Chapter 17:

How King Uterpadragon became ill, from which illness he died, and was kept company by prelates and noblemen

While the king was in bed he made his will and confessed what he had on his soul on the counsel of Merlin. And he was ill thus a long time, so long that his illness got worse and his people assembled in London for his command. And he did not talk for three days, and at the end of the three days he died. Then Merlin arrived, who knew all, and they told him that the king was dead, and he said, "He cannot be dead as you say, for he will have a good end."

And they said, "It has already been three days since he last spoke."

Merlin said, "Let us go to him, and what I will do will be the greatest marvel in the world."

Then they went with him to the place where the king lay, and had all the windows opened, and the king looked at Merlin and appeared to know him. Merlin said to the priests and prelates and the other noblemen, "Anyone who now wishes to hear the last words the king will say, let him come near."

They said, "And how can you make him speak?"

And he said, "Now you will see."

Then he bent close to his ear and said to him, "You have made a very good end, and I tell you that your son Arthur will be king after you by the mercy of God, and he will complete the Round Table which you began."

The king heard what Merlin said and spoke very quietly, as best he could, and said to Merlin, "Bless you, who have made me sure of such pleasure."Merlin said, "Now you have heard what you did not think to hear, and this is the last word you will hear from him."

Then the king died, and a very great lamentation was made by all those of the city and throughout the kingdom, with great cries and clamors that all made, and they tore their garments, tearing out their hair cruelly, feeling the greatest sorrow which could be written of. When the queen saw this, all that the others felt was minimal compared to the grief and pain her heart endured, since many times she fainted and fell over the body of the king, and those who were there took her away from him by force, and if they had not done so it might have been that the queen herself would have ended her days with the rancour and anguish she suffered.

And when she recovered herself, she said this, "Ah, unlucky wretch! And why did you show yourself so happy with me, giving me gifts so generously, and why do you take them away so causelessly and so suddenly? Ah, my much-beloved lord, dream and hope of your subjects! Ah, my lord, already my pain decreases, because it cannot increase more! With you the country was a stronghold for your subjects, and not a conquering-ground."

These and many other things the queen said to herself; she could not yet cry out, since she had lost all her senses and virtues.

The servants said this, "Ah, lord, our strength and strength of our deeds, whose speech gave us daring and strength, with you our great deeds end!"

These moans and lamentations they uttered, so that they would be long in the telling, and in order not to be prolix or toil too hard, they will not be written. But all should be certain that the more the king was loved, the more moans and lamentations were made for him. And so the body of the king was interred in a very venerable sepulture with great obsequies and vigils, by all greatly mourned.

The next day, after the king was buried, all the high men and the prelates of the sacred church and the other men of the kingdom assembled as one to take counsel on how to govern the kingdom, and they could not agree among themselves. And all said they wanted to do what Merlin should counsel, because he was usually the king's counselor. Then they sent to seek Merlin, and when he came all said to him, "We know that you are wise and that you always loved the kings of this land greatly; you see that the land is without an heir, and a land without a lord is worthless; therefore we beg you to help us to choose a man who will govern us in peace and concord."

And Merlin said, "I always loved the people of this land, and if I told you that I would make someone king, you would not choose to believe me; but a happy chance came to us and I will tell you of it, and you will do well to believe it . You already see that the festival is coming on which the King and Lord of the Kingdom was born. Have it proclaimed throughout the kingdom that there will be prayers and fasts and abstinences, and beg the true God, since He chose that day to be born, to give you a lord at your service and to your liking."

Then some went aside with others and asked whether they would agree to this counsel and they said, "There is nothing in the world Merlin could counsel which would not be granted."

Then they told the prelates to send to all the churches throughout the entire kingdom to tell the priests to fast and pray, and to beg that God choose a king and lord for them. So they agreed upon the counsel of Merlin. Merlin left them, and they begged him to come on that day. He said that he would not come until a king had been found. Then Merlin went to Blaise, and told him to write these things down.

The good men and the ecclesiastics prayed and performed abstinences, and had everyone assemble in London the day of the Birth to choose a king. And Antor had brought up the child until he was sixteen, and he was already very tall and handsome, and he had never sucked milk save that of Antor's wife, and Antor did not know whom he loved more, the child or his own son; and Antor made his son knight, and came to London before Easter, like the other knights, and brought both his sons with him.

