Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Lionel of Gaul

Unbridled Heart
Lioneax, Lionello, Lioniaus, Lyonel, Lyonell, Lyoniax

The first son of King Bors, the older brother of Sir Bors de Ganis, and the cousin of Lancelot. Lionel owed his name to a birthmark shaped like a lion.

At the death of King Bors, one of his former retainers, Sir Pharien, appropriated Lionel and Bors, aged 21 and 9 months, and took over their training. The growing boys occupied what must have been a rather uneasy place in the court of King Claudas, and finally gave Claudas’ son Dorin his death wound during a fray at dinner. Seraide, who had been sent by Viviane, rescued Lionel and Bors by giving them the shape of greyhounds for a while. They, along with their tutors Pharien, Lambegues, and Leonce, were welcomed into Viviane’s Lake, where they finished their education at the side of their cousin Lancelot, and where Lionel took Seraide to be his lady.

Lionel and Bors accompanied Lancelot to England, where they were to become knights of the Round Table. When Lionel came to Arthur’s court, a lady appeared leading the Crowned Lion of Libya, which Lionel fought and killed, and the birthmark disappeared.

As early as V.6, Malory has Arthur sending Lionel, with Bors, Gawaine, and Bedivere, on an embassy to Lucius during the war with Rome. Soon after their reurn from the Continent, Lionel accepted Lancelot’s invitation to seek adventures, they two alone. While Lancelot was asleep, Lionel saw three knights fleeing from a single adversary. Lionel got up without waking his cousin and took off after them. The single knight was Turquine, who defeated them all, took them prisoner, threw them into his dungeon, stripped them naked, and beat them with thorns. Meanwhile, Lancelot was captured by Morgan and her companions, so that Lionel had a longish wait before his cousin arrived to rescue him.

At least once during the middle years of Arthur’s reign Lionel joined a search, headed by Lancelot, for Tristram (Tristan). Lionel, Bors, and Ector de Maris were the first to leave court, sent and supplied by Guenevere to find Lancelot when he disappeared in a fit of madness caused by Guenevere’s jealousy of Elaine of Carbonek; Lionel spent at least two years on this search. It is possible, though not specific names are mentioned, that Lionel was among those kinsmen of Lancelot who once sought Tristram’s death out of envy because his fame was overshadowing Lancelot’s – a murderous effort which Lancelot himself stopped when it came to his attention.

As T.H. White noticed in the “Once and Future King”, Lionel was unlucky about getting beaten with Thorns. On the Grail Quest,

[Sir Bors] met at the departing of the two ways two knights that led Lionel, his brother all naked, bounden upon a strong hackney, and his hands bounden to-fore his breast. And every each of them held in his hands thorns wherewith they went beating him so sore that blood trailed down more than in an hundred places of his body ... but he said never a word; as he which was great of heart he suffered all that ever they did to him, as though he had felt none anguish.

Bors was about to rescue him when he saw a knight about to rape a virgin on the other side of the road. So, with a prayer to Jesus to keep Lionel, Bors went to help the maiden instead. This, rather understandably, irked Lionel; no matter how nobly he bore suffering, he was also capable of bearing a strong grudge. When next the brothers met, Lionel threatened to kill Bors for his unbrotherly action. Bors made no defense, but a good old hermit ran out to put himself between the brothers. Lionel hewed the old holy man down. Then Sir Colgrevance, a fellow companion of the Round Table, came along and tried to save Bors. Lionel killed Colgrevance, too. It took a fiery cloud from Heaven to stop Lionel. On the Heavenly voice instructing Bors to go and join Percivale, Bors, relieved to find that Lionel had not been struck dead by God’s vengeance, prepared to go.

Then he said to his brother:

Fair sweet brother, forgive me for God's love all that I have trespassed unto you.

Then he answered:

God forgive it thee and I do gladly.

Lionel, of course, sided with Lancelot when the break with Arthur came. Accompanying Lancelot into exile, Lionel was crowned King of France (Gaul). After all, though, he died in England – he was slain by Melehan, son of Mordred, apparently during the last of Mordred’s rebellion, when he took fifteen other lords from Dover to London to seek Lancelot, who may already have found Arthur’s grave.

Lionel is occasionally depicted with his own shield. The design of his shield can vary, but it often includes imagery associated with his loyalty and chivalry, such as a knight’s helmet or a crest.

Lancelot do Lac | 1215-1220
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1215-1230
Vulgate Mort Artu | 1215-1230
Third Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Manessier, c. 1230
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Mort Artu | 1230-1240
The Stanzaic Le Morte Arthur | 14th century
Alliterative Morte Arthure | c. 1400
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470