Morgause is one of the sisters of King Arthur in the Arthurian Legends. It is her, instead of Morgan Le Fay, who is given to be the mother of Mordred in the earliest tellings. I have discussed Morgan as Mordred’s mother previously. Morgan and Morgause tended to get conflated as time went on. When Morgause is taken to be mother to Mordred, he is sometimes simply the nephew of Arthur. There are of course versions that state that Mordred was the product of Morgause and Arthur’s incestuous tryst.
Morgause is a figure that can even be forgotten by modern readers. She is the sister, and daughter of Igraine, who is not Morgan Le Fay. Most film versions do not contain a character of Morgause. If she is in the film at all, it is simply as a sister Arthur married off to another king. However, there are some versions that have Morgause as the Avalonian sister, instead of Morgan.
Morgause can, therefore, be seen as either a sorceress who had a lot of power and worked to plot Camelot’s downfall, or as a powerless woman who did nothing but birth Mordred. When she is seen as a plotting sorceress, she raised Mordred to hate Arthur and encouraged him to take over Camelot!
Morgause was used as a sorceress in the television series Merlin. In this version she is a daughter of Vivienne, and half sister of Morgana, but not related to Arthur! This is an example of an alternative take on the traditional vision of her, and the conflation of her and Morgan.
Morgause is an often misunderstood figure, and certainly one that is often overlooked and conflated with the more prominent figure of Morgan Le Fay. I hope this post has helped to give you a brief overview of the character. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Morgause from Merlin. I found the image on twitter.com via @morganas_sister.
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Thomas Malory
- Merlin (2008-2012)