On the eve of Easter all those in the kingdom assembled, and with them the priests, and those who were worth something, and all had done what Merlin had commanded them, for they heard the midnight mass and prayed that God give them a king who would be pleasing to them. The archbishop gave a sermon and at the end of the sermon he said, "You are assembled here for three things to your benefit: for the salvation of your souls, [for the good of your bodies,][1] and to see the lovely miracle which will happen to us, that God will give us a king today; for we are not so wise as to be able to choose which of us would be best; but let us beg God to choose for us, as truly as he was born today, and let each one of us say the Pater noster and the Ave Maria five times."

They did just as the archbishop had commanded, and, after they had offered their prayer, they went outside the church, where there was a large and empty square, and saw a square stone there; they could not determine of what stone it was made, but some said it was of marble; and on top of that stone there was an anvil, in which was placed a sword up to the hilts, and when they saw it, they marveled and went to tell the archbishop. And the archbishop, when he heard, took holy water and the church's relics, and went out with all the priests and all the town. And when they saw the stone and the sword they chanted psalms and prayers, and threw holy water upon it, and the archbishop examined the sword, and found on it gold letters which said: "He who may draw this sword, will be king of this land by election of Jesus Christ." And after he read the letters he told the message to the town, and the stone was given to ten good men to guard, five of whom were priests, and they thanked Our Lord greatly for what he had shown them. And the archbishop returned to hear mass, and said to the town, "Friends, our Lord, who showed us this, will show us more, and let none act against his pleasure."

And mass was said, and everyone left the church and some went to the stone, and wondered who would try the sword. And they said that they would not test it unless the lettered men and prelates of the sacred Church commanded it. And so there was a great discord, with the high and powerful men saying they wished to try it first.

The archbishop told them, "You are not in accord as I would have wished; for our Lord has already chosen, but we do not know whom. Know that neither riches nor knighthood will be needed, but the will of God instead. And I trust so in Him, that if he who is to draw the sword is not yet born, then I believe it will not be drawn until he is born and draws it."

Then all said he told the truth, and that they would do his commands. He said, "God wants you to agree, and I will aid the pleasure of God and the good men of the land as I can ."

This speech was made after mass, and the agreement remained up to the archbishop, who thought it good that the sword be tried before the high mass. And he said to the town, "God sent us good means for election, for He wanted earthly justice to be by the sword, and gave knights the beginnings of the three orders which guard the sacred Church; and now He wanted our election to be by sword, may His name be blessed, and He knows well to whom He will award this justice, and let the high men not covet it, for the Lord does not want the sword to be drawn by riches or pride. Nor let the poor men become angry at the rich, for God does not know which is better."

Then they agreed that those whom the archbishop commanded would try the sword, and they returned to the stone. And the archbishop chose two hundred fifty-two knights from the best he knew, and all of them tried to draw it, but none could draw it or even move it. Then the archbishop commanded all who wished to try it to do so, and that they should pay their respects to him who drew it, and so the sword stayed, and the archbishop told them what he knew would be beneficial to them, to their bodies and souls. And he said to all alike, "Friends, this deed is God's, and believe that no one will be able to draw it save he whom God wishes and He understands what is to our benefit, and wait until you see what may come of it."

That afternoon, after eating, they rode out on their horses, and with much pleasure all went to throw darts as they often did, and those others from the town went there to see the stone of the sword, and after they had thrown darts they gave their shields to their squires. And matters remaining thus, a great fight arose among them, so that all the townspeople went there, the armed and the unarmed. And the eldest son of Antor, who was already a knight, called his brother. He said to him, "Go quickly to the lodgings for my sword."

And the youth, who was a very good man and a good servant, struck his spurs into his horse, and went to the lodgings for the sword, and found no sword at all, for his mother had it guarded in her bedroom, which was in sight of the stone, and when the youth saw that he could have neither that sword nor any other, he went for the stone, and saw the sword which he had as yet not tried, and thought that he would take it to his brother if he could. And so, on horseback as he was, he arrived at the stone, and took the sword by the hilts and drew it, and put it under the hem of his cloak, and took it to his brother who awaited him outside the town. And the brother, as soon as he saw him, asked him if he had brought the sword. And he said, "By God, I could not find it, but I bring you the sword of the stone."

He took it and put it in his mantle, and took it to his father and said to him, "I shall be king; you see here the sword of the stone."

