Guinevere (IX-67), an auxiliary schooner, was built by George Lawley & Sons, Neponset, Mass., in 1921, and acquired from her owner, Edgar Palmer of New York, 24 March 1942. She commissioned 16 June 1912 at Brooklyn, Lt. Henry H. Anderson in command.
After brief shakedown, Guinevere performed harbor patrol at Boston, escorted newly formed convoys out to sea, and periodically sailed to patrol off the coast of Greenland. She decommissioned 2 August 1945 and her name was struck from the Navy List 13 August. Sho was transferred to the Maritime Commission for sale into private ownership 25 April 1946.
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King Arthur, also called Arthur or Arthur Pendragon, legendary British king who appears in a cycle of medieval romances (known as the Matter of Britain) as the sovereign of a knightly fellowship of the Round Table. It is not certain how these legends originated or whether the figure of Arthur was based on a historical person. The legend possibly originated either in Wales or in those parts of northern Britain inhabited by Brythonic-speaking Celts. (For a fuller treatment of the stories about King Arthur, see also Arthurian legend.)
Who is King Arthur?
King Arthur is a legendary British king who appears in a series of stories and medieval romances as the leader of a knightly fellowship called the Round Table.
Was King Arthur a real person?
Historians cannot confirm King Arthur’s existence, though some speculate that he was a real warrior who led British armies against Saxon invaders in the 6th century.
When did stories about King Arthur become popular?
Stories about King Arthur became popular before the 11th century. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae, written between 1135 and 1139, brought Arthur European fame. Today the character of King Arthur appears in comic books, novels, television shows, and films.
How did Arthur become king?
Legends disagree on how Arthur became king, though most involve his famous sword, Excalibur. Some involve Arthur fulfilling a prophecy by pulling Excalibur from a stone, whereas others say the sword was given to him by a magical woman in a lake.
Who was King Arthur’s wife?
King Arthur was married to Guinevere in most legends. Early traditions of abduction and infidelity follow Guinevere, who in some stories was carried off by Arthur’s rivals and in others had an adulterous affair with the knight Lancelot.
Assumptions that a historical Arthur led Welsh resistance to the West Saxon advance from the middle Thames are based on a conflation of two early writers, the religious polemicist Gildas and the historian Nennius, and on the Annales Cambriae of the late 10th century. The 9th-century Historia Brittonum, traditionally attributed to Nennius, records 12 battles fought by Arthur against the Saxons, culminating in a victory at Mons Badonicus. The Arthurian section of this work, however, is from an undetermined source, possibly a poetic text. The Annales Cambriae also mention Arthur’s victory at Mons Badonicus (516) and record the Battle of Camlann (537), “in which Arthur and Medraut fell.” Gildas’s De excidio et conquestu Britanniae (mid-6th century) implies that Mons Badonicus was fought in about 500 but does not connect it with Arthur.
Early Welsh literature quickly made Arthur into a king of wonders and marvels. The 12th-century prose romance Culhwch and Olwen associated him with other heroes, and this conception of a heroic band with Arthur at its head doubtless led to the idea of Arthur’s court.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.
Early life and marriage to Louis VII
Eleanor was the daughter and heiress of William X, duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitiers, who possessed one of the largest domains in France—larger, in fact, than those held by the French king. Upon William’s death in 1137 she inherited the duchy of Aquitaine and in July 1137 married the heir to the French throne, who succeeded his father, Louis VI, the following month. Eleanor became queen of France, a title she held for the next 15 years. Beautiful, capricious, and adored by Louis, Eleanor exerted considerable influence over him, often goading him into undertaking perilous ventures.
From 1147 to 1149 Eleanor accompanied Louis on the Second Crusade to protect the fragile Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, founded after the First Crusade only 50 years before, from Turkish assault. Eleanor’s conduct during this expedition, especially at the court of her uncle Raymond of Poitiers at Antioch, aroused Louis’s jealousy and marked the beginning of their estrangement. After their return to France and a short-lived reconciliation, their marriage was annulled in March 1152.
