Lord British, from Ultima Underworld II
Lord Cantabrigian British is a major character in the Ultima series, appearing as the ongoing ruler of the kingdoms of Akalabeth, Sosaria and Britannia. He first appears in Akalabeth, and is originally a native of Earth.
According to folklore, the young man who would become Lord British was an idealist even during his time on Earth, feeling greatly disappointed with the constant pursuit of wealth and power he saw in those around him. He first crossed over to Sosaria unexpectedly when he discovered a silver amulet in the shape of a serpent during one of his walks in the hills. Upon picking it up, a blue moongate was opened before him, and he stepped through into the Sosarian countryside.
Wandering in his strange new surroundings, the youth came upon Shamino Salle Dacil, who was cutting wood at the time and accidentally struck his own leg with his axe, surprised at the sudden appearance of a stranger. Shamino then healed the wound by means of a simple magical cantrip, inadvertently introducing the young man to the reality of magic. After their initial meeting, the two soon became fast friends. It was Shamino who gave him his name, "British," in reference to the boy's claim that he came from the "British Isles."
Age of Darkness
After acclimating to the strange new land, British went on to a meteoric rise through the political hierarchy of Sosaria. Initially taking the title of British, Champion of the White Light, the young hero had numerous skirmishes with the growing forces of Mondain. He was eventually able to route the wizard in his labyrinth of dungeons and drive him from the kingdom of Akalabeth, earning him the kingship of half of that land, and with it, the name Lord British, Protector of Akalabeth.
During the events of Akalabeth, a hero (possibly the Stranger) entered the kingdom of Akalabeth and, at the behest of Lord British, slew a number of monsters who were remnants of Mondain's first incursion. Eventually, upon slaying a balron, Lord British knighted the hero.
Later, Lord British rose to become at least co-ruler of one of the four major Sosarian continents, if not ruler in full. The Castle of the Lost King, which also stood in Lord British's lands, had an active court at this time, although it is unclear if its name implied that British's co-ruler was absent or if the title of "Lost King" was simply an eccentric appellation taken by a second monarch. Immediately prior to the events of Ultima I seeing the land still plagued by Mondain's works, Lord British held his amulet absent-mindedly, wishing for a champion to appear. Within days the Stranger appeared in Sosaria for the first time, seeking to secure the wizard's final defeat.  During this quest, Lord British, like many kings, would grant the hero an audience and offer the adventurer healing in exchange for tributes of gold. He also asked the Stranger to seek the Grave of the Lost Soul and would grant a boon of strength upon this quest's completion. After the Stranger finally slew Mondain in the distant past, it was Lord British who awakened the sleeping hero from the thousand-year sleep, offering congratulations for the victory and also the fealty of all of Sosaria for time immemorial.
In Ultima II, Lord British mysteriously appeared on the world of Earth, whose history had been catastrophically altered by the activities of Mondain's apprentice, Minax. During this strange period, he existed paradoxically in both the years 1423 B.C. and 1990 A.D., in a castle located in what would be considered Great Britain by the standards of our current time line. Throughout this history, he served as the chair of a committee of various survivors of the eventual cataclysm of 2111 A.D. - a group which attempted to research the totality of Minax's actions and the possibility that the emerging time doors could be used to avert their aftermath. Just as he had in Sosaria, this bizarre Terran version of British sent out the call for a hero using his amulet and when the Stranger again appeared and approached him in the course of the quest to slay the enchantress, he once more granted the hero the use of his healing arts in exchange for gold. After the demise of the sorceress and the restoration of Earth's history, it is unknown what became of this British - or if he even existed.
In the years which followed in Sosaria, however, the landscape of realm had drastically altered, with the Lands of Lord British having been sundered from the other three continents following the death of Mondain and the destruction of his gem. The Sosarian British, now sole king of the land, commissioned the Great Work at this time - a series of exploratory travels to provide detailed maps of his newly-transformed kingdom. During this time, the Isle of Fire rose from the sea, and the hellspawn Exodus (a legacy of Mondain and Minax) began its assault on the kingdom. After Shamino was driven to insanity, attempting to explore the stronghold of this daemon machine, Lord British again put out the call for a champion. In Ultima III, the Stranger once more appeared to fight the evil plaguing Sosaria, and British once more assisted, granting strength once the Mark of Kings was obtained.
