Dhugal MacArdry

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Dhugal MacArdry is a fictional character in the Deryni series of historical fantasy novels by Katherine Kurtz.

Character introduction

Dhugal Ardry MacArdry is a close companion and trusted advisor of King Kelson Haldane of Gwynedd. As both the foster brother and blood brother of the king, Dhugal's relationship with Kelson provides the king with a friend who is much closer to his own age than his other colleagues, such as Alaric Morgan or Duncan McLain.

Explanation of the character's name

The character's first name has no established significance within the novels, but his middle name Ardry has two known references. The third Earl of Transha, Dhugal's distant ancestor, is named Ardry MacArdry, and it is also the name of one of Dhugal's uncles.

Character sketch


Dhugal is an extremely loyal character, both to his king and his family. His loyalty to Kelson in particular is both professional and personal, due to his status as both a noble of the realm and a close friend of the king. In addition, he is also extremely dedicated to his family, as demonstrated by the dangerous risks he takes to protect his father.


During the events of The Bishop's Heir, Dhugal's primary conflict revolves around the developing Mearan rebellion being led by his aunt against King Kelson. Dhugal's opposition to the rebellion places him at odds not only with his uncle and his cousins, but also with former Archbishop Edmund Loris. This conflict is eventually resolved at the end of the following novel, The King's Justice. In The Quest for Saint Camber, the character struggles mostly against nature, as he and Kelson desperately strive to survive an accident that leaves both of them injured and trapped below ground. Dhugal has no separate personal conflict in the plot of King Kelson's Bride, but he shares much of the same danger as the other protagonists throughout the novel.


Shortly before the conclusion of The Bishop's Heir, Dhugal discovers that he is actually the son of Bishop Duncan McLain, a revelation that permanently alters the character's perceptions. Over the following novels, Dhugal learns to successfully deal with both being Deryni and being the child of a consecrated priest, two social stigmas that result from the revelation of his true parentage. In The King's Justice, he not only uses his powers to save his father's life, but he also proudly acknowledges Duncan as his sire. Another revelation occurs in The Quest for Saint Camber, when Dhugal discovers that he has inherited Duncan's Healing ability, a talent that he later uses several times in King Kelson's Bride.

Biographical summary

Prior story

Dhugal is born on January 3, 1108, the only child of the secret marriage between Lord Duncan McLain and Lady Maryse MacArdry. His mother dies during childbirth, and his grandmother raises Dhugal as the twin brother of her own newborn daughter, Lady Caldreana MacArdry. His grandmother never reveals the truth of Dhugal's parentage, and he is raised as the son of Earl Caulay MacArdry of Transha, despite the fact that he is actually Caulay's grandson. During his youth, Dhugal is fostered to the royal court of King Brion Haldane in Rhemuth, where he develops a close friendship with Brion's son, Prince Kelson. However, Dhugal is recalled to Transha in 1119, when the death of his uncle makes him Tanist of Clan MacArdry and heir to the Earldom of Transha. He remains in Transha for the next four years, learning the skills of leadership and statecraft as his grandfather's heir.

Actions in The Bishop's Heir

While apprehending a group of bandits on his family's lands in 1123, Dhugal encounters the royal party of King Kelson Haldane. Dhugal and Kelson rekindle their old friendship and soon return to Transha, where Kelson seeks information about Dhugal's aunt, the Mearan Pretender Caitrin Quinnell. During his visit, Kelson discovers that Dhugal has mental shields, an arcane ability that is uncommon among humans. Shortly after the king's departure, Dhugal is captured by Baron Brice of Trurill and former Archbishop Edmund Loris, who take him to the Mearan city of Ratharkin. While being held prisoner in the city, Dhugal's loyalty is courted by his uncle, Lord Sicard MacArdry, who hopes to secure Dhugal's support for Caitrin's rebellion against Kelson. However, Dhugal manages to escape from Ratharkin, abducting his cousin Sidana in the process, and is soon rescued by Kelson. Before returning to Rhemuth with the king, Dhugal learns that the news of his capture has caused the death of Earl Caulay MacArdry.

Shortly after their return to Rhemuth, Kelson confirms Dhugal as the new Earl of Transha. Dhugal remains in Rhemuth as Kelson attempts to negotiate a peaceful ending to Caitrin's rebellion, but her continued defiance prompts the king to propose marriage to Sidana. Shortly before Kelson's wedding on January 6, 1124, Dhugal is summoned to a meeting with Bishop Duncan McLain. Having recognized Dhugal's cloak clasp as the gift he gave to his wife many years ago, the Deryni bishop informs the young border lord that Dhugal may be Duncan's son. Duke Alaric Morgan of Corwyn uses his powers to confirm the relationship, and Duncan and Dhugal quickly share their memories of their separate lives. Dhugal, Duncan, and Morgan later attend the royal wedding, but they are unable to stop Sidana's brother from murdering the princess.

