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Rhys Michael Haldane

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Rhys Michael Haldane (right) battles Miklós von Furstán (left) on the paperback cover The Bastard Prince (1994); artwork by Edwin Herder.

Rhys Michael Haldane of Gwynedd is a fictional character in the Deryni series of historical fantasy novels by Katherine Kurtz.

Character introduction[edit]

Rhys Michael Alister Haldane is the fifteenth King of Gwynedd. He is the tenth member of the House of Haldane to serve as king, and the fourth consecutive Haldane king following the end of the Festillic Interregnum.

Explanation of the character's name[edit]

Although Michael is not a previously-established royal name within the character's family history, his other two names honor close friends of his parents. His forename is shared by Lord Rhys Thuryn, the Deryni Healer who serves as physician to the royal family. Similarly, he bears the name Alister in honor of his father's closest friend, Bishop Alister Cullen. Due the presence of the elder Rhys at court, the Haldane prince is referred to by his first two names, Rhys Michael, though his family occasionally uses the more familiar and affectionate Rhysem.

Character sketch[edit]


Rhys Michael's primary goal is to secure the independence of his family's throne from the lords of state who control it. In addition, he also seeks to ensure the safety of his family and protect the legacy of Haldane magic for his descendants.


During the early years of his life, Rhys Michael's most significant conflict revolves around fraternal arguments with his elder brother, King Javan. However, following Javan's death, Rhys Michael spends the next several years in a dangerous struggle with the lords of state who control the government. Toward the end of his reign, he also comes into conflict with Prince Miklós von Furstan of Torenth and the Festillic Pretender, Prince Marek I Furstán-Festil.


Rhys Michael's most significant moment of realization comes with his accession to the throne. Despite repeated warnings from his brother Javan about the danger posed by the lords of state, Rhys Michael continually dismisses his brother's concerns. It is only after the nobles assassinate Javan and establish Rhys Michael as a puppet king that he truly realizes the danger he faces. With his innocence shattered, Rhys Michael changes from a charming, carefree prince with a tendency to drink too much into a mature and sober monarch who is all too aware of the grave risks he faces every day.

Biographical summary[edit]

Actions in Saint Camber[edit]

Rhys Michael is born on September 29, 906, the third surviving son of King Cinhil I Haldane and Queen Megan de Cameron. Unlike his elder twin brothers, Prince Alroy and Prince Javan, the youngest Haldane prince is born hale and healthy. He is named after Lord Rhys Thuryn, the royal Healer who attends his mother during all of her pregnancies.

Actions in Camber the Heretic[edit]

On the evening of February 1, 917, Rhys Michael and his brothers are unknowingly involved in an arcane ritual directed by their father, King Cinhil. The king sets the Haldane potential in all three of the princes, but the strain of the ritual is too much for the aging monarch. After the ritual is complete, Cinhil's colleagues return Rhys Michael to his quarters, where he is awakened shortly thereafter to attend the formal declaration of the king's death. He attends his father's funeral the following week, and he witnesses the coronation of his eldest brother Alroy in May. Several days after the coronation, he and his brother Javan are in the company of Lord Tavis O'Neill when the Healer is attacked by a group of rogue Deryni.

After the royal court relocates to Rhemuth in July, Rhys Michael and Javan are nearly killed when another group of Deryni attempt to assassinate the princes. Rhys Michael's life is saved by the disguised Earl Davin MacRorie of Culdi, who is dies from an arrow meant for the prince. Several months later, Rhys Michael and the rest of the court return to Valoret for the election of the new Archbishop of Valoret. On Christmas Day, following the election of Bishop Alister Cullen to the primacy the previous day, Rhys Michael informs Javan the Regency Council is planning to storm the cathedral and arrest the bishops. Oblivious to the larger political and social ramifications of the Regents' plan, the eleven-year-old prince's only concern is his disappointment over being excluded from accompanying the soldiers.

Actions in The Harrowing of Gwynedd[edit]

Rhys Michael and his brother are still in Valoret on January 10, 918, when the royal court receives the news of the deaths of Alister Cullen and Jebediah d'Alcara. The court remains in Valoret through the winter, and all three Haldane brothers are present when a new religious order, the Custodes Fidei, is founded in February, an event which Rhys Michael is extremely excited to witness. After the court returns to Rhemuth in March, Rhys Michael occasionally teases Prince Javan as the elder Haldane displays an increased devotion to the religious life, but Rhys Michael remains oblivious to Javan's developing arcane powers. In August, both Rhys Michael and King Alroy are present when Javan takes temporary religious vows with the Custodes Fidei.

Actions in King Javan's Year[edit]

Shortly after midnight on June 23, 921, the dying King Alroy asks Rhys Michael to summon their brother Javan from Arx Fidei Abbey, where the middle Haldane brother has spent the last several years. Rhys Michael defies the lords of state to grant the king's wish, and dispatches a group of knights to retrieve Javan. When Javan arrives at dawn, the two brothers immediately go to Alroy's side, enjoying one final visit before the king's death. At an Accession Council that afternoon, an attempt is made to bypass Javan and make Rhys Michael the next king. However, Rhys Michael stands by his brother and openly voices his support for Javan as the elder prince claims the crown.

Over the next month, Rhys Michael continues to support his brother as Javan attempts to re-establish the authority of the crown. Several days before Javan's coronation, Rhys Michael confesses his growing affection for Lady Michaela Drummond. Javan urges his brother to postpone a relationship with Michaela, fearing that an additional Haldane heir will only encourage the lords of state to move against the brothers. Although Rhys Michael has no love for the lords of state, he refuses to believe that they are as dangerous as Javan claims. In August, a late-night rendezvous between Rhys Michael and Michaela is interrupted by Javan. The king separates them and commands his brother to stay away from his paramour. Resentful of his brother's interference, Rhys Michael still believes that Javan is exaggerating the danger posed by the lords of state. Nonetheless, he agrees to stay away from Michaela until she leaves court several days later.

With Michaela gone, Rhys Michael throws himself into his duties at court, and his new maturity eventually convinces Javan to assign him to traveling royal commission. The prince travels to Grecotha in September, where he remains throughout his fifteenth birthday and into October. On October 31, 921, Rhys Michael is attacked and taken captive by a group of Custodes knights posing as Deryni bandits. Unaware that the assault was planned by the lords of state, the unwitting prince recovers from his injuries in Culdi, where he is re-united with Michaela. Their relationship quickly blossoms away from Javan's control, and they are married on November 20.

Rhys Michael and his new bride return to Rhemuth in early December. Although the king asks Rhys Michael to postpone producing any heirs, it soon becomes apparent that Michaela is pregnant. The prince assumes command of Rhemuth Castle when Javan travels to Valoret in early May, but he is taken by surprise when the lords of state launch a coup against both brothers the following week. While Javan is murdered near Valoret, Rhys Michael and his wife are taken captive. The prince is drugged to ensure his compliance, but the strain of the events causes Michaela to go into premature labor, resulting in the stillborn birth of their first child, Prince Cinhil. Rhys Michael succeeds his brother Javan as King of Gwynedd on May 11, but he spends the next several months as a drugged captive in his own castle. On September 29, 922, Rhys Michael is formally crowned as King of Gwynedd on his sixteenth birthday, but he is all too aware that he is nothing more than a royal pawn under the control of his nobles. Despite the danger of their plight, Rhys Michael and Michaela pledge to eventually reclaim their independence.

Actions in The Bastard Prince[edit]

Having lived as a puppet king for six years, Rhys Michael finally gets a chance to assert his independence in June 928. Prince Miklós von Furstán of Torenth seizes the town of Culliecairn and slays the Earl of Eastmarch, actions that the Torenthi prince takes on behalf of his brother-in-law, the Festillic Pretender Prince Marek I Furstán-Festil. When news of the attack reaches Rhemuth, Rhys Michael convinces the lords of state to allow him to face the Torenthi challenge personally. That night, a secret group of Deryni allies infiltrates the castle to activate the king's full Haldane potential, convinced that he will need his arcane powers to defeat the two Deryni invaders. The Deryni powers of Queen Michaela and her brother, Sir Cathan Drummond, are unblocked, allowing both of them to finally remember their own Deryni heritage. Michaela then assists Father Joram MacRorie, Rhysel Thuryn, and Tieg Thuryn in activating Rhys Michael's powers.

Rhys Michael, Cathan, and several of the great lords depart Rhemuth on June 15, but their journey to Culliecairn is plagued by a series of strange and deadly incidents. Rhys Michael knows that the incidents are being caused by Master Dimitri, a Torenthi double agent who has been forced by Joram to protect the king. Dimitri manages to kill both Lord Udaut and Lord Albertus before he is apprehended by the other great lords, and he even succeeds in destroying Father Paulin's mind before becoming overwhelmed. Rhys Michael can do nothing as the Deryni is interrogated and tortured, but Dimitri dies without revealing the truth of the king's powers.