Age of Enlightenment
After Exodus' defeat, a great celebration was held in honor of the destruction of the Triad of Evil, and at the end of this fête, the land was rechristened Britannia and its lord's castle was renamed Castle Britannia in suit. With the great evils of the past no longer plaguing the land, Lord British helped to foster a renaissance of scholarship, art and new spiritual pursuits. The three great castles, dedicated to the Principles of Truth, Love and Courage were founded, and British further established shrines to these abstracts on the Isle of Fire, although the land that housed them later sank into the ocean. Each of the major cities of the new Britannia was dedicated to the study of one of the newly established Eight Virtues which British helped to codify. Hoping to further unite the people in the ways of his new ethical system, the king put forward the Quest of the Avatar, hoping to establish a champion which would embody all virtue at once.
Some, upset at the notion of ethics being thus promoted and enforced by a monarch, banded together in resistance to British's ideology, and many citizens from the cities of Montor, Old Fawn and Moon met in secrecy to discuss a course of action. Eventually, under the leadership of Erstam, they emigrated from Britannia, seeking a new land in which they would be free to conduct their morality as they saw fit - independently of the new virtues. After a rough journey, their ships eventually crossed through the Serpent Pillars coming at last to a land they christened New Sosaria, which later became known as the Serpent Isle. Here they settled, and over the generations, the stories of Lord British's reign slowly changed in retelling, transforming the king into the daemonic figure of Beast British, a tyrannical despot who called upon infernal forces to oppress the peoples of Old Sosaria.
In Ultima IV, the Stranger once more appeared once more in Britannia, this time seemingly independent from any magical summons. The hero undertook the yoke of virtue at this time, answering British's call toward Avatarhood. During the pursuit of this ideal, British gave the hero advice on how to best to tackle this spiritual undertaking, and offered the pilgrim and all companions free use of his arts as a healer, even resurrecting the aspirant when faced with death. Eventually, the Stranger completed the quest, descending into the Great Stygian Abyss and reading the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom therein.
With the establishment of a champion of virtue and the beginning of the new "Age of the Avatar," Lord British began to work towards transforming Britannia from a totalitarian monarchy into a representative democracy, calling a Great Council of eight representatives into existence. Working jointly with the sovereign, this council removed the Codex from the depths of the Great Stygian Abyss and enshrined it on what became known as the Isle of the Avatar. To signal an end to the past Ages of Darkness, British and the Council also orchestrated for the sealing of the eight remaining dungeons, trapping the evils that dwelt there.
However, the unexpected result of the removal of the Codex from the Abyss was the seeming formation of a vast and strange Underworld through which the eight dungeons became interconnected. Curious about this strange occurrence, Lord British personally headed an expedition to the Underworld, taking with him the knights Arionis, Geraci, Noin, Roin and Shaana, as well as his scribe, Remoh. After heading on ship though a waterfall in the river Maelstrom, the company ventured in the strange and dark world for but five days before all but three members of the party were slain. The Shadowlords, dark spectres called into existence by the remnant shards of Mondain's gem, struck down British at the end of his sojourn, keeping him prisoner in the bowels of Dungeon Doom. Remoh, at this point sole survivor of the ordeal along with Shaana, recorded a log of this ill-fated journey, which later would prove helpful in retracing British's footsteps - although the scribe and the knight were not heard from again.
After Lord British's disappearance, Lord Blackthorn, the regent who had assumed power during British's voyage, was seduced by the power of the Shadowlords, becoming despotic and tyrannical in his attempts to enforce virtue through penalty of law. In Ultima V, the Avatar was summoned back to Britannia by the now persecuted companions who had accompanied the hero in the initial quest to attain Avatarhood. Together they quested in hope of rescuing the vanished ruler and overturning Blackthorn's regime. Although entrapped by the Shadowlord's magic, British still did his best at this time to aid the returned champion, appearing as an apparition by the hero's campfire and offering his advice and blessings. He was, even from his place of exile, still able to restore the Avatar from death through his efforts, and would do so if the hero fell in battle.
Once rescued from Doom, British confronted Blackthorn with the crimes committed during his rule, and offered him the choice between accepting the judgment of the Great Council for his crimes or being exiled to an unknown land through the use of the Orb of the Moons—a magical artifact capable of summoning a red moongate. Recognizing his guilt, Blackthorn eventually chose to pass to another world.
Years later, in Ultima VI, Britannia came under attack by the race known as the gargoyles, who had been angered at the inadvertent theft of the Codex and destruction of their home world through the collapse of the Underworld. Not knowing them to also be creatures of virtue, Lord British directed the war effort from his castle, and when the Avatar again came to Britannia, he again offered the hero shelter, equipment and healing—charging the champion of virtue with ending the conflict. Eventually, after coming upon the truth of the gargoyles' motives, the hero championed peace between British and the Gargish Lord Draxinusom, relocating the Codex to the Ethereal Void, and making it accessible to both races.
