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Origin[]

Morgause is a character in later Arthurian traditions, appearing in Thomas Malory's 15th-century text Le Morte d'Arthur as the mother of Gawain and Mordred, both key players in the story of King Arthur and his downfall. The latter is fathered by Arthur in inadvertent incest, Morgause being the king's estranged half-sister. She is also a sister of Morgan le Fay and the wife of King Lot of Orkney, as well as the mother of Gareth, Agravain, and Gaheris. Her character is fully developed in Malory's 1485 compilation of Arthurian legends Le Morte d'Arthur, in which Morgause (or Margawse) is one of three daughters born to Gorlois of Tintagel, Duke of Cornwall, and the Lady Igraine. According to Malory, her mother is widowed and then remarried to Uther Pendragon, after which she and her sisters, Elaine and Morgan ("le Fay", later the mother of Ywain), are married off to allies or vassals of their stepfather. Morgause is wed to the Orcadian king Lot and bears him four sons, all of whom go on to serve Arthur as Knights of the Round Table: Gawain, one of his greatest knights; Agravain, a wretched traitor; Gaheris; and Gareth, a gentle and loving knight. Years later, her spouse joins the failed rebellions against Arthur that follow in the wake of King Uther's death and the subsequent coronation of his heir. Shortly after her husband's defeat, Morgause visits the young king Arthur in his bedchamber, ignorant of their familial relationship, and they conceive Mordred. Her husband, who has unsuspectingly raised Mordred as his own son, is slain in battle by King Pellinore. Her sons depart their father's court to take service at Camelot, where Gawain and Gaheris avenge Lot's death by killing Pellinore, thereby launching a blood feud between the two families. Nevertheless, Morgause has an affair with Sir Lamorak, a son of Pellinore and one of Arthur's best knights. Her son Gaheris discovers them in flagrante and swiftly beheads Morgause in bed, but spares her unarmed lover, whom he frames as her killer. Gawain, Agravain and Mordred join Gaheris (Gareth takes no part) in ambushing and killing Lamorak, thinking him to blame. Eventually the Orkney brothers find out the truth about Gaheris' matricide and the guilty party is banished from court (though he reappears later in the narrative).

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