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Tristram and Issolde

 
 

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The Legend

King Mark of Cornwall sends his nephew Tristram to Ireland to escort his (Mark's) intended bride Issolde to Cornwall. On the ship on the return journey Tristram and Issolde fall in love under the influence of a potion prepared by Issolde's mother for her wedding night. King Mark and Issolde are married as planned but the passion of Tristram and Issolde for each other cannot be long concealed. 

Tristram flees from the jealous Mark. He then meets Issolde of the White Hands, who falls in love with him. They marry, but Tristram's love for Issolde of Ireland runs deep and the marriage remains unconsummated. Tristram is wounded by a poisoned arrow.  He can only be saved by his true love, Issolde of Ireland. Tristram sends for her, begging her to come and quickly. He tells her to show a white sail if she is coming.  If the ship has a black sail he will know there is no hope. she sets sail immediately but Issolde of the White Hands falsely tells Tristram that the sail is black.

Tristram dies before Issolde of Ireland reaches him and then Issolde of Ireland dies of a broken heart. 

For a fuller story of Tristram and Issolde read

The Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson Part 10 - The Last Tournament

and

Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory - Book 10

 

The History

According to the historians Tristram was a real sixth-century British king who lived at Castle Dore in Cornwall. King Mark was his father, not his uncle. Apparently he lived three generations after Arthur.

 

 

 

Isolt / Issolde

Issolde of Ireland - Issolde of Ireland was the daughter of King Anguish of Ireland. Issolde was the intended wife of King Mark of Cornwall, but after drinking a love-potion intended for her wedding night she became the lover of Tristram. When she arrived too late to save Tristram from a poisoned wound. she fell dead and was buried alongside him.

Issolde of the White Hands - Issolde of the White Hands was the daughter of the King of Brittany and at the behest of her brother, Kahedrin, she became the wife of Tristram. But the marriage was never consummated and Issolde became embittered, She lied about the colour of the sails on the ship bringing Issolde of Ireland causing Tristrams death. Issolde of the White Hands committed suicide soon afterwards.

 

related pages

 

The Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson Part 10 - The Last Tournament

Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory - Book 10

 

 

 
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