Age of Armageddon
During the two centuries that passed before the Avatar's next visit to Britannia, Lord British maintained his rule, seemingly without hindrance. The Great Council, which had been disbanded during Blackthorn's regency, was re-established, this time with a seat available for the newly emigrated gargoyle populace.
At some point British approved the colonization of the Abyss by Sir Cabirus, who wished to found a settlement dedicated to all eight of the Virtues simultaneously. British ordered the foundation of a colony outside of the Abyss to be headed by Almric, his Master of Hounds, such as that the colonists could maintain contact with the outside world. After the unfortunate collapse of the colony following Cabirus' death, Almric's settlement remained on the isle, until the volcanic eruption following the Avatar's adventures in Ultima Underworld forced the inhabitants to flee.
There was also allegedly a period of civil strife and minor wars between the nobility of the various cities in this two-hundred year span, although the only records of these conflicts lie with the writings of Batlin, and nothing can be found of Lord British's actions or opinions regarding this period of instability.
Prior to the events of Ultima VII, Lord British officially recognized the creation of the philosophical society known as the Fellowship, after its founder, Batlin, repeatedly petitioned him for his blessing. Thinking the group a benign organization dedicated to the service of his subjects, he did not realize its sinister intentions. By the time of the Avatar's return, Britannia had changed significantly from the early era of enlightenment. Technological and industrial innovations flourished, while the populace's faith in the virtues and traditional modes of life declined, prodded on by the seeming death of magic and the new philosophies espoused by the Fellowship. Subtle societal problems such as over-taxation, classism, racism (particularly against gargoyle immigrants), environmental pollution, and civil corruption began to plague Britannia, and while Lord British was aware of a sentiment of dissatisfaction in this age, it had no immediate and discernible source.
With the Avatar's coming, the resurfacing of the Isle of Fire gave the sovereign a more palpable menace to face. It was revealed that the Dark Core which contained Exodus' memories was still viable, and that it was beginning to seek reunification with Exodus' psyche, possibly causing the blight of the hellspawn to reform. Eager to have the matter investigated, Lord British, in addition to offering the returned hero supplies and healing, gifted the Avatar with a ship, the Golden Ankh, and a magic crystal by which the adventurer might navigate to the isle.
Eventually, the hero banished the Dark Core back into the Void and managed to expose the true nature of the Fellowship, which was serving as a front for invasion by a malevolent entity known as the Guardian. After the Avatar barred the Guardian's entry into Britannia, Lord British ordered the Fellowship disbanded, heralding in "The Reconstruction," during which the harm from the organization's activities was to be undone. In Ultima Underworld II, one year later, Lord British held a celebration of this undertaking, and the Avatar and several of the hero's companions were present at this event. Catastrophically, during the festivities, all within the castle walls were trapped inside of a great Blackrock Dome crafted by Guardian. During this crisis, Lord British was robbed of his magical powers, owing to the magic negating effects of blackrock.
While the Avatar ventured to other worlds through a small gem in the basement of the castle, British was taxed with growing tensions among the imprisoned party-goers. He was faced with a protest from the working class servants of the castle demanding more established societal rights (which he eventually granted at the Avatar's behest), a constant shortage of water and supplies, and the eventual betrayal of the company by Britain's mayor, Patterson, who went on to murder guests Lady Tory and Nelson. Eventually, the Avatar, working with the court magician, Nystul, managed to shatter the blackrock gem and free the party-goers, but significant damage had already been done to the kingdom, with an invading army from the Guardian-ruled Killorn Keep having attacked while British was thus trapped. While this siege was repelled, it was a sinister foreshadowing of attacks to come, and hinted at the plagues which would come to wrack Britannia.
Six months later, it came to British's attention that a magical scroll had been found amongst Batlin's belongings, in which the Guardian directed the Fellowship head to follow Gwenno, the wife of famed bard Iolo Fitzowen, to the Serpent Isle, where he would outline further plans for Britannia's domination. Prior to this, Gwenno had contacted Lord British regarding her voyage of exploration through the Serpent Pillars, and had given him instructions such as that Iolo and the Avatar could later pursue her. In Ultima VII Part Two, Lord British sent the Avatar, Iolo, Shamino and Dupre on a voyage to the legendary Serpent Isle, hoping to circumvent the plans of the red titan.