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Guinevere, Gwenhwyfar, or Guanhumara
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinevere Guinevere (/ˈɡwɪnɪvɪər/ Welsh: Gwenhwyfar Breton: Gwenivar), often written as Guenevere or Gwenevere, is, in Arthurian legend, the wife of King Arthur. She first appears as Guanhumara (with many spelling variants in the manuscript tradition) in Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudo-historical chronicle of British history, the Historia Regum Britanniae, written circa 1136 AD. She is also found in medieval Welsh prose, in the mid-late 12th-century tale Culhwch and Olwen, as Arthur's wife Gwenhwyfar. In medieval romances, one of the most prominent story arcs is Queen Guinevere's love affair with her husband's chief knight, Lancelot. This story first appeared in Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart and became a motif in Arthurian literature, starting with the Lancelot-Grail of the early 13th century and carrying through the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Guinevere and Lancelot's betrayal of Arthur preceded his eventual defeat at the Battle of Camlann by Mordred. The original Welsh form of the name Gwenhwyfar, which seems to be cognate with the Irish name Findabair, can be translated as "The White Enchantress" or "The White Fay/Ghost", from Proto-Celtic *Windo- "white, fair, holy" + *sēbarā"magical being" (cognate with Old Irish síabair "a spectre, phantom, supernatural being [usually in pejorative sense]").[a] Geoffrey of Monmouth rendered her name as Guanhumara in Latin (though there are many spelling variations found in the various manuscripts of his Historia Regum Britanniae). The name is given as Guennuuar in Caradoc's Vita Gildae, while Gerald of Wales refers to her as Wenneuereia. In the 15th century Middle Cornish play Bewnans Ke, she was called Gwynnever. A cognate name in Modern English is Jennifer, from Cornish.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinevere#cite_note-7 In one of the Welsh Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 56), there are three Gwenhwyfars married to King Arthur the first is the daughter of Cywryd of Gwent, the second of Gwythyr ap Greidawl, and the third of (G)ogrfan Gawr ("the Giant"),). In a variant of another Welsh Triad (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 54), only the daughter of Gogfran Gawr is mentioned. Two other Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 53, 84) mention Gwenhwyfar's contention with her sister Gwenhwyfach, which was believed to be the cause of the Battle of Camlann. In the Welsh folktale Culhwch and Olwen, she is mentioned alongside her sister, Gwenhwyfach. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, she is described as one of the great beauties of Britain, descended from a noble Roman family and educated under Cador, Duke of Cornwall. In French chivalric romances, Guinevere is the daughter of King Leodegrance, who served Uther Pendragon and was entrusted with the Round Table after Pendragon's death. In these histories, Leodegrance's kingdom lies near the Breton city of Carhaise (the modern Carhaix-Plouguer). In the fields to the south and east of Carhaise, Arthur defends Leodegrance by defeating Rience, which leads to his meeting and marriage with Guinevere. This version of the legend has Guinevere betrothed to Arthur early in his career, while he was garnering support.
optional version: Guinevere She is infamous as the cheating wife of King Arthur. As the cause of the end of Camelot and all the hope that Arthur’s reign had brought to Camelot and Britain. But was she real? Where do we find clues about her and what do those clues tell us?
Wikipedia does a wonderful overall summary https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinevere Basically it says that “the first time she is mentioned is in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s pseudo-historical chronicle of British history, the Historia Regum Britanniae, written circa 1136 AD. She is also found in medieval Welsh prose, in the mid-late 12th-century tale Culhwch and Olwen, as Arthur's wife Gwenhwyfar.” It also says “In medieval romances, one of the most prominent story arcs is Queen Guinevere's love affair with her husband's chief knight, Lancelot. This story first appeared in Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart and became a motif in Arthurian literature, starting with the Lancelot-Grail of the early 13th century and carrying through the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.”