And when his father saw it, he marveled, and asked him how he had gotten it. And he said, "I drew it from the stone."

And Antor did not believe him. Then both of them went to the church, and the other boy behind them, and, when Antor saw the stone without the sword, he asked his son how he had gotten it, and told him not to lie in any way, for he would find out afterwards. His son told him, "Certes, sir, I will not lie to you. Arthur, my brother, brought it to me when I sent him for my own sword."

Antor said to him, "Give it to me, for you have no right whatsoever to it, and I want to find out how this happened."

Then he gave it to him, and Antor said to him, "Son, return the sword whence you drew it."

And he put it there, and drew it thence as well and as strongly as before. And Antor told his son to try it, and he tried and could not draw it. Antor said to Arthur, "Son, lord, if I could do enough to make you king, what would you have me given?"

"Lord," he said, "I could have nothing you would not be lord of, as my father."

And Antor responded, "I am your father by upbringing, but in another way I do not know who your father was."

When Arthur heard this, he began to weep, and said, "How could I achieve so great a good, when I have no father?"

And Antor said, "What? If God chooses to give you this grace, I will help you to the extent of my power."

Then he told him how he had brought him up, and said to him, "You are to give a great reward, to me and my son, which I expect because of this: that, certes, no man was better brought up than you were, and I beg you to give my son a reward if God gives you this benefit."

Arthur said, "Sir, I beg you not to deny that I am your son, for I would not know where to seek a father, and if God gives me this grace, I promise you on my faith to give you what you wish."

Antor said, "I do not ask for your land; but if God wants you to be king, make my son steward of all your house and lands, and never let him lose that position no matter what he says or does, and that for love of me you never get angry at him for any reason; for, if he is an ill-bred man, it is because of you, and because of you he is deprived of all the rights of a high-born man, by the nature of the milk of a peasant woman, to whom we gave him so that we could raise you. Therefore do not blame him and suffer him more than you do others, because of that bringing-up you have had from me and his mother until today, and also because the virtue of high birth requires it. I beg you to grant me what I have asked of you."

And Arthur said that he would give him all that and much more, as he would to his brother, if such a chance became his. Then Antor had him swear to that promise on an altar, and after he swore, Antor returned to the archbishop at the fight where he was, and the fight was already parted, and all of the noblemen had entered the church to hear vespers. And Antor called his friends, and together with them said to the archbishop, "Lord, you see here one of my sons, and he is not yet knight, who begs me to have you let him test the sword, and call the noblemen, and have them all go with Your Lordship."

The archbishop said that he was pleased and willing, and did so, and assembled everyone and they went before the stone. And Antor said to Arthur, "Go, draw the sword from the stone, and give it to the archbishop."

And Arthur went to the sword, and took it by the cross, and drew it from the stone and went to the archbishop with it. And the archbishop, as soon as he saw this, was very greatly pleased, and took the boy in his arms and began to sing the Te Deum laudamus, and so he took him to the church. When the noblemen saw this, they were very angry, and they said, "This cannot be, that a little squire should be our king."

And the archbishop said, "Whom does this grieve? For our Lord knows who is the best, and what each one is."

And Antor and his kin and a great part of the other people held with Arthur, and all said, "If all those in the world chose to come and prevent this election, and only God wanted it, no one would be able to avoid it."

And Antor said to Arthur, "Son, go; return the sword whence you drew it."And he did it, and the sword was placed as before. And the archbishop said to the noblemen, "Lords, go and draw it, if you can."

And many went there, but no one could draw it. And the archbishop said, "This is the loveliest election that ever man saw, and he who chooses to go against the will of God is crazy."

And they said, "It is true, but it seems to us a very strange thing that a little squire should be lord over all of us."

And the archbishop said, "God, who is aware of more than we, knew better how to choose."

Then they begged him to leave the sword in the stone until the day of Saint Mary the Candlebearer, when many who had not yet seen or tried it would come to try.

So the sword remained until that day, and all those in the land assembled and tried the sword, and, as soon as all had tried, they said to the archbishop, "Lord, now it will be well, if all wish it, to fulfill the will of God."

Then the archbishop said, "Son Arthur, go up there, and if God wishes you to be the guardian of this land and people, draw the sword."

And Arthur went to it and drew it, and gave it to the archbishop, and when those of the land saw it, they said, "Who chooses to go against this election?"

