Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: The downfall of Ambrosius?

  1. #1

    The downfall of Ambrosius?

    (This is what I ponder with idle mental cycles....)

    So, we know that the downfall of the Pendragon line is pride. And (without digressing) that that pride manifested in Arthur in a certain way, and in Uther in another.

    But what about Ambrosius, the "mild king" modest in his ways and bemoaned in his passing by Gildas? He was the first "Pen Dragon"--perhaps leader of a band of Sarmatian cavalry from Armorica with their dragon-headed windsock-banner.

    What was his failing? Was he prideful, but importantly ultimately unsuited to create the legendary Britain that Merlin hoped for? Or was he really a good man who just suffered the fate of many throughout history: mowed down before he could accomplish everything he wanted? Was he "too good" for a mythic cycle of the seasons expressed through the kingship?

    Lots of bundles. Let me propose something:

    Ambrosius was as prideful as his brother and nephew. His failure was in the fundamental first duty of a dynastic ruler: ensuring the propagation of his family. He never married that we know, and so legally passed the crown to his politically and morally less-suited but martially competent brother, Uther, on death. That succession fractured the (high) kingdom and consigned it to nearly 40 years of war before Arthur finally united Britain again.

    A high, high price to pay for not being willing to settle down. But why?

    Church-types Gildas and Nennius would not single him out for praise were he a known effeminate uninterested in women. Nor was he known as "Ambrosius the Chaste". He probably had bastards, but knew to keep them quiet and cared-for. Madoc's secret upbringing may be an example of his advice followed by a younger, restrained Uther. But... Ambrosius never married. Why?

    Perhaps he was waiting for the right one to come along? The perfect match of attraction, competency and political connection--a rare gem indeed. Perhaps he thought he had all the time he needed. After all, he was relatively young for a middle-aged sovereign, in his prime, and even if he didn't win battles all the time he knew how to manage people well. And he'd clawed his way up from zero with nothing but ability and his family name (both, admittedly, valuable tools)!

    Why settle down, then? When you feel like you have time?

    Perhaps in this way he was the brother to Uther: one treating life with excess, and the other as if there were an excess of life.

    Thoughts?

    --Khanwulf

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Helsinki, Finland
    Posts
    2,825
    That Aurelius and Uther never married (until Ygraine, in Uther's case) is baffling. By contrast, almost the first thing Arthur did after securing his crown was to marry (and he might have gotten betrothed with Guenever already in 510). It is just their personal tragedy that they never had any children together.

    Aurelius was the High King for almost a decade. I could see why he wouldn't marry beforehand, maybe his options were limited. But after 468? He should have had his pick of all the women.

    One sinister option is that given Uther's 'might makes right' -mentality, Aurelius worried that if he marries and has children, he would either have to put Uther in jail or even have him killed, in order to ensure that nothing would happen to his children if he were to die prematurely. Or even later, if he dies before Uther. By remaining unmarried and confirming Uther as his heir, Aurelius ensured that his militarily-gifted, aggressive brother was still pulling together rather than pulling apart.

    It is of course easy enough to come up with contributing reasons why Aurelius would stay unwed, such as maybe he had been in love as a younger man in Brittany, but lost her tragically, and never wanted to expose himself to such a hurt again.

    None of the above explains why UTHER never married (until Ygraine), though. I mean, here we clearly have a prince/king who wouldn't give a rat's ass what the wife would think about his philandering, so that wouldn't be an issue. He is also more than capable of saying "that woman will be mine" and then ensuring that happens, even if he has to fight his own nobles to do it.

    Perhaps the simplest option would be to add wives & children, and simply ensure that they are no longer alive in 480. That happens. And the reason they are not mentioned is simply because they were not important to the story. I could even see Aurelius forcing Uther to marry some noble lady for political purposes, even though she might be trollish in countenance, and Uther deciding that he might marry her but he'd rather be damned than to bed her.

  3. #3
    Yeah writing in more characters is certainly feasible. I'm of course very curious to see what the Book of Sires does with it, if anything.

    Your point on the political potential of heir-apparent keeping Uther in line is valid, and has story potential. Uther seems like the kind of younger brother that even though he looked up to Ambrosius, was enough of his own head and full of ambition--enough to ensure trouble if he cared to.

    --Khanwulf

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Helsinki, Finland
    Posts
    2,825
    Another thought on Uther's unmarried state... Ḿaybe Uther simply doesn't care if his successor is legitimate or illegitimate. We have already seen in BoU in what low esteem he holds the Church. So rather than marrying, he has affairs, and from all of his bastards, Madog is the best and the apple in Uther's eye. Uther acknowledges Madog in 480 (with Aurelius' support, no less) and starts grooming him as a successor, so there is no need for him to marry. Especially since marrying in the 480s would mean that by necessity, Uther would need to survive another 30 years or so to ensure a legitimate male heir being an adult when he passes on. Whereas with Madog, by the end of 480s, he is very securely established as the Crown Prince, with successful military campaigns under his belt, and respect of the nobility who no longer care about his bastard status (at least not when Uther is around).

  5. #5
    I think much of the root of this is that in Geoffrey of Monmouth, Ambrosius' reign is soon over. Once he's defeated Vortigern and Hengist, he turns his attention to raising a memorial for the British nobles murdered by Hengist's treachery, leading to Merlin transporting Stonehenge from Ireland to Salisbury Plain. Almost immediately afterwards, Pascent and Gilloman invade Britain, Uther goes off to fight them, and Ambrosius (already ill, which is why he entrusts the army to Uther) is poisoned. There's not enough time for him to take a wife. Everything happens too quickly.