So essentially, that indicates she is a literary contrivance and not a real flesh and blood person. Even her name points to a description of her role with “The original Welsh form of the name Gwenhwyfar, which seems to be cognate with the Irish name Findabair, can be translated as "The White Enchantress" or "The White Fay/Ghost", from Proto-Celtic *Windo- "white, fair, holy" + *sēbarā"magical being" (cognate with Old Irish síabair "a spectre, phantom, supernatural being ).“
Wikipedia also points out “In one of the Welsh Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 56), there are three Gwenhwyfars married to King Arthur the first is the daughter of Cywryd of Gwent, the second of Gwythyr ap Greidawl, and the third of (G)ogrfan Gawr ("the Giant"),). In a variant of another Welsh Triad (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 54), only the daughter of Gogfran Gawr is mentioned. Two other Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 53, 84) mention Gwenhwyfar's contention with her sister Gwenhwyfach, which was believed to be the cause of the Battle of Camlann. In the Welsh folktale Culhwch and Olwen, she is mentioned alongside her sister, Gwenhwyfach.”
Once again the improbable is used as her ancestry since Gwythyr ap Greidawl is described by Wikipedia as “In Welsh mythology, Gwythyr ap Greidawl was a rival of Gwyn ap Nudd, a deity connected with the otherworld.” Another option was the daughter of “a giant”. And no one seems to have any idea who Cywrdd of Gwent was or his claim to fame.
Basically she is the catalyst for the story as she is the reason everything seems to happen and the driving force to the end.
GLASTONBURY ABBEY *from a note I had with no source* I had it to research the story itself. King Arthur’s final resting place, Avalon, is believed to be located in modern day Glastonbury Abbey. Urged by King Henry II, the monks at Glastonbury Abbey searched their grounds for proof of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. In 1191 the monks found a large oak coffin with the inscription, “Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arturius in insula Avalonia,” which translates as, “Here lies King Arthur buried in Avalon.” The two skeletons found inside—believed to be Arthur and Guinevere—were moved to an ornate marble tomb in 1278, where they remained until the tomb was destroyed in 1539. Where they are today is a mystery.
Lancelot: Or, the Knight of the Cart Summary
Chrétien de Troyes's masterpiece Lancelot, The Knight of the Cart is a riveting tale of knightly valor and courtly love. This romance marks the first known appearance of Lancelot as a major player in the Arthurian canon, and it also provides the first account of his affair with Guinevere.
The first half of the narrative follows Lancelot (then unnamed) as he rescues Guinevere, who has been taken hostage by the evil Méléagant. Méléagant visits Arthur's court, boasting that he has ensnared many from Arthur's land (Logres). He ultimately convinces Arthur through trickery to give him Guinevere, and sets out to bring her to his homeland of Gorre as another prisoner.
When Lancelot ends up without a horse, he encounters a dwarf with a cart, who claims to have information about the queen's whereabouts. However, he will not share his information unless Lancelot ride in his pillory cart, which is usually reserved for criminals, and hence brings shame to any who ride in it. Lancelot nevertheless rides in the cart, which brings him much shame and causes confusion amongst many he encounters.
On the way to Guinevere, Lancelot is aided by a number of beautiful women and kindly girls. He encounters hostile and arrogant knights, and must constantly defend his character. Initially, he travels with Sir Gawain, but they eventually part to take different routes to Gorre. Lancelot chooses the faster, more dangerous rouge of the Sword Bridge, which is literally a large sword blade.
He arrives in Gorre, to discover that Guinevere is angry with him, for reasons she does not initially disclose. There, he also discovers that the ruler is the kindly and reasonable King Bademagu, who stands in stark contrast to his mischievous son Méléagant. Rebuked by Guinevere, Lancelot leaves to find Sir Gawain, who attempted to cross a different bridge, and has not been seen. While Lancelot is gone, Guinevere hears false rumors of his death, and decides to show him warmth. Lancelot returns to Bademagu's court, and Guinevere confesses that her coldness resulted from the hesitation he showed before leaping into the cart.