And they said to the archbishop, "We beg you to wait on this until Easter, and, if no one comes then to draw the sword, we will obey the one who did draw it; and, if you wish to do otherwise, each one will do what he best can."

And the archbishop said, "And if I do this, will you obey?"

"Yes, willingly," they said.

And the archbishop said, "Arthur, return the sword to its place, since nothing better can be done."

And from that day until Easter, anyone who wanted to try did so, and no one was ever able to draw it nor move it an inch.

And the archbishop, who had the child in his care, said to him, "I tell you that you will surely be king, and you must understand from the heart how to be a good king, and from here on you must choose whom you wish to be your favorites and counselors, and give and divide lands and offices of your house, just as a king does, for without doubt you will be a king with the help of God."

And Arthur said, "I put myself and whatever benefit God will give me in the guard and good graces of this church and your counsel, and do you choose for me whatever men will be best, and do it in such a way that it will be in the service of God and by His will and to the good of the people. And, if it please you, call my lord along with you."

The archbishop had Antor called, and told him the words Arthur had said to him. Then they chose the counselors they wanted, and the favorites; they made Arthur's brother, whose name was Quia, steward of his court and his land; but the other offices of his household remained open until Easter. Then on the eve of Easter all assembled in the city of London, and the archbishop said to all, "Friends, God wants this boy to be king."

And the noblemen said, "We do not want to naysay God; but we take it for a great marvel, that a child of such small estate and low lineage should be our lord. And do one thing which will please God and all of us: you know this child and take him for wise, and we know nothing of his doings. Leave him before us, so we can test what sort of man he will be."

And the archbishop said, "Do you want us to set a time for his sacrament, and do you wish the election to be tomorrow?"

They said, "But the sacrament should wait until Pentecost."

And the archbishop said, "It will not wait until then."

And the next day, after high mass, they brought the child to the election, and he drew the sword as he had before. Then they received him as their lord, but commanded him to return it to its place, and they entered the church, and received him as lord. And they took him apart to talk with him and test him, and one among them rose and said, "Lord, we see that our Lord wants you to be our king, and, since He wants it, we want it and we want to hold our lands from you, as vassals do from their lord; but we beg your sacrament to wait until Pentecost, for you will be no less lord of this kingdom and of us thereby, and we want to know your will in this matter, without any counsel you might take."

And the king said to them, "In regard to what you say about wanting to hold lands from me, this can not and should not be until I am lord of my land. You say that I am lord of the kingdom, but this cannot be until I am consecrated and have the crown and the honor of the land; but the delay you asked for in regard to the sacrament, I grant you willingly, for I do not wish sacrament or honor, save from God and from you."

Then they said that if he lived he would be served, and so the time was set for Pentecost, in obedience to Arthur, as the archbishop commanded, and they had treasures and precious things brought to see if he would be greedy or grasping. And he asked those who were given him as counselors who they were or what they were worth, each of the noblemen and each of the others, and as he found them then, he did to them later; for he gave horses and arms to the good men, and gave birds to the youths, and ladies to those in love, and possessions to the men of letters; and he gave what he understood to be best to those who held his lands, and so he distributed what they gave him to test him. And when they saw this, they esteemed him much in their hearts and said to themselves that he would do great deeds and that they saw in him neither greed nor evil, since as soon as he took possessions into his hand, he employed them well and with reason, as each thing merited.

So they tested King Arthur and could never find in him anything which could be called a fault. And when Pentecost arrived, all assembled in London, and all those who wished tried the sword, but no one could draw it. And the Archbishop took the crown placed there, and the sacrament, and all the trappings necessary to make a knight, and the morning of that festival Arthur took the sword from the altar and belted it on, and was a knight. And the archbishop said, "You see here the man whom God chose for your king, and if there is anyone who naysays this, let him speak."

And all said in one voice, "We wish as God does that he be our king; but we beg him to pardon us in mercy if he loves any of us ill because we once naysaid his election."

Then, all of them knelt before him, and Arthur wept with piety, and knelt before them and said, "I pardon you all, and the Lord who gave me this honor pardons you."

Then all rose and took Arthur in their arms and carried him to the altar.

[1] Although Juan allows the archbishop to say that all are assembled for "three" things, he excises this one. Text has been supplied from the 1535 Seville publication of the Demanda del Sancto Grial.