During the hero's absence from Britannia, the growing Imbalance caused by the kidnap of the Great Earth Serpent so many centuries ago, caused strange Teleport Storms and earthquakes to wreak havoc on the realm. The Royal Mint of Britain was transposed with the Great Lighthouse of Fawn, the emps and gargoyles fell prey to a strange sleeping sickness, and the foundations of Castle Britannia, itself, began to crack. During a brief encounter with the Avatar in the Dream Realm of Gorlab Swamp, Lord British told the hero of the devastation ongoing in his kingdom, indicating his despair over what it portended.
Eventually, the Avatar returned the Great Earth Serpent to the Void and ended the Imbalance, although Britannia was still plagued by the incursions of the Guardian, who summoned eight columns from the earth to pervert the virtues of the cities of Britannia. By the time of Ultima IX, Lord British had become aged and weary, feeling helpless to save the people from the threat of the Guardian, and knowing little of the events transpiring in his kingdom. When the Avatar appeared in Britannia for the last time, Lord British offered the hero what possessions he had, once more giving him advice and instruction during this final quest, but there was an air of formality between Lord British and the Avatar.
During this final undertaking, Lord Blackthorn, now returned as a cohort of the Guardian, challenged the Avatar to duel in the Abyss. In an act of conscience, Lord British who took it upon himself to meet his former regent, slaying him in the course of the battle, and reclaiming the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom for the Avatar. When the hero arrived and saw the grisly results of the melee, British explained that he and Britannia had relied overmuch much on their champion throughout the ages, and the now gray-haired king asked forgiveness for having placed so heavy a burden upon the Avatar's shoulders.
Eventually, through a feat of magic great enough to change the orbits of Trammel and Felucca themselves, British was able to open the moongate to the Shrine of Spirituality for the Avatar, allowing for the eventual completion of the Avatar's last quest and the ascension of both the hero and the Guardian - who now were recognized as two halves of the same entity.
Origin of the Name
Lord British is the real life counterpart of the Ultima series' designer, Richard Garriott. Garriott, who was born in Britain but raised in the United States, acquired the nickname "Lord British" as a teenager from his friends at computer camp. They claimed that his first greeting to them, 'Hello', was distinct from the American 'Hi', and that he therefore must be British.
Garriott released early games, such as Akalabeth under the name, and occasionally appeared in Ultima Online playing as Lord British. He is still known as Lord British even after his departure from Ultima maker Origin Systems: Garriott retained the trademark rights to the name Lord British with its associated symbols, and the character later appeared in the Korean MMO Lineage. Another alter-ego of Richard Garriott called General British later appeared in his latest game, Tabula Rasa. Yet another one is scheduled to make an appearance in the Shroud of the Avatar game being developed by Richard Garriott.
|“|| Born in another, much different world. He came to Britannia--then known as Sosaria--as a young man and although he has aged somewhat in the intervening centuries, he remains a vigorous man in the prime of his life. Lord British's authority has become largely symbolic as his Great Council has taken over the daily governance of the land. Thus freed from ordinary responsibility, Lord British has largely devoted himself to arcane pursuits not the least of which was his exploratory expedition into the vast Maelstrom caverns, an expedition from which he has yet to return.|
- from Dramatis Personae, (Ultima Saga: The Temper of Wisdom)
|“|| Each castle is held by a noble, the King of his particular region. Kings maintain absolutely power in their realm and are excellent sources of information. Visit these local rulers; they have much to offer the serious adventurer.|
|“|| Larger-than-life humans but smaller than guards, royal persons do little other than sit on thrones and bestow.|
|“|| The august ruler over all the People. Widely regarded as a fair ruler, he will richly reward those who serve by his side.|
|“|| As I walked slowly closer to the throne, I tried to assess this man, who could only be the King himself. I couldn't tell how old he was. His face was lined, but his blue eyes were still bright and clear. He wore a fur-lined robe and a heavy crown, and his hand gripped a staff topped by an ankh. Blond hair streaked with white hung to his shoulders, and his full beard, similarly streaked, was neatly trimmed. Beneath the royal robe, he wore a tunic made of white linen, embroidered with heavy silk thread.|
|“|| Lord British heads the Great Council. Like the Avatar, he is a native of the world called Earth, and as a result he enjoys a much longer lifespan than native Britannians. Since the earliest days of Sosaria he has lead his people, and through his great wisdom rose to become Britannia's philosopher-king.|
- Lord British is invincible in all games, unless the player finds the special ways to kill him. Killing Lord British has become a challenge in itself.