Reunited, they share a passionate night together, but Lancelot bleeds on her sheets, and Méléagant accuses her of adultery. To defend her honor, Lancelot fights Méléagant. King Bademagu intercedes to end the battle, and Lancelot promises to fight Méléagant within a year's time at King Arthur's court. By this time, the people of Logres are free to leave Gorre.
If the first half of the narrative centers around Guinevere’s imprisonment, the second half is driven by Lancelot’s incarceration.
Lancelot and his party set out again to find Gawain, but Lancelot is tricked by a devious dwarf, a henchman of Méléagant, who takes him captive. A fake letter from Lancelot is sent to Guinevere, insisting she return to Arthur’s court, where she will find him. Meanwhile, Lancelot's party finds Gawain, who is also fooled by the letter.
Returning home, they realize that Lancelot must have been captured. Méléagant soon arrives to demand his battle with Lancelot Gawain promises to fight in Lancelot's stead, and they plan to fight within a year's time.
In the meantime, a tournament is organized, over which Guinevere is to preside. Lancelot hears about the tournament, and convinces his jailer's wife to grant him temporary freedom so he might compete. When he arrives at the tournament, wearing unknown armor, Guinevere nevertheless recognizes him because of his valor in battle. To test his identity, she sends a message that he should fight badly, and he complies. She then reverses the message and triumphs, but then promptly disappears to return to his imprisonment, as he promised the jailer's wife he would do.
Upon Lancelot's return, Méléagant imprisons him in an impossibly tall, impenetrable tower. When Méléagant's sister, for whom Lancelot had previous done a kindness, learns of the great knight's disappearance, she rescues him and helps him recover from his weakness.
Lancelot then returns to Logres, at the moment when Gawain and Méléagant are to battle. Lancelot steps in to vanquish the evil Méléagant, and the romance comes to a triumphant close.
In the winter of 117 ME, a man and woman arrived at the Guineveraeum at Zidonia carrying a box upon poles. When asked what it contained, they carefully opened it, revealing a bloody rag on a pillow. The couple explained that they were Korevnans who had witnessed the martyrdom of Guinevere at Isgerdia. They claimed that the rag contained blood that they had been able to soak up from the steps of the cathedral. They claimed it was Holy Blood and that it had cured the woman's twisted leg partway through their journey when she had licked it. To prove this, she showed the scar running along her perfectly formed leg.
Impressed by the story, the congregation purchased the relic for a large sum. They housed the couple there for four days before they left, never to be seen in Zidonia again. A reliquary was made for the rag, which was called The Holy Blood of Saint Guinevere. For several months it was revered as such, alongside the Ossein Rose, another relic of Guinevere. However, in early 118, a man from Montesteae who fashioned himself a traveling priest of Guinevere, called Jon the Pious, arrived to inspect the relic. He came to the conclusion it was a fake, not being blood at all but menstrual blood, probably from the woman that they had purchased the relic from. The congregation at Zidonia was outraged at this accusation.
Despite its authenticity being disputed, the people of the Guineveraeum at Zidonia still claim it to be an authentic relic. Now calling it the Holy Menses of Saint Guinevere, they claim it to be the blood dregs of the former queen, collected by guards during her imprisonment at Korevna. It is housed still at the Guineveraeum at Zidonia, within a glass domed reliquary.
The Early Origins of the Story of Lancelot
The earliest mentions of the character of Lancelot are positively dated to the early decades of the middle ages. The earliest known literary work that features Lancelot as a prominent character is known as Erec and Enide (Érec et Énide) written in 1170 AD by the medieval French poet and troubadour Chrétien de Troyes. He is widely regarded as one of the most important authors of medieval literature and the Arthurian legend, and is also credited with most likely creating the characters of Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart Yvain, the Knight of the Lion and Percival, the Knight of the Grail.
It is possible that his works - which were highly novel for the time - popularized the early form of the novel and gave a major rise in popularity of the Arthurian romance. After first appearing in the said work, where his name is included with those of knights Gawain and Erec, Lancelot continues to appear as an increasingly important figure in Chrétien’s future works. Later on, with the publishing of Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart , this knight becomes the main protagonist of his own story.
Chrétien de Troyes’ work is also the first to name him as Lancelot du Lac (Lancelot of the Lake) which was later picked up by other authors both in France and in England, establishing the name in various forms. Now, scholars who have been struggling to find the truth before the historical authenticity of both Lancelot and King Arthur, placed a great deal of attention on this medieval work. Troyes wrote his story without focusing on Lancelot’s background too much - as if his readers were already well familiar with this hero. This serves as a possible proof that the legend of Lancelot existed even before this work was written.
A depiction of Lancelot and Guinevere by Wilhelm List. ( Public domain )
One of the leading scholars on the subject of medieval French literature, Matilda Bruckner perfectly sums this up:
“what existed before Chrétien remains uncertain, but there is no doubt that his version became the starting point for all subsequent tales of Lancelot as the knight whose extraordinary prowess is inextricably linked to his love for King Arthur's Queen."
In an attempt to trace the origins of Lancelot as an actual historical figure, one of the best insights can be hidden in his name, and so one way to go is to look at the origin of the words and names in and of themselves. One of the more interesting theories can link Lancelot with some older, Pan-European ancient legendary hero. The prominent English historian of the early 20th century, Alfred Anscombe, proposed that the name has Germanic origins. He stated that Lancelot comes from early Germanic * Wlancloth, with roots in the Old English wlenceo (pride) and loða (cloak). This in turn he connects with the historical Vinoviloth, a Gothic tribe that supposedly settled in Britain at Vinovia, today Binchester. And as Lancelot can be connected with Binchester, Ascombe’s parallel does make some sense.
Other scholars argue that the name Lancelot was simply invented by Troyes in his novels, while others propose another interesting theory. It is stated that the name has been derived from Anguselaus, one of the characters from the pen of Geoffrey of Monmouth, a major figure credited with the development of the legend of King Arthur. Anguselaus is most likely the anglicized form of the name Unguist, which belong to the son of a 6th century Pictish King. When transliterated into French it became Anselaus or Lanselaus - and from there, Lancelot emerged. Over time, historians proposed a multitude of possibilities for the origins of the name, and most of them are rooted in actual historical figures of princes and kings.
British Legends: The Divine Tragedy of Guinevere
I n Arthurian legend and romance, Queen Guinevere was famous as the wife of King Arthur and the lover of her husband’s best knight, Sir Lancelot du Lac. In some stories, she is presented as being virtuous and honourable, while at the same time being fatally flawed. In other stories, she is an overtly immoral and sexually promiscuous woman who cheats on her husband, King Arthur the great hero of the Britons. Rightly, or wrongly, mud sticks and her affair is often seen as the cause of the fall of Camelot. Guinevere unfairly gets most of the blame. In fact, there were several other people whose actions significantly contributed to this disaster, including Arthur himself, Mordred, and other Knights of the Round Table. The Arthurian world is a colourful mix of heroism, adventure, and romance, but there is also much tragedy to be seen. Arguably the most tragic is the love triangle of Guinevere, Lancelot, and Arthur, that in many ways mirrors that of Tristan, Iseult, and King Mark but has more severe consequences, not just for themselves but the rest of the Arthurian world.
Some scholars of Arthurian legend and romance see many of the stories of King Arthur and his knights, in legend and medieval romance, as being dramatizations of the adventures of Celtic gods and important natural events in Celtic mythology. They believe there was a special relationship between the king and the gods and the king and the land. To ensure the fertility of the land, the king was wedded to the goddess of the land, who was also the goddess of sovereignty.
Presented here is a retelling of a story from Le Morte D’Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory, of how Guinevere was rescued by Sir Lancelot after being abducted by a wicked suitor, how the two slept together, and how he saved her from burning after being accused of adultery and treason. This is followed by a brief discussion on how some Arthurian scholars see Guinevere as a personification of a goddess of sovereignty, and why this may influence how she is perceived.
