Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Lucan the Butler

Lucan the Good
Lacans, Lacanus, Lucanere de Buttelere, Lucans li Bouteillier, Lucant, Lucas the Botiller, Lukyn

He was the Duke of Cloucester, son of Duke Corneus and possibly brother of Bedivere, Sir Lucan appears to have been a good knight and sensible, and gentle in the best sense of the word. One of Arthur’s earliest knights, he may have been appointed butler at the same time Kay was named seneschal; at least, he appears in that post, serving with Kay and Griflet, at the feast given by Arthur in honor of his newly arrived allies Kings Ban and Bors.

Lucan fought valiantly in the battle of Bedegraine; we can probably assume that he also fought at Terrabil and on Humber bank. He fought against the Saxons at the battles of Carhaix and Aneblayse. Through most of Malory’s work Lucan remains in the background, presumably carrying out his duties as butler. He does appear half a dozen times in the books of Tristram and those immediately following the Grail Adventures, cheifly jousting at tournaments. At least once during the books of Tristram Lucan shows up riding by and for adventure; he has now attained Round Table status. Outjousted and injured by Tristram, he is brought safely to the Abbey of Ganis by Ywaine.

Lucan remained with Arthur when the split became between the King and Lancelot. When Arthur was encamped before Benwick, it was Lucan who met Lancelot’s messengers, a damsel and her dwarf.

And when she came to the pavilion of King Arthur, there she alighted; and there met her a gentle knight, Sir Lucan the Butler, and said: Fair damosel, come ye from Sir Launcelot du Lake? Yea sir, she said, therefore I come hither to speak with my lord the king. Alas, said Sir Lucan, my lord Arthur would love Launcelot, but Sir Gawaine will not suffer him. … I pray to God, damosel, ye may speed well, for all we that be about the king would Sir Launcelot did best of any knight living.

As one of the last two knights left alive with Arthur after the last battle at Salisbury, Lucan tried to prevent the King from attacking Mordred.

Now give me my spear, said Arthur unto Sir Lucan, for yonder I have espied the traitor that all this woe hath wrought. Sir, let him be, said Sir Lucan, for he is unhappy; and if ye pass this unhappy day ye shall be right well revenged upon him. Good lord, remember ye of your nights dream, and what the spirit of Sir Gawaine told you this night, yet God of his great goodness hath preserved you hitherto. Therefore, for God’s sake, my lord, leave off by this, for blessed be God ye have won the field, for here we be three alive, and with Sir Mordred is none alive; and if ye leave off now this wicked day of destiny is past.

Arthur insisted on attacking Mordred, killing him but getting his own death wound in the process. Lucan and Bedivere got Arthur to a little chapel, the Ancient Chapel. Hearing people cry in the battlefield, the King sent Lucan to see what was going on. Lucan found robbers and pillagers stealing from the corpses.

When Sir Lucan understood this work, he came to the king as soon as he might, and told him all what he had heard and seen. Therefore by my rede, said Sir Lucan, it is best that we bring you to some town.

After this final battle at Camlann, Lucan tried to help Bedivere lift the King but, as he was so badly wounded, he fell dead. A variant of this is that Arthur embraced him but he was so badly wounded that the embrace killed him.

In Malory, Bedivere, the other survivor of the last battle, is called Lucan’s brother. I am not sure whether this means blood relationship, or brother in the sense that both were of the Round Table. In Vulgate VI, where Griflet and not Bedivere is the last knight left alive with Arthur, Lucan is nevertheless the next-to-the-last, and dies when Arthur embraces him.

Lucan is occasionally associated with his own shield. The design of the shield can vary, but it often incorporates symbols or imagery representing his loyalty, honor, and dedication to the king.

In the English ballad of “King Arthur’s Death,” Lucan’s brother Bedivere dies in the above manner, and Lucan (named as the duke of Gloucester) survives to throw Excalibur, Arthur’s sword, into a lake.

Sir Lucan entered Arthurian literature early: Chrétien de Troyes casually mentions him as Lucan the cupbearer. In the romances he is called Arthur’s butler, cupbearer, or wine steward.

First Continuation of Chrétien’s Perceval | Attributed to Wauchier of Denain, c. 1200
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Mort Artu | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Post-Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal | 1230-1240
Post-Vulgate Mort Artu | 1230-1240
Arthour and Merlin | Late 13th century
The Stanzaic Le Morte Arthur | 14th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470
”King Arthur’s Death” | 16th century