“Mador of the Gate,” “Mador of the Door”
This companion of the Round Table, and Grail quester, must have been one of Arthur’s first knights. He appears usually in tournament lists, although his name suggests that he might have been Arthur’s gatekeeper in earlier legend.
He is described as exceptionally tall. In Eachtra Mhelólra Agus Orlando he is referred to as the son of the King of the Hesperides. His brother is called Gaheris the White in the Vulgate Mort Artu, Giafredi in the Tristano Panciaticchiano, and Patrise in Malory.
against them three [Bagdemagus] nor [his] knights might bear no strength.
When – according to the Vulgate account, which here varies considerably in detail from Malory’s – Mador had served Arthur for forty-five years, Guenevere invited him as one of two dozen guests at a small dinner party she gave to show the world she delighted in all the knights of the Round Table, not only in Lancelot, who was absent at the time. At this dinner Mador’s cousin Sir Patrise (in the Vulgate, his brother Sir Gaheris de Kareheu) fell accidental victim to poison which Sir Pinel le Savage (in the Vulgate, Sir Avarlon) meant for Gawaine. Suspicion naturally fell on the Queen, whom Mador challenged as a murderess.
[Then Gawaine said,] madam, I dread me lest ye will be shamed ... This shall not so be ended, said Sir Mador de la Porte, for here have I lost a full noble knight of my blood; and therefore upon this shame and despite I will be revenged to the utterance. And there openly Sir Mador appealed the queen of the death of his cousin, Sir Patrise.
Arthur arrived, regretting that his duty to act as judge prevented him from fighting for Guenevere himself and promising Mador that she would find a champion.
My gracious lord, said Sir Mador ... though ye be our king in that degree, ye are but a knight as we are, and ye are sworn unto knighthood as well as we.
According to the Vulgate, Mador resigned his allegiance to Arthur in order to fight this trial by combat. Lancelot arrived in time to champion the Queen and, for the third time in Malory’s book, defeated Mador, who then asked for mercy, “released the queen of his quarrel”, and was welcomed back to his place among the knights around the Round Table.
The fight, however, had lasted “nigh an hour, for this Sir Mador was a strong knight, and mightily proved in many strong battles.” Perhaps Mador continued to mistrust the Queen, for he joined the group of twelve knights that helped Mordred and Agravaine corner Lancelot with Guenevere, and was killed when Lancelot made his escape.
References to Mador de la Porte in Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight and elsewhere suggest that in earlier romances he was much more important than we would assume from Malory alone.
Vulgate Mort Artu | 1215-1230
Floriant et Florete | c. 1250–1275
Tristano Panciaticchiano | Early 14th century
The Stanzaic Le Morte Arthur | 14th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470