Queen Guinevere’s Maying by John Collier, Public Domain Source
Guinevere Goes a-Maying
The story began one day in the month of May, when Guinevere called together ten Knights of the Round Table. She told them they would accompany her and ten of her ladies in the traditional seasonal activity of Maying, in place of her own elite guards known as the Queen’s Knights, who usually accompanied her everywhere. In celebration of the season and to enter into the spirit of the celebration, she insisted they leave behind their armour and wear green clothing and bear only light arms. Therefore, bright and early the next morning, the party set off to go a-Maying in the woods and fields around Westminster.
The Malice of Sir Meliagrance
An evil knight named Meliagrance had a castle several miles from Westminster, and he had loved Guinevere since the first day he set eyes on her. He never dared to show this love for fear of Sir Lancelot, who was always near her. On this bright May morning, away from the security of the Royal Court, accompanied by only ten lightly armed knights, and with Sir Lancelot now absent, he saw his chance. He quickly mustered twenty of his own men-at-arms and one hundred archers to aid him in the abduction of Queen Guinevere.
Guinevere and her party joyfully entertained themselves fully in the ancient custom, adorning themselves and each other with flowers, leaves, mosses, and herbs. They were all relaxed and enjoying the traditional activity so they were easily caught unawares when Meliagrance with his men came out of the woods and surrounded the happy company. Aggressively, he demanded that Guinevere should be given to him, or he would take her by force. The ten lightly armed knights, without a shields, or armour, were not prepared to allow the queen to be taken easily and vowed to fight to the death to defend her. Meliagrance sternly told them, “Prepare with what weapons you have, for I will have the queen!”
The defenders placed themselves in a ring around the queen and drew their swords. Meliagrance gave the order, and his knights charged on horseback. Despite being vastly outnumbered, the ten knights defended the queen ferociously. After long and fierce fighting, six of the queen’s defenders were too badly wounded to fight on, but four were unhurt and still defiantly defended the queen, until they too were wounded but fought on bravely.
Seeing her valiant knights so badly hurt and to prevent their slaying, Guinevere ordered them to lay down their arms on condition they would not be slain and that she and they would remain together no matter what. Meliagrance agreed on the condition they did not try to escape and contact Sir Lancelot.
While Meliagrance was attending to his own wounded knights, Guinevere sent one of her youngest servants on a swift horse to find Sir Lancelot and tell him of her plight. On hearing the news, Sir Lancelot, in fear and alarm for the safety of the queen, called for his horse, his armour, and his weapons. Then he asked the servant to go to his friend, Sir Lavaine and tell him the news of the queen’s abduction and ask him to follow him to the castle of Meliagrance without delay.
The Knight of the Cart
Lancelot rode swiftly over Westminster Bridge and, making his horse swim the Thames at Lambeth, he soon came to the place where Sir Meliagrance had abducted the queen and her knights. Then he followed the tracks through woodlands, where he was waylaid by the archers of Sir Meliagrance who rained arrows down on him and slayed his horse. Having no other choice than carrying his armour, weapons, and shield, he set out on foot to the castle of Meliagrance.
As he walked he was overtaken by a horse and cart carrying a driver, and his assistant that was carrying wood to the castle of Meliagrance. The driver refused his request for a ride, so to avoid further delay Sir Lancelot commandeered the cart. He knocked the driver from his seat and forced his assistant to drive him with all speed to his intended destination. From his manner of arrival at the castle, Sir Lancelot was given the name “The Knight of the Cart,” and jumping from it cried out, “Sir Meliagrance, traitor Knight of the Round Table, where are you? I, Sir Lancelot du Lac challenge you! Come, face me and bring who you will, for I will fight you to the death!”
Image by Newell Convers Wyeth, Public Domain Source
On hearing Sir Lancelot had arrived and the commotion at the gates, Meliagrance ran to Guinevere saying, “Lady, I beg you have mercy upon me, I put myself at your good will!” and begged her to protect him from the angry knight. After mocking him, in order to keep the peace, she agreed and persuaded Sir Lancelot to put aside his anger. Then she led him to see the other knights who were recuperating from their injuries in a partition in her chamber.
