King Mark (Tristram)

King Mark's increasingly extravagant plans for his banquet hall exasperate his clerk

According to legend, King Mark of Cornwall was Tristram's uncle, and Isolt of Ireland's husband. Though most say the relationship between Mark and his nephew began favorably, a deadly rivalry brewed once Isolt and the king were married. [This happened because Tristram accidentlly drank a magick potion meant for Isolt and her future husband King Mark - think Taliesin's myth re: Cerridwyn and the cauldron.)

At times Mark is portrayed as an understanding man, who while being sympathetic to the fated love of Tristram and Isolt, could not abide the humiliation. Other times he appears as a selfish man with no honor who is responsible for his nephew's murder. Mark has also been depicted in a comedic light. Possibly due to some confusion surround his name, Mark (the Welsh "March," meaning "horse"), the king has been depicted with horse ears. Like the donkey-eared Midas of Greek legend, Mark acquired a greedy shallow reputation.

The earthwork fort known as Castle Dore, in Cornwall, is considred to have been the home of the sixth-century King Cynvawr, who some equate with King Mark, though this has yet to be proven. Excavation at the site have revealed that it was reoccupied during the fifth century. At this time, the largest structure on the site was a hall of considerable size, measuring 90x40 ft, and judging by the size of its post holes, it was in its day a grand building.

Ferguson, Anna-Marie. "Keeper of Words. "1995 Llewellyn Publications. St. Paul, Minnesota. (253)

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