    The "Pendragon" campaign stretched out Ambrosius' reign longer than Geoffrey's account implies, and thus raises the issue of his never having a queen. One solution would be to have Ambrosius' reign only last a couple of years. (I can imagine reasons for the longer reign; for one thing, putting more years between Merlin's meeting with Vortigern and the conception of Arthur allows time for Merlin to grow up into the familiar old white-bearded wizard.)

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Helsinki, Finland
    Posts
    2,825
    True. Pretty much the whole 470s in Pendragon is filler. Not only that, but the same is true for Uther's reign, too. As soon as Aurelius dies, Octa and Eosa rebel and attack Eburacum. Mt Damen follows, and in the following Easter, Uther sees Ygraine. Gorlois' rebellion, Arthur's siring and the subsequent Uther marrying Ygraine follows. So Uther actually marries Ygraine within about a year from being crowned.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Morien View Post
    True. Pretty much the whole 470s in Pendragon is filler. Not only that, but the same is true for Uther's reign, too. As soon as Aurelius dies, Octa and Eosa rebel and attack Eburacum. Mt Damen follows, and in the following Easter, Uther sees Ygraine. Gorlois' rebellion, Arthur's siring and the subsequent Uther marrying Ygraine follows. So Uther actually marries Ygraine within about a year from being crowned.
    Ok, filler perhaps, since KAP paces out life in the setting a bit more than the historical record implies. (You have people and their armies rocking back and forth in the same year across the Western Roman Empire for instance... really I wonder who harvests crops sometimes!) Still, it makes it easier to play in the setting and arranges the timeline more in line with the various sources. I suspect Geoffrey wasn't concerned with a detailed yearly record as some chroniclers of the Roman Empire were, and dropped out year markers in general (I need to research to re-confirm this, but is my impression.

    Back to marriages and such: point well taken that in the day it was better to have living, strong sons than to wait around for a "legitimate" heir unless you really, really wanted to unify families and land. When Uther presented Madoc Ambrosius was already sick and demonstrating a clear succession path for the nobility would have held considerable value, especially since by then the Saxons had more recovered from Hengest's demise and associated thrashing.

    Notes [from memory, so less specific], both from what the KAP synthesized chronology implies, and my own uses:

    1. Ambrosius takes the kingship of Logres in 467 when he arrives and Vortigern can't get his Saxon allies to show up to fight him off. He tries to buy Ambrosius off with Logres but fails (cannot tolerate the man who murdered his father, plus those 10k foot and 2k dragon-bannered Sarmatian horse need to be paid).

    2. Late 468 Vortigern burns in his castle after being penned there for a year. Ambrosius has already shown his face throughout Logres and secured the personal oaths of his vassals. Between that and the threat of the Saxons the council unanimously confirms him as High King. He makes Uther crown prince and heir, and generously confirms Vortigern's surviving son Pascent to the family lands in [Wales].

    3. Ygraine, daughter of Amlawdd Wledig, one of Vortigern’s men… kinglet of Galvoi, is introduced to both Gorlois and Ambrosius during the latter's great circuit of Logres. They are rivals for her hand, which is an unmatched contest even though Gorlois is cousin to King Glywys of Glamorgan. Uther doesn't meet Ygraine because he's running the siege of Caer Vortigern and fending off relief raids. Ultimately Ygraine chooses Gorlois because she'll have all of him versus being the greatest flower in the High King's garden of attentions. Ambrosius already promised her Tintagel, and follows through on that, and also swears not to marry unless he can find another gem like her. Uther is incensed by all of this (still hasn't met Ygraine), seeing one prerogative of a great man being to possess a fine woman, and Gorlois as disloyal for opposing his brother.

    4. Madoc is the fruit of a relationship between a noble Roman girl and a young Uther. The girl was sent to a nunnery by her father, who drove away an Uther who loved her--as he was then a landless (albeit noble) warrior among the Alans. Years later, Madoc went to Britain as page/squire to a knight among the heavy cavalry, and stayed as his knight was granted land. Uther was genuinely surprised to see the ring and son of his young beloved; other bastards could never hope to hold a candle to that weight and he didn't bother legitimizing them. After the death of Madoc and his marriage Uther degenerated further and paid even less attention to the long-term care of the kingdom.

    5. Aurelius never had the chance to marry as he hoped to, and though we can assume some bastards they didn't have the support for the throne that Uther did, weren't legitimized, and served as a forgettable sub-point to the complaints the nobles had with Uther's bid for high-kingship. Convenient excuses for a few electors (and even, say, Lindsey) to argue the matter of Logres wasn't even settled.

    6. Uther didn't marry because he didn't want to and, as suggested, didn't feel he had to (church and bastards). He might have if a key elector had a sufficiently interesting daughter, but he wasn't about to chain himself down and/or alienate a family as he continued to flagrantly philander. Ygraine retreated into a nunnery not long after Arthur was fostered to Merlin, so we can see that she gave up on steering Uther.

    As a counterpoint to this, note that William the Bastard did fine enough--after a few vassal teething pains we can assume came as much from assumed his title at a very young age. Uther takes great pains to demonstrate Madoc's competency as a military leader and otherwise grooms him for the throne. He didn't need to complicate that situation--until Ygraine of course. We can only imagine Madoc's thoughts on that pursuit.

    --Khanwulf

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •