Anna is a daughter of Uther Pendragon by Igraine, and a sister of King Arthur in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae. The daughter of Uther Pendragon is prophesied by Merlin to be the encestress of seven kings who will reign over Britain. Anna is then named as the daughter born to Uther and Igraine, but becomes the wife of King Lot of Lothian. This implies that Anna is the mother of Gawain and Mordred.
Geoffrey elsewhere gives this role to an unnamed sister of Arthur's uncle Aurelius Ambrosius, although Geoffrey later always uses nephew and not cousin when referring either to Gawain or to Mordred. In most later chronicle accounts, Anna is explicitly the mother of Gawain and so also in the Latin romance De Ortru Waluuanii. Anna is usually also the mother of Mordred (but this is not indicated in Wace’s Roman de Brut).
The Scottish historian Hector Boece in his Scotorum Historia (published in 1527) reverts to Geoffrey’s account according to which Mordred and Gawain’s mother was Arthur’s aunt rather than Arthur’s sister.
Some Welsh adaptations of the Historia Regum Britanniae explicitly identify Anna with Gwyar, the mother of Gwalchmei in Welsh texts, and give her an earlier first husband, Emyr Llydaw, by whom Anna is the mother of Hoel.
Geoffrey of MonmouthEdit
In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, it is related that upon the death of King Ambrosius, a comet appears in the sky, with a single beam eminating from it, ending in a ball of fire in the shape of a dragon. From the dragon’s mouth come two further beams, one which seems to extend beyond the latitude of Gaul, while the other turns toward the Irish Sea, and splits into seven smaller shafts.
Merlin prophecies to Uther that the base star stands for Uther himself, as does the dragon shape also. The beam that extends towards Gaul represents Uther’s future son (Arthur), while the other beam is his future daughter whose descendants will hold the kingship of Britain in succession.
Later Uther becomes the father of Arthur and of a daughter named Anna, both by Igraine. Anna is given as wife to Loth of Lothian during Uther’s life.
When Uther Pendragon dies, Arthur becomes king, as prophesied. However now Geoffrey of Monmouth introduces Hoel, King of Little Britain, son of Budic as the “son of Arthur’s sister”. But which of several possible sisters? Anna? An older illegitimate daughter of Uther’s? A half-sister, daughter of Ygerne by Gorlois, Ygerne’s first husband? Another younger sister by Ygerne?
Geoffrey then introduces Gawain and Mordred as brothers, the sons of Loth (in Lewis Thorpe’s translation):
... who in the days of Aurelius Ambrosius had married that King’s own sister and had had two sons by her, Gawain and Mordred, ...
Geoffrey later refers to King Loth as Arthur’s “uncle by marriage” which is consistent with this. But from that point on Geoffrey jumps to using the word nephew when speaking of Gawain or Mordred.
The Prophesied Line of KingsEdit
After Arthur’s death, in Geoffrey’s account, five kings reign over Britain until Britain falls under the sway of Gormund, King of the Africans: Constantine, Aurelius Conan, Vortipor, Malgo (Maelgwn Gwynedd), and Keredic. None of these kings are indicated to be related to Arthur in Geoffrey’s account. Merlin’s earlier prophecy of a line of seven Kings of Britain descended from Uther Pendragon’s daughter appears here to fail.
But if one takes Britain to refer to Little Britain, and considers Hoel to be Anna’s son, the prophecy almost succeeds. Hoel (in Geoffrey’s account and in later accounts which derive from it) is the first of a line of Kings of Little Britain who spring from a sister of Arthur: 1.) Hoel the Great son of Budicius by Arthur’s sister; 2.) Hoel son of Hoel the Great; 3.) Alan son of Hoel; 4.) Hoel son of Alan; 5.) Salomon son of Hoel; 6.) Alan nephew of Salomon. With these last two we enter the full light of history. (The line before Salomon appears to be nonsense as history.) The seventh king would be Alan, the grandson of the sixth king Alan, who gained rule over Little Britain after a 33-year interregnum following the death of the sixth king Alan who was his maternal grandfather. Alan’s son Hoel would end the lineage, so Merlin ought to have foreseen eight kings.
In Respect to Gwalchmei and HowelEdit
In the Brut Tysillio and in other Welsh Bruts, Uther Pendragon’s daughter is named Anna, as in Geoffrey of Monmouth and she is married to Lleu, who corresponds to Geoffrey’s Loth. But the passage telling how Loth had married Aurelius Ambrosius’ sister is replaced by an account in which Lleu had taken Gwyar, the sister of Arthur to wife and so became the father of Gwalchmei (that is, Gawain). There is no mention here of Mordred. Presumably we are to understand that Gwyar must here be another name for Anna.
