Meliadus of Lyonesse, Melyodas
King of Liones and father of Tristan. As Meliadus, he replaces Rivalin Canelengres from earlier legends. The King of Lyonesse, Meliadus was considered one of the best knights in the world in his time.
He is a central character in the French Palamedes, where he, in his youth, carried off the beautiful Queen of Scotland and had a son with her named Meliadus the Younger. As a result of this abduction, he went to war with Scotland and its allies, including Arthur. He lost and was imprisoned by Arthur at Camelot until Arthur needed his services to help against a Saxon invasion, led by Aliohan, whom Meliadus defeated in single combat. In La Tavola Ritonda, Meliadus refuses to submit to Arthur’s rule and goes to war with the king, but surrenders when his ally, Lord Galehaut, yields.
In Malory, he is the brother-in-law, in Italian romance the brother, of Mark of Cornwall. Tristano Riccardiano calls him father Felix. Meliodas first married Elizabeth, Tristan’s mother, and, after her death, wed a daughter of Hoel of Brittany (called Agia in La Tavola Ritonda). Another of Hoel’s daughters was to marry Tristan. This would therefore make Iseult of Brittany both sister-in-law and daughter-in-law to Meliodas. Meliodas was eventually killed by knights of the count of Norhout (Norholt), or by his own kinsmen. Tristan fled Lyonesse to serve at King Faramon of France’s court, but he later returned and avenged Meliadus’s death.
Meliodas’ imprisonment in the Rock of the Cornishwoman by an amorous enchantress caused the death of his first wife, Mark’s sister Elizabeth, who gave birth suddenly to Tristram while searching the woods for her husband and then died of cold and exposure. Merlin released Meliodas from the enchantress on the morning after Elizabeth’s death.
But the sorrow that the king made for his queen that might no tounge tell.
After seven years of widowerhood, Meliodas married a daughter of Howel of Brittany (Hoel) – presumably an older sister of Isoud la Blanche Mains – who gave him more children. This second queen decided to get rid of Tristram so that her own offspring would inherit Lyonesse. Her first attempt to poison Tristram ended in death of her own son, who drank the poison by mistake. She tried again, and this time Meliodas himself almost drank the poison. When she snatched it from him, he grew suspicious and, by threatening her at sword point, made her confess all. He would have burned her, but Tristram himself pleaded for her life and
made the king and her accorded. But then the king would not suffer young Tristram to abide no longer in his court
and sent him into France (perhaps to Howel’s court?) under the tutorship of Gouvernail. After seven years, Tristram came home again, already well accomplished, and stayed until the age of eighteen years.
and then the King Meliodas had great joy of Sir Tristram, and so had the queen, his wife. For ever after ... because Sir Tristram saved her from the fire, she did never hate him more after, but loved him ever after, and gave Tristram many great gifts.
When Meliodas’ court recieved news of Sir Marhaus’ impending battle with Mark’s champion – providing Mark could find one – to settle the truage question with the Irish king, Tristram begged his father to let him go to his uncle, be made knight at Mark’s hands, and fight as his champion. After cautioning his son of Marhaus’ might, Meliodas agreed.
I will well, said King Meliodas, that ye be ruled as your courage will rule you.
These would seem to be Meliodas’ last words to his famous son; presumably he died a natural death while Tristram was on his adventures. In Malory’s version, Meliadus is still alive some time after Tristan’s return from Gaul.
Prose Tristan | 1230-1240
Palamedes | c. 1240
Tristano Riccardiano | Late 13th century
La Tavola Ritonda | 1325–1350
Vita di Merlino con le Sue Profetie | c. 1480
Povest’ o Tryshchane | c. 1580
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470