- Lord British has acquired the nicknames LB, his Nibs, and Mr. Nose throughout the Ultima series. The latter in particular originates from Iolo's real-world counterpart, David Watson, who sought to poke fun at the nasal quality he heard in Richard Garriott's voice while playing the role of Shamino Sallé Dacil in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Garriott's friend and early Origin employee Chuck Bueche, who appears in the games as Chuckles, would subsequently taunt him with the moniker upon learning of it. Accordingly, Lord British, his impersonator Finn, Iolo, and Chuckles all make references to this joke in Ultima VI.
- Lord British will heal the Avatar's party when asked in Ultima IV, Ultima VI, and Ultima VII.
- In Ultima VII, killing Lord British uncovers the king's will, in which he reveals an affair with his maidservant Nell, and claims fatherhood of her unborn child. According to Richard Garriott, this particular Easter egg did not receive his approval for inclusion.
- The voice of Lord British is provided by Richard Garriott in Ultima VII Part Two. For Ultima IX, Kay Kuter was initially cast as the ageing monarch in 1996 and recorded his lines, before being replaced by Ev Lunning in the final release.
- Lord British would have made a brief appearance in the beginning of the canceled Ultima VIII add-on, The Lost Vale, via a magical message sent by Nystul. He would have told of people residing on Pagan who could help the Avatar to defeat the Elemental Titans and escape.
- The aged appearance of Lord British in Ultima IX was originally meant to be caused by the decaying land and the numerous nightmares sent to him by the Guardian. While the plot of the game was changed, the elder appearance of Lord British was retained for the final game although no explanation was given to this sudden aging.
- Lord English from the web-comic Homestuck was retroactively deemed to reference Lord British when creator Andrew Hussie decided to make the character an all powerful demon which could only be destroyed via temporal glitches, much like early incarnations of Lord British could only be destroyed through exploiting the game mechanics.
- YouTube - Killing Lord British (Ultima III)
- YouTube - Killing Lord British (Ultima IV - NES)
- YouTube - Rescuing Lord British from the Underworld (Ultima V)
- YouTube - Lord British and Lord Draxinusom share the Codex (Ultima VI)
- YouTube - Killing Lord British (Ultima VII)
- YouTube - Killing Lord British (Ultima IX)
- Chuckles. Ultima V Transcript. Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny. "welcome".
- Garriott, Richard et al. "Folklore". The Book of Lore (Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1988. Pages 1-2.
- Garriott, Richard. "The Annals of Akalabeth". Akalabeth Manual (Akalabeth). California Pacific Computer Co.: 1980. Pages 1-2.
- Garriott, Richard et al. "Folklore". The Book of Lore (Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1988. Pages 4.
- Rollo, Mary Taylor. "The Story of Minax". Ultima II Manual (Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress). Sierra On-Line, Inc.: 1983. Page 23.
- Adams, Roe R.. "The Adventure". The Book of Play (Ultima III: Exodus). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1983. Page 20.
- Garriott, Richard et al. "Folklore". The Book of Lore (Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1988. Page 5.
- Morris, Andrew. "Further Ages". Beyond the Serpent Pillars (Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1993. Page 5.
- Lord British. Underworld Dragon's Ultima IV Transcript. Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. "heal, help".
- Remoh. Journal of Lord British's Journey to the Underworld (Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1988. Pages 1-4.
- Harrison, Mike et al. Memoirs of Sir Cabirus (Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1992. Page 5.
- Herman, Jack. The Book of Fellowship (Ultima VII: The Black Gate). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1992. Page 2.
- Herman, Jack. The Book of Fellowship (Ultima VII: The Black Gate). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1992. Pages 7-8.
- Lord British. Underworld Dragon's Ultima VII Transcript. Ultima VII: The Black Gate. "Exodus, island, Isle of Fire, rumble".
- Lord British. Quill Dragon's Ultima IX Transcript. Ultima IX: Ascension.
- Garriott, Richard. "Richard Garriott on Twitter". Twitter. 2016-10-29. Retrieved 2016-10-29.
- Kully, Kenneth. "How An Erroneous TVTropes Entry Led to Some Fascinating Ultima Lore Revelations". The Ultima Codex. 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2014-05-14.
- Steinberg, Richard et al. "Ultima goes Hollywood". Point of Origin. Origin Systems: September 20, 1996. Page 3.