The tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde has been told and retold through various stories and manuscripts. It took place during the reign of King Arthur. Isolde was the daughter of Angwish, King of Ireland. She was betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall. King Mark sent his nephew, Tristan, to Ireland to escort Isolde back to Cornwall. Tristan, whose name means “sorrow”, was a noble knight. Isolde’s mother gave a love potion to Brangraine, Isolde’s handmaiden, with strict instructions to keep it safe until they reached her betrothed. It was then to be given to Isolde on her wedding night. Sometime during the voyage, Isolde and Tristan drank the potion by accident and fell forever in love. Isolde did marry Mark of Cornwall, but could not help but love Tristan. The love affair continued after the marriage.
When King Mark finally learned of the affair, he forgave Isolde, but Tristan was banned from Cornwall. He went to Brittany where he met a beautiful maiden with extraordinarily white hands, whose name by coincidence was also Isolde and the two married. But he never did forget his one true love. One day he set off to fight a dragon and got badly injured. As he lay dying in the seaside castle he shared with Isolde of the White Hands, he sent word to his beloved Isolde, knowing that only she could cure him. If she agreed to come, the returning ship’s sails would be white, or the sails would be black if she did not agree. His jealous wife, seeing the white sails, lied and told him that the sails were black. Tristan died of a broken heart and upon finding his body, the spirit of his beloved Isolde also departed this earth.