My Top 5 Favorite Guinevere Tales in the Arthuriad

For today’s post, I have decided to do a countdown of the top five tales in the Arthuriad focusing on major Guinevere plot lines!    These plots are specific to Guinevere as a figure and her involvement is key to their inclusion here.   Without further ado, here is the countdown.

Number 5: Almost Being Burned at the Stake

~This plot point is a result of Arthur finding out about Guinevere’s adultery.   She never gets burned at the stake, instead being rescued by Lancelot.   However, this remains an iconic moment in the canon of the Arthuriad!   I must note that not all versions of the legends include this plot point, in fact, there are versions where Arthur is either hurt but does not seek revenge or seems ambivalent to the affair (probably the most shocking way to react, if I am honest).

Number 4: Marriage to Arthur, Flower Bride 

~This is the first time Guinevere comes into the Arthuriad.   In most tellings, she is a Scottish Princess in her own right whose hand is given to Arthur by her father, King Leodegrance.   She married Arthur in order to fully cement his rulership over the land of Camelot!   Her aspect as being a Flower Bride and May Queen is one of the most important plot points in the Arthurian Legends.   It is also important to know that her power of cementing his rulership through their marriage is rooted in the laws of Celtic Sovereignty and Sovereignty Goddesses!

Number 3: Mordred & His Plot to Take Camelot

~During the final days of Camelot, in some variants, Mordred actually takes rulership and forces Guinevere to marry him.   This marriage to the Sovereignty figure and Faery Woman cements that he is now the King in place of his father Arthur, who is currently out at a battle!   This is one plot point that figures deeply in the solidifying of Guinevere as a Representative of the Goddess of Sovereignty, or a Sovereignty Goddess in her own right.

Number 2: Capture by Melwas, Chretien de Troyes’ Knight of the Cart

~Melwas (the earliest Welsh version of the name) is the King of the Summer Country (an old name for Somerset) who was called Maleagant by Chretien de Troyes, essentially a Dark Faery King who captures Guinevere.   She is saved by Arthur in earlier texts, however, in Chretien de Troyes’ telling The Knight of the Cart it is Lancelot that plays the savior!   This is the beginning of their romance, as while she is at first angry at how he went about arriving at Maleagant’s court, she soon realized her feelings and fell for him.   

Number 1: The Love Affair with Lancelot

~No other part of Guinevere’s story could have been number one here.   Of course, as a hopeless romantic, I totally adore the love story between Lancelot and Guinevere.   I believe that although she was married to Arthur, Lancelot is the man that was her true love all along!    That is why I referenced their love in my wedding vows to my husband, as well as why I still consider them one of the greatest love stories of all time!

Special Mentions:  These are tales that are not about Guinevere, but that have her as an adjacent aspect that I could not help but include because she is part of moving the plot forward, all because of her rivalry with Morgan le Fay!

The Green Knight

~In this story we mainly focus on the tale of Gawain being tested by the magic of Morgan le Fay.   Guinevere had a small appearance at the beginning of the tale, and the Green Knight himself explained that the reason that Morgana used Faery Glamour to modify his appearance was in order to “scare Guinevere to death” with the Beheading Game!   That means that Guinevere may have inspired the events to unfold.

Morgan le Fay’s Cursed Cup

~The story of Morgan cursing a cup and sending it to Camelot is not about Guinevere at all, as the cup ended up in Cornwall instead.   However, the reason the cup was made was to expose the love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere.   This is done because the cup was cursed to spill if any unfaithful woman tried to drink from it, so instead it exposed Isolde’s love affair with Tristan!

~I hope you have enjoyed this countdown.   What is your favorite Guinevere story?   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Further Reading

  • Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes
  • Vulgate Cycle
  • Le Morte D’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
  • Once and Future Queen: Guinevere in Arthurian Legend by Nicole Evelina