A Medieval Love Affair

There is a kind of magic that surrounds the figure of King Arthur – everyone thinks of him as the man who pulled a sword from the stone, who rose from a beggar to a King, who had a round table surrounded with knights and even a wizard as at his disposal. They imagine him standing tall and proud with his legendary sword, Excalibur at his side and his faithful knight, Lancelot, at his back.

To this day the stories of Arthur continue to flourish, especially the tale of Arthur, his wife Guinevere, and the love she had for her husband’s most trusted friend. The stories vary slightly depending upon which story one is hearing, but the gist of it is always the same.

Lancelot is considered the bravest and most honorable of Arthur’s Knights. The son of a King and Queen himself, he was supposedly raised by Vivienne of the Lake. He is always portrayed as handsome and gallant, respectful of women and he’s probably what most people envision when they hear the term “knight in shining armor.”

When Lancelot first came to King Arthur’s court, Arthur, impressed by his courage and character, made Lancelot his trusted confidant. However, when Lancelot laid eyes on Arthur’s wife, he fell in love. Soon after he set off on an adventure of his own, he asked Guinevere to name him her knight and champion, which she did.

After many battles and adventures, he returned to Camelot. He made himself invaluable to King Arthur, fighting many battles by his side and earning his trust and respect. But Lancelot’s heart was breaking because he had fallen in love with Guinevere, who was married to Arthur. When Lancelot revealed his love to Guinevere, she revealed that she was in love with him as well. The pair then began a passionate, almost obsession-like affair that lasted for years, all without King Arthur knowing. Stories differ on what happens when Arthur finds out except to say that Guinevere spends her life in a convent and Lancelot leaves the kingdom.

As the story goes, it was Lancelot’s relationship with Guinevere that doomed Arthur’s realm. The scandalous nature of their affair became a catalyst for the events that would destroy the fellowship between the Knights of the Round Table.

There are some differences between the tales. In some, Guinevere is already married to Arthur when Lancelot sees her for the first time; in others, Arthur and Guinevere have not yet married but are betrothed. Some stories say that Arthur was in love with Guinevere and others say it was marriage of convenience. Some stories have them falling in love over time while some insist they began having an affair soon after Lancelot’s arrival at Arthur’s court.

Much of King Arthur’s real history and deeds has been embellished by legend, but it’s true that he and the people that surrounded him make for truly fascinating figures.

Scholarly Arthurian Resources

General King Arthur Pages

Books, Movies, and Television

Miscellaneous Arthurian Resources

The love story between Lancelot and Guinevere is incredibly romantic, especially when dating has lost some of the charm it once posessed.

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