For day one of Love Week 2022 I have chosen to take a look at that most iconic of Arthurian love stories! Lancelot and Guinevere are the lovers who betrayed their King by falling in love.
Guinevere was given in marriage to Arthur by her father King Leodgrance in most versions of the legends. If we see Guinevere as a representative of the Goddess of Sovereignty, her marriage to Arthur cemented his right to rule. She was the perfect archetypal flower bride until Lancelot came to court. This is when we see the view of Guinevere changing in the common tellings.
Guinevere becomes quickly drawn to the young and brave knight. Lancelot feels pulled to protect and defend the Queen, and his emotions are often filled with lustful wanting. In some versions of the legends their love is an emotional affair that is never consummated. However, in most of the variants they become real lovers!
Whether or not they consummate their love is not exactly the most important point, because in the beginning their love was shown to represent the ideals of Courtly Love. The Courtly Love tradition is where Lancelot and his relationship to the Arthurian legends began! He was the ideal knight who loved his Queen and would do anything to earn her love in return. This sort of devotion, whether consummated or not, is the basis of the Courtly Love tradition!
If the version has Lancelot and Guinevere as true lovers we have to look at the different situations that occur due to their love. In some versions their love is discovered and it is shown to Arthur after they are caught together in bed by a group of the Knights of the Roundtable! In other versions we have Morgan le Fay as the person who exposed their treasonous love affair by showing Arthur erotic paintings that Lancelot had created on the walls of the room Morgan had imprisoned him in when he was recovering from a bought of madness! There are even versions that suggest that Arthur knew of the affair and was complicit in its continuation. In versions where the love was not known, and later exposed, Arthur usually sentenced Guinevere to be put to death by burning at the stake. In this telling Lancelot rescued Guinevere from burning, and they would go on to live out their days in a monastery and nunnery respectively!
I hope you have liked this overview of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Guinevere being rescued by Lancelot. I found the image on https://www.google.com/search?q=lancelot+and+guinevere&client=safari&rls=en&sxsrf=APq-WBtndh3zqjE5K9kHlH4WcwjZzVKyAw:1643486360034&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiS-7rl39f1AhVSYjUKHbvdBigQ_AUoAXoECAIQAw&biw=1352&bih=795&dpr=2#imgrc=tBOk0HO3shjQbM.
- Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
- The Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes