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THE story of King Lear and his three daughters is told by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his ‘Historia Britonum,' bk. ii. ch. 11-15, and was probably derived by him from some Welsh legendary source. We are only concerned with the origin so far as regards Shakespeare, and this was undoubtedly Holinshed's Chronicle (i. 19, 20, ed. 1577). Holinshed refers to the so-called Matthew of Westminster and to Geoffrey of Monmouth as his authorities, and relates the history of Leir as follows:

Leir the son of Baldud, was admitted Ruler ouer the Britaynes, in the yeere of the world. 3105. at what time Ioas raigned as yet in Iuda.

“This Leir was a prince of righte noble demeanor, gouerning his land and subiects in great wealth.

'Hee made the towne of Caerleir nowe called Leicester, which standeth vpon ye Riuer of Sore.

'It is written that he had by his wife three daughters without other issue, whose names were Gonorilla, Regan, and Cordilla, whiche daughters he greatly loued, but specially the yongest Cordeilla farre aboue the two elder. When this Leir therefore was come to great yeeres, and beganne to waxe vnweldy through age, he thought to vnderstand the affections of his daughters towards him, and preferre hir whome hee best loued, to the succession ouer the kingdome : therefore hee firste asked Gonorilla the eldest, howe well shee loued him; the which calling hir Gods to record, protested, that she loued him more than hir owne life, which by righte



and reason shoulde be most deere vnto hir. With whiche answer the father beeyng well pleased, turned to the second, and demanded of hir how well she loued him: whiche answered (confirming hir sayings with greate othes) that she loued him more than tong could expresse, and farre aboue all other creatures of the world. Then called he his yongest daughter Cordeilla before him, and asked of hir what accompt she made of him: vnto whome she made this answer as followeth: Knowing the great loue and fatherly zeale that towards me you haue always borne, (for the whiche I may not answere you otherwise than I thinke, and as my conscience leadeth me) I protest vnto you, that I haue loued you euer, and shall continually while I liue, loue you as my naturall father, and if you woulde more vnderstand of the loue that I beare you, assertayn your selfe, that so much as you haue, so much you are worth, and so much I loue you, and no more.

The father being nothing content with this answere, married his two eldest daughters, the one vnto the Duke of Cornewale named Henninus, and the other vnto the Duke of Albania, called Maglanus : and betwixt them after his death, hee willed and ordeyned that his land should be deuided, and the one halfe thereof immediately should be assigned to them in hande: but for the thirde daughter Cordeilla, he reserued nothing.

Yet it fortuned, that one of the Princes of Gallia (which now is called France) whose name was Aganippus, hearing of the beautie, womanhoode, and good conditions of the nyd Cordeilla, desired to haue hir in marriage, and sente ouer to hir father, requiring that he myghte haue hir to wife: to whome aunswere was made, that hee mighte haue hys daughter, but for any dower hee coulde haue none, for all was promised and assured to hir other sisters already.

' Aganippus notwithstanding this aunswere of denyall to receyue any thyng by way of dower with Cordeilla, toke hir to wife, only moued thereto (1 saye) for respecte of hir person and amiable vertues. Thys Aganippus was one of the twelue Kyngs that ruled Gallia in those dayes, as in the Brittish historie it is recorded. But to proceede, after that Leir was fallen into age, the two Dukes that had married his two eldest daughters, thinking long ere the gouernemente of the land did come to their handes, arose against him in armour, & reft from him the gouernance of the land, vpon conditions to be continued for tearme of life: by ye whiche he was put to his portion, that is, to live after a rate assigned to him for the maintenance of his estate, whyche in proces of time was diminished as well by Maglanus' as by Henninus. But the greatest griefe that Leir toke, was to see the vnkindnesse of his daughters, which seemed to thinke that all was too much which their father hadde, the same being neuer so little: in so muche, that going from yo one to ye other, he was brought to that miserie, that vnneth? would they allow him one seruaunt to waite vpon him. In the end such was the vnkindnesse, or (as I may saye) the vnnaturalnesse which he founde in his two daughters, notwithstanding their faire & pleasante wordes vttered in time past, that being constreyned of necessitie, he fied ye land, & sayled into Gallia, there to seke some comfort of his yongest daughter Cordeilla whom before time he hated. The Lady Cordeill hearing yt he was arriued in pore estate, she first sent to him priuily a certayne summe of money to apparell himselfe withal, & to reteyne a certayn number of seruants that mighte attende vpon him in honorable wise, as apperteyned to the estate whiche he had borne: and then so accompanyed, she appointed him to come to ye Court, which he did, & was so ioyfully, honorably, and louingly receiued, both by his son in law Aganippus, & also by his daughter Cordeilla, that his hart was greatly comforted: For he was no lesse honored, than if he hadde bin king of ye whole countrey himselfe. Also after yt he had enformed his son in law & his daughter in what sort he had bin vsed by his other daughters, Aganippus caused a mightie army to be put in a readinesse, & likewise a great nauie of Ships to bee rigged, to passe ouer into Britayne with Leir his father in law, to see him againe restored to his kingdome. It was accorded, that Cordeilla should also goe with him to take possession of ye land, ye whiche he Magbanus in the original.




promised to leaue vnto hir, as his rightfull inheritour after his decesse, notwithstanding any former graunte made to hir sisters or to their husbands in any manner of wise. Herevpon, when this army & nauie of Ships wer ready, Leir & his daughter Cordeilla wt hir husband toke ye sea, & arriuing in Britaine, fought wt their enimies, and discomfited them in battaile, in ye whiche Maglanus and Henninus were slaine: and then was Leir restored to his kingdome, which he ruled after this by the space of two yeeres, and then died, fortie yeres after he first began to raigne. His body was buried at Leycester in a vault vnder ye channel of the Riuer of Sore beneath the towne.'

The same story is also found in Lazamon's Brut (ed. Madden, vol. i. 123–158), with some differences of detail. The three daughters are there called Gornoille, Regau (as in Geoffrey), and Cordoille or Gordoylle, but there is a curious confusion with regard to the husbands of the two former. Gornoille is given to the duke of Cornwall, and Regau to the Scottish king, but afterwards the distribution followed by Shakespeare is mentioned as having been carried out as if it had been all along intended. This is in accordance with the story in Geoffrey of Monmouth, but is not clear from Holinshed's account, which would lead us to suppose that Goneril was married to Cornwall and Regan to Albany. The chroniclers in verse and prose who follow Geoffrey repeat the narrative. See Robert of Gloucester (ed. Hearne), pp. 29-37; Fabyan (ed. Ellis, 1811), pp. 14-16; Grafton (ed. 1809), pp. 35-37; The Mirror for Magistrates (ed. 1594), fol. 47b, &c.; Spenser, Faery Queene (bk. ii. cant. 1o, st. 27-32), where Shakespeare first found the name Cordelia ; and the ballad printed in Percy's Reliques. The subsequent history of Cordeilla as told by the Chronicler is prosaic as compared with Shakespeare's version, though her end was sufficiently tragic. She succeeded Leir and reigned as queen of Britain for five years, when after her husband's death her sisters' sons 'leuied warre against hir, and destroyed a great part of the

1 hir in the original.

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