The Once and Future King Part 4, Chapters 11-13 Summary

T. H. White

Part 4, Chapters 11-13 Summary

Guenever and her maid Agnes discuss the fight in France between Gawaine and Lancelot. Arthur has joined Gawaine, feeling that it is his duty as the king to fight for justice. Agnes speaks of her distrust of Mordred, who has been left as Lord Protector of the realm by Arthur. Guenever sends Agnes off to bed, and Mordred pushes his way into her chamber. He torments Guenever, who tries to keep her dignity about her. He tells her that Arthur and Lancelot are both dead, having killed each other. She does not believe it, and Mordred admits it is a lie. However, the common people of the realm would believe it, and he himself would then become king. Guenever begins to understand his evil plan and Mordred confirms it when he suggests that, since his father committed incest, he should continue the pattern by marrying his father’s wife.

In France, Gawaine lies wounded, bewailing the fact that Lancelot has once again shown him mercy instead of killing him. Arthur comforts him, and they speak of Gareth. A letter from Guenever comes. She says that Mordred has proclaimed Arthur and his knights dead, making himself King of England under his New Order. He has proposed to Guenever, who accepted him. She asked permission to go to London for her trousseau, and when she arrived, she locked herself in the Tower, where Mordred is now laying siege. Gawaine gets up, determined to return to England despite his wounds.

In Lancelot’s camp, Sir Bors wonders why Arthur and Gawaine have left the field of battle so quickly. Lancelot soon arrives with a letter from Gawaine, written shortly before he died. Mordred has raised an army, part of which is in London laying siege to Guenever in the Tower, and the other in Kent, preventing Arthur’s landing. After a furious battle, during which Gawaine received his death wound, Arthur was victorious. Gawaine begs Lancelot to come to Arthur’s aid as soon as possible.

In Salisbury, Arthur grieves for Gawaine, but also for what was lost in his vision of the Round Table. He calls a young page to deliver a letter. The page has intentions in fighting in the last battle the following day, but Arthur tells him to refrain from the combat so that he may carry the vision that Arthur was not able to bring to pass. The page, whose name is Thomas and wears the Malory bearings, must live to tell the story of King Arthur, Camelot, and the glorious Knights of the Round Table to future generations.

It is Arthur’s destiny to die in battle the following day, just as it is Mordred’s to be slain. Guenever becomes a nun and Lancelot becomes a monk; both go into seclusion. Arthur is carried off to Avilion, perhaps to come again: The Once and Future King.