When the royal expedition eventually reaches Eastmarch, Rhys Michael agrees to meet personally with Prince Miklós, accompanied only by Lady Sudrey, a distant relative of Miklós' who married the former Earl of Eastmarch. However, Miklós quickly attacks Sudrey, claiming she is a traitor to Torenth. Rhys Michael uses his arcane powers to kill Miklós, but Sudrey is fatally wounded by Prince Marek and Rhys Michael's hand is crushed by a horse's hoof. Sudrey soon dies from her wounds, and the king convinces his nobles that it was Sudrey's magic that killed Miklós.

Although Marek withdraws the Torenthi forces from Cullicairn, the royal expedition remains in Eastmarch for several days. Despite his injury, Rhys Michael begins efforts to undermine the power of the great lords. He convinces Duke Graham I MacEwan of Claibourne and Earl Sighere of Marley to accept appointment as regents for his underage son, Prince Owain, hoping that their inclusion will encourage the great lords to keep the king alive. Rhys Michael secretly orders Cathan to draw up the codicil to his will, and all the parties involved manage to sign the document without alerting the great lords. The expedition begins the return trip to Rhemuth the following day, but the king's injury continues to worsen. When he becomes too weak and feverish to travel, his physicians insist on bleeding him several times, despite his vehement objections. Eventually, the combination of his injury and poor medical treatment claims the king's life, weakening him so much that even Dom Queron Kinevan is unable to save him. King Rhys Michael Haldane dies at Saint Ostrythe's Convent on June 28, 928, at the age of twenty-one. He is succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Prince Owain Haldane.


  • Parents:
    • King Cinhil I Haldane and Queen Megan de Cameron
  • Siblings:
    • Prince Aidan Alroy Camber Haldane (died age 3 weeks)
    • Prince Alroy Bearand Brion Haldane (twin)
    • Prince Javan Jashan Urien Haldane (twin)
    • Prince Alister Camber Donal Haldane (died age 3 months)
  • Spouse:
    • Married Lady Michaela Drummond on November 20, 921
      • Prince Cinhil Javan Alroy Haldane (dead at birth)
      • Prince Owain Javan Cinhil Haldane
      • Prince Uthyr Michael Richard Haldane

Major themes[edit]

Much like his brother Javan, Rhys Michael is forced to fight a constant battle against enemies that are more numerous, more experienced, and more powerful. However, unlike Javan, Rhys Michael is woefully unprepared for the struggle. All too aware of his brother Alroy's poor health, Javan realizes at an early age that he may one day ascend to the throne, and, as a result, he begins to prepare for that eventuality. He clearly sees the duplicity of the Regents who rule for Alroy, and his close friendship with Tavis O'Neill makes Javan empathetic with the plight of Deryni in Gwynedd. In addition, Javan's developing Haldane powers give him a secret weapon in his fight against the Regents. By contrast, Rhys Michael has very few of Javan's advantages. As the youngest of the three princes, Rhys Michael never anticipates having to become king so he pays little attention to political issues at court. Due to a combination of his youth and his natural naivety, he fails to perceive the true nature of the great lords until it is far too late, despite repeated warnings from his older brother. Similarly, Rhys Michael is rather ambivalent to the Deryni situation, and his lack of any significant arcane powers leaves him powerless against the military and political power wielded by the great lords.

Unlike his brothers, Rhys Michael is physically fit and strong, displaying the perfect public image of a charming and witty royal prince. In private, though, he is indifferent to most of his scholarly studies, he is far more self-centered than either of his brothers, and he develops a prodigious capacity for fine wine at an early age. However, almost all of these immature traits disappear when he becomes king, as the events surrounding his ascension to the throne shatter the last vestiges of his childhood innocence. Despite his new maturity, Rhys Michael is still unable to defeat the great lords during his six-year reign, dying at the hands of his enemies much as Javan did. Nonetheless, Rhys Michael does manage to lay the groundwork for the eventual defeat of the lords of state, enabling his successors to enjoy the freedom that he never had. In that respect, despite his numerous disadvantages, Rhys Michael succeeds where Javan did not.


  • Katherine Kurtz, Saint Camber, ISBN 0-345-27750-3 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  • Katherine Kurtz, Camber the Heretic, ISBN 0-345-33142-7 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  • Katherine Kurtz, The Harrowing of Gwynedd, ISBN 0-345-33259-8 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  • Katherine Kurtz, King Javan's Year, ISBN 0-345-33260-1 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  • Katherine Kurtz, The Bastard Prince, ISBN 0-345-33262-8 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  • Katherine Kurtz and Robert Reginald, Codex Derynianus (Second Edition), ISBN 1-887424-96-2 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.

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