But why then did the adapter not just replace “Anna” with “Gwyar” throughout? The Welsh adapters had no difficulty in other cases of replacing Geoffrey’s names by those they felt to be more familiar to their readers, for example, replacing Geoffrey’s King “Heli” with King “Beli”, Geoffrey’s “Anguselus” with “Aron/Araun”, Geoffrey’s King “Stater” of Dimetia with King “Meuric” of Dyved, and so forth. The adapters may have recognized the name Anna as known in their traditions, and so retained it along side Gwyar. In some of the Bruts, an explicatory passage is inserted according to which Anna was indeed the same person as Gwyar, but was married first to Emyr Llydaw and became mother of Howel, and then later became the wife of Lleu by whom she was mother of Gwalchmei. It is possible that the name Anna was known to the early redactors as the name of the mother of Howel.
The authors of the Welsh Bruts do not mention that Medrawd/Mordred is Gwalchmei/Gawain’s brother, though they accept Medrawd, vaguely, as a nephew of Arthur.
In the 14th century Welsh Birth of Arthur, Anna is replaced by Gwyar who is mother of Howel by her first husband, Emyr Llydaw, and mother of Medrawd (Mordred), of Gwalchmei (Gawain) and of three daughters by Lleu (Loth).
Grandmother of St. DavidEdit
The late 13th century Mostyn MS 117, 10, reads:
Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Welsh Bruts had claimed the St. David was Arthur’s uncle, which following most chronologies of Arthur and of St. David would be impossible. This tradition at least makes them relatives. Non is usually said to be the daughter of a lord named Gynyr Gwent of Caergawch. Non’s mother is elsewhere said to be Mechell, one of the many daughters of Brychan Brycheiniog, who was said to be Gynyr’s first wife.
Nonn mam Dewi oed verch y Anna verch Vthyr pendragon. Mam Anna oed verch Eigyr (verch) Anlawd wledic. Non mother of David was the daughter of Anna daughter of Uther Pendragon. Anna’s mother was the daughter of Eigyr daughter of Anlawd Guletic.
Bartrum (p. 148) says of St. David and Arthur:
The best tradition makes them second cousins, as stated by Gutun Owain in Brut y Brehnhinedd in the Book of Basingwerk, p. 167. This relationship is arrived at as follows: Dewi ap Sant ap Ceredig ap Cunedda Wledig (ByS 1); Arthur ab Eigyr ferch Gwen ferch Cunedda Wledig (ByA 29, 31).
Wace appears to be familiar with romances of Arthur, such as those later written by Chrétien de Troyes, which generally do not mention Mordred, but know of other brothers of Arthur’s nephew Gawain. In his Perceval, Chrétien lists the brothers as Agravain, Gaheriet, and Guerrehet, which is also the later standard listing.
The only early romance where Mordred is mentioned is the Story of Merlin, attributed to Robert de Boron, but this is a very peculiar romance, apparently derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth (and Wace) through oral tradition. Here Mordred seems to replace Agravain, and the mother of the brothers is an unnamed daughter of the Duke of Tintagil (corresponding to Gorlois in Geoffrey and Wace) by Ygerne.
In dealing with Merlin’s prophesy, Wace removes any mention of a line of Kings of Britain. Wace instead makes Merlin say (as translated by Eugene Mason):
The other ray which departed from its fellow, betokeneth a daughter who will be Queen of Scotland. Many a fair heir shall she give to her lord, and mighty champions shall they prove both on land and on sea.
The ray now stands for Gawain and his brothers, though as no account gives six brothers to Gawain, it may be understood to refer to Gawain, some brothers, and some offspring in the second generation. “Queen of Scotland” may be understood as “a queen of Scotland”, reflecting an understanding that Lothian is part of Scotland.
Wace then mentions the birth of Anna immediately after his account of Arthur’s birth, relates that Anna was married to Loth of Lothian, and also indicates, at this point, unlike Geoffrey, that Anna was the mother of Gawain.
Wace makes Hoel, as in Geoffrey, the son of Arthur’s sister, without indicating who this sister might be. Wace skips entirely over Geoffrey’s mention that Loth was the husband of Arthur’s aunt. But at that point, as did Geoffrey, Wace indicates that Gawain is Loth’s son. Mordred is not mentioned at all until he is appointed regent, and Wace only indicates the Mordred, like Hoel and Gawain, is a nephew of Arthur, without giving more detail.
Wace’s account is that of the early romances. Gawain has a number of brothers. It is not told whether Mordred was one of them or the son of some other younger sister of Arthur, or even the son of an older half-sister.
The other gleam that stretched west, wondrously light, that shall be a daughter, that to thee shall be exceedingly dear. The gleams that gan to spread in seven fair strings, are seven fair sons, who shall come of they daughter, who shall win by their own hand many a kingdom; they shall be well strong, on water and on land.
