Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK XXI CHAPTER I

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How Sir Mordred presumed and took on him to be King of
England, and would have married the queen, his father's

AS Sir Mordred was ruler of all England, he did do make
letters as though that they came from beyond the sea, and
the letters specified that King Arthur was slain in battle
with Sir Launcelot.  Wherefore Sir Mordred made a
parliament, and called the lords together, and there he
made them to choose him king; and so was he crowned
at Canterbury, and held a feast there fifteen days; and
afterward he drew him unto Winchester, and there he
took the Queen Guenever, and said plainly that he would
wed her which was his uncle's wife and his father's wife.
And so he made ready for the feast, and a day prefixed
that they should be wedded; wherefore Queen Guenever
was passing heavy.  But she durst not discover her heart,
but spake fair, and agreed to Sir Mordred's will.  Then
she desired of Sir Mordred for to go to London, to buy
all manner of things that longed unto the wedding.  And
because of her fair speech Sir Mordred trusted her well
enough, and gave her leave to go.  And so when she
came to London she took the Tower of London, and
suddenly in all haste possible she stuffed it with all
manner of victual, and well garnished it with men, and so
kept it.

Then when Sir Mordred wist and understood how he
was beguiled, he was passing wroth out of measure.  And
a short tale for to make, he went and laid a mighty siege
about the Tower of London, and made many great
assaults thereat, and threw many great engines unto them,
and shot great guns.  But all might not prevail Sir
Mordred, for Queen Guenever would never for fair speech nor
for foul, would never trust to come in his hands again.

Then came the Bishop of Canterbury, the which was
a noble clerk and an holy man, and thus he said to Sir
Mordred:  Sir, what will ye do? will ye first displease
God and sithen shame yourself, and all knighthood?  Is
not King Arthur your uncle, no farther but your mother's
brother, and on her himself King Arthur begat you upon his
own sister, therefore how may you wed your father's wife?
Sir, said the noble clerk, leave this opinion or I shall curse
you with book and bell and candle.  Do thou thy worst,
said Sir Mordred, wit thou well I shall defy thee.  Sir,
said the Bishop, and wit you well I shall not fear me to
do that me ought to do.  Also where ye noise where my
lord Arthur is slain, and that is not so, and therefore ye
will make a foul work in this land.  Peace, thou false
priest, said Sir Mordred, for an thou chafe me any more
I shall make strike off thy head.  So the Bishop departed
and did the cursing in the most orgulist wise that might
be done.  And then Sir Mordred sought the Bishop of
Canterbury, for to have slain him.  Then the Bishop fled,
and took part of his goods with him, and went nigh unto
Glastonbury; and there he was as priest hermit in a
chapel, and lived in poverty and in holy prayers, for well
he understood that mischievous war was at hand.

Then Sir Mordred sought on Queen Guenever by
letters and sonds, and by fair means and foul means, for
to have her to come out of the Tower of London; but
all this availed not, for she answered him shortly, openly
and privily, that she had liefer slay herself than to be
married with him.  Then came word to Sir Mordred that
King Arthur had araised the siege for Sir Launcelot, and
he was coming homeward with a great host, to be avenged
upon Sir Mordred; wherefore Sir Mordred made write
writs to all the barony of this land, and much people
drew to him.  For then was the common voice among
them that with Arthur was none other life but war and
strife, and with Sir Mordred was great joy and bliss.
Thus was Sir Arthur depraved, and evil said of.  And
many there were that King Arthur had made up of
nought, and given them lands, might not then say him a
good word.  Lo ye all Englishmen, see ye not what a
mischief here was! for he that was the most king and
knight of the world, and most loved the fellowship of
noble knights, and by him they were all upholden, now
might not these Englishmen hold them content with him.
Lo thus was the old custom and usage of this land; and
also men say that we of this land have not yet lost nor
forgotten that custom and usage.  Alas, this is a great
default of us Englishmen, for there may no thing please
us no term.  And so fared the people at that time, they
were better pleased with Sir Mordred than they were with
King Arthur; and much people drew unto Sir Mordred,
and said they would abide with him for better and for
worse.  And so Sir Mordred drew with a great host to
Dover, for there he heard say that Sir Arthur would
arrive, and so he thought to beat his own father from his
lands; and the most part of all England held with Sir
Mordred, the people were so new-fangle.