Roman god Janus, which lay beneath the River Soar, downstream from Leicester, the town her father had founded.

See also
Lear of Britain | The Legend of King Arthur