Lawman also tells that Anna married Loth of Lothian, but unlike Wace’s account, no mention is made of Gawain at this point.
Lawman does not say that Howel was Arthur’s nephew, but only that Howel is Arthur’s relation.
Mordred, as in Wace, is only introduced when Mordred is to be made regent. Lawman says (in Eugene Mason’s translation):
This land he delivered to a famous knight; he was Walwain’s brother, there was no other; he was named Modred, wickedest of men ....
Gawain’s brothers of the prophecy have here disappeared. To save continuity one might imagine perhaps, as is the case of Agravain, Guerrehet, and Gaheriet in the French Vulgate Mort Artu, that these brothers are dead at the time when Arthur appoints Mordred as regent. But at least Lawman, unlike Wace, makes it clear that Mordred is Gawain’s brother.
Anna in Other Chronicle VersionsEdit
Other chronicles generally follows the theory that Anna is Arthur’s younger sister and the mother of Gawain and Mordred. But the Hales Chronicon claims that Hoel was son of Loth and Anna and the elder brother to Gawain and Mordred.
Alain Bouchart’s Grande Croniques de Bretagne rejects the story of Uther’s visit to Ygerne disguised as Gorlois, and claims that Uthere only got access to Ygerne when he married her. Anna, whom Alain calls “Anna or Emine” is here Uther’s eldest child and Arthur is Uther’s second child. Anna/Emine is married to Budic and so becomes the mother of Hoel.
According to the Scalacronica of Thomas Gray, Arthur bestowed his “eldest sister” on Loth, implying there were others.
Anna in Late Scottish ChroniclesEdit
From John Fordun, Chronica Gentis Scotorum, writen about 1385 (as translated by Felix H. J. Skene):
Now on the death of Uther, king of the Britons, by poison through the perfidy of the Saxons (like his brother Aurelius of happy memory), his son Arthur, by the contrivance of certain men, succeeded to the kingdom; which nevertheless, was not lawfully his due, but rather his sister Anna's or her children's. For she was begotten in lawful wedlock, and married to Loth, a Scottish consul, and lord of Laudonia(Lothian) who came of the family of the leader Fulgentins; and of her he begat two sons—the noble Galwanus and Modred—whom, on the other hand, some relate, though without foundation, to have had another origin. ...
But why Arthur was adopted as king and the lawful heirs were passed over, may be seen from Geoffroy; for as he says on the death of Uther Pendragon, the nobility from the several provinces were gathered together in the city of Silchester, and suggested to Dubricius, Archbishop of Caerleon, that he should consecrate Uther's son Arthur to be their king. For they were pressed by necessity, because the Saxons, on hearing of the aforesaid king's death, had invited over their countrymen from Germany, and under the command of Colgerin, were endeavouring to exterminate the Britons.
And therefore, on so strong a necessity suddenly arising, they were justified in electing a youth verging on manhood rather than a child in the cradle; and it was haply, for this reason, that Modred stirred up against Arthur that war wherein both met their fate. Geoffroy however writes that Modred and Galwanus were the sons of Anna, sister of Aurelius, Arthur's uncle. He says: Loth, who in the time of Aurelius Ambrosius had married his sister of whom he begat Galwanus and Modred.
Fordun later accepts that Mordred was nephew to Arthur. But Fordun’s suggestions that Anna might be Arthur’s aunt rather than his sister, and that Mordred might have had a right to the throne, were taken up later by Hector Boece in his Scotorum Historia published in 1527.
Boece, perhaps in part following a source that no longer exists, or perhaps following his own imagination, makes Loth into the King of the Picts and describes Loth’s wife as Anna, the elder sister of Ambrosius. A second sister, Ada, is given to King Congal of Scotland, but Ada dies in childbirth, along with her child. Uther becomes king and fathers Arthur in adultery on Gorlois’s wife. Uther attempts to have this illegitimate Arthur declared his heir. Loth, the husband of Anna, now named Cristina, Uther’s sister, disagrees. The succession should legitimately go to his own son Mordred who is Uther’s nephew. So Loth makes an alliance with King Conran of Scotland and wars with Uther. Loth also wars with Arthur, but peace is made on the condition that Mordred will be Arthur’a heir. Mordred and his brother Gawain aid Arthur in battling the Saxons.
Eventually, after Loth’s death, Arthur names another lord, Constantine, as his heir. Mordred therefore rebels, apparently with justice on his side. There is a great battle by the Humber river. Gawain, Mordred’s brother, sides with Arthur. Arthur, Gawain, and Modred are killed, and Eugenius, the King of Scotland, Modred’s ally, is master of the field.
Some Name VariationsEdit
FRENCH: Anna, Enna, Emine; LATIN: Anna, Cristina; ENGLISH: Anna. See also Morcades.