A 'Foreign' Queen in King Uther's Court: Fifteenth-Century Insular Xenophobia and Malory's Portrayal of Arthur's Mother

Sheri Chriqui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most individuals in Arthur's realm are insular foreigners--including Arthur, the son of a Cornish mother and an English king, and a blood relation of his half-sister's Scottish sons. In such a hyphenated milieu, allegiances can be as unstable as were late medieval borders. Although fifteenth-century English society understood and lived culturally interpenetrated realities, Malory's text reveals a measure of insular xenophobia that is exacerbated by increasing political tensions. Malory’s treatment of blood and border tensions has been particularly examined, yet the critical gaze primarily privileges masculine border experiences, focusing attention on King Mark's court or the Orkney brothers. I focus on Malory’s cultural and textual treatment of Igrayne, an insular "foreigner" in Uther's English court and King Arthur's mother. Malory’s nuanced emphasis at key points in his narrative on Igrayne's "foreignness" inflects her behaviour. Igrayne's body, like her land, becomes a subjugated body in pain. Her silence, a willed withholding of herself, unsettles her displays as Uther's queen. Marginalizing her voice amplifies her resistance; she refuses a transparent embrace of her new life as England's queen. I consider how far the instability that Igrayne brings to the kingdom is contingent upon her "foreign" status, examining Malory's relationship to his sources to determine the ways he uses Igrayne to reflect contemporary English anxieties towards the Cornish people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-92
Number of pages20
JournalSouth Atlantic Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2016


  • Malory
  • Arthurian literature
  • Medieval literature
  • Gender
  • King Arthur

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