Actions in The King's Justice

Dhugal begins the novel in Rhemuth, where King Kelson is preparing to mount a military expedition to put down the rebellion of the Mearan Pretender. Although still inexperienced in the use of his Deryni powers, Dhugal plays a minor role in the ritual in which Kelson sets the Haldane potential in Prince Nigel Haldane. Shortly thereafter, Dhugal departs Rhemuth with the northern Gwyneddan army, serving under the command of his father, Bishop-Duke Duncan. Dhugal and Duncan spend the next several weeks attempting to track down the main Mearan army, but they are ultimately caught in a trap set by Archbishop Loris and Dhugal's treacherous uncle, Lord Sicard. Duncan orders Dhugal to quit the battlefield when he realizes they are facing defeat, but the bishop is soon captured by the enemy. Dhugal manages to escape the battle, and he uses his fledgling Deryni powers to contact Kelson. The following morning, Kelson arrives with the southern Gwyneddan army, and a pitched battle ensues. Dhugal succeeds in rescuing his father, saving Duncan from burning at the stake, and Kelson eventually ends the combat by slaying Sicard with a single arrow. The combined Gwynedd forces then march on the Mearan city of Laas, where the Pretender has taken refuge. Dhugal personally delivers the king's terms to his aunt, and Caitrin finally agrees to a peaceful surrender. With the conflict resolved, Dhugal is appointed Lord Lieutenant of Meara by Kelson.

Actions in The Quest for Saint Camber

In 1125, Dhugal takes part in an ecclesiastical tribunal to determine the legitimacy of his parents' unusual marriage. The tribunal eventually decides that the marriage had been legally binding, thus confirming Dhugal's status as Bishop Duncan's true-born son and heir. That night, both Dhugal and King Kelson undergo their first training session with merasha, but they recover from the drug's effects in time for their formal knighting ceremony several days later. Dhugal and Kelson depart Rhemuth shortly thereafter on a religious quest, accompanied by Kelson's cousin, Prince Conall, and a small group of retainers. Their journey takes a tragic twist when a rain-soaked mountain trail collapses and both Dhugal and Kelson are swept into an underground cavern. Although they survive the accident, both young men are badly injured, and Dhugal's medical skills are sorely tested as he struggles to keep the king alive. They spend the next several weeks attempting to escape their underground confinement, and they eventually succeed by breaking through a series of subterranean tombs. Upon reaching the surface, they are immediately captured by the Servants of Saint Camber, a quasi-religious group who has remained hidden for over two centuries. Desperate to survive this newest confinement, Dhugal discovers that he possesses the ability to Heal, and he succeeds in curing all of his and Kelson's wounds. To secure their release, the king agrees to undergo a ritual trial, during which time Dhugal is contacted by Duncan and Morgan. The Servants eventually release Dhugal and Kelson, and they soon return to Rhemuth with Morgan and Duncan. Dhugal assists in healing Prince Nigel, and later witnesses the trial of the treacherous Prince Conall. At the end of the novel, Duncan cedes his titles of Duke of Cassan and Earl of Kierney to his son, making Dhugal one of the most powerful nobles in the realm.

Actions in King Kelson's Bride

Dhugal spends much of the novel at King Kelson's side, serving as both a friend and a vassal at various times. He attempts to comfort Kelson during the king's search for a bride, and later accompanies him on his journey to Corwyn, Orsal and Tralia, and Torenth. While Dhugal is fully aware of the dangers facing Kelson during their stay in Torenth, he can only stand by and watch as the king places himself at risk. Dhugal returns to Rhemuth with Kelson after their business in Torenth is complete, and he assists Kelson is resolving several familial issues. Several weeks later, Dhugal and Morgan use their abilities to Heal Count Mátyás, who is wounded during an assassination attempt. One week later, Dhugal attends both Kelson's wedding with Princess Araxie Haldane and her coronation as Queen of Gwynedd.


  • Parents:
  • Siblings:
    • (none)
  • Spouse:
    • (none)

Major themes

As a character, Dhugal often plays a secondary role to Kelson, who is the primary protagonist of the four novels in which Dhugal appears. While Dhugal also enjoys a close relationship with his father, it is his friendship with Kelson that most often defines the character. Although Kelson has other close companions and advisors (Alaric Morgan, Duncan McLain, Nigel Haldane, etc.), Dhugal is the only one who is near Kelson's own age. This creates a more equal friendship between the two, as opposed to the mentor/student relationship that Kelson has with his other companions. Dhugal is depicted as lacking some of Kelson's finer points of etiquette, often displaying the blunt frankness of the borders, but their friendship is strong and Dhugal always displays the proper courtesy to his king when in public. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, many of their private conversations revolve around their romantic lives, as both young men deal attempt to deal with both matters of the heart and matters of state.