The Tryst of Guinevere and Sir Lancelot
Later, Lancelot and Guinevere found a chance to talk alone and so glad were they to see each other again they agreed on a tryst that night. At midnight, Lancelot would appear at the barred window of her chamber while all were asleep and in their beds.
Later that day, Sir Lavaine arrived at the castle gates, crying out in great anxiety for Sir Lancelot, who went down to meet him. The two talked together and Lancelot told him that he was going to meet with Guinevere in the night. Sir Lavaine warned him against this, but Sir Lancelot was adamant he would keep the tryst.
That night, using a ladder, he climbed up to Guinevere’s window. She was waiting for him and, after they whispered their greetings, he told her that he wanted more than anything to come into her chamber, but the window was barred with iron.
She told him she wished for the same and, after seeking her further reassurance that this was truly her desire, he grasped the bars and with all his strength wrenched them from the window, but in doing so cut his hand. Not noticing blood oozing from the wound he climbed in to join her. The two went quietly to her bed and stayed there all night long. Before sunrise, he climbed back through the window replacing the bars as best he could and went to his own chamber.
At 9 o’clock in the morning, Sir Meliagrance went to Guinevere’s chamber and found her ladies awake and dressed, but the queen still in bed with the curtain pulled around it. “Lady, why do you sleep so long, are you ill?” he said and drew back the curtains. Seeing the blood on her sheet — and upon herself — from the wounded hand of Sir Lancelot, he immediately accused her of lying with one, or more of the wounded knights, who lay nearby and called them to witness.
Guinevere rightly denied the charge because it was Sir Lancelot she had slept with, but she said nothing of that. When Sir Lancelot arrived and learned of the accusation, saying nothing of where he had been in the night, he warned Meliagrance that he would fight to defend the queen against any malicious accusation. However, Meliagrance was emboldened by what he and the others had seen and declared he would take the accusation to King Arthur and, if found guilty, she would be burnt at the stake.
Lancelot again warned that he would defend the queen with his life. The accuser then laid down his gauntlet, challenging him to a duel to prove her innocence. Lancelot readily accepted and a date was set eight days hence when they would meet in battle in the fields of Westminster, before King Arthur and his court, and fight to decide the outcome. With the trial by combat terms agreed, Meliagrance had formulated a treacherous plan and acting in a friendly, courtly manner, offered to show Lancelot around his castle, an offer that was accepted out of courtesy to Meliagrance as was the way of true knights.
Meliagrance took Lancelot on a tour of his castle, showing its entire splendour, going from room to room and around the ramparts. With Sir Lancelot at his ease, he led him to a certain room and contrived it so that his guest stepped upon a hidden trapdoor. The weight of Sir Lancelot opened the trapdoor and he fell into a deep and dark dungeon. The host closed over the door, leaving his guest imprisoned. Going to the stables he hid Sir Lavaine’s horse and went to meet the others at dinner as if nothing had happened.
At dinner, Guinevere, the ten wounded knights, and Sir Lavaine assumed that Lancelot had simply ridden away alone on some errand, as he had done so many times before, taking Sir Lavaine’s horse after the slaying of his own. After dinner, Sir Lavaine organized litters for the transportation of the wounded knights and then escorted Queen Guinevere and the party to Westminster. On arrival, he explained to King Arthur how Meliagrance had accused the queen of treason and how he had demanded she be burnt. He told him Sir Lancelot had taken up the gauntlet of the accuser to defend Queen Guinevere.
Arthur did not want to put his wife on trial, believing her innocence, but did believe that — as King — he had to uphold his own laws and agreed to the trial by combat and said, “I have absolute faith in my Lady’s innocence, and have no doubt Sir Meliagrance has bitten off more than he can chew, but where is Sir Lancelot?”
“We think he has taken Sir Lavaine’s horse on some errand of his own,” said Guinevere.
“I am sure he will be here in due time, though I fear some treachery!” said Arthur.
Lancelot finally came back to consciousness to find himself trapped in the dark prison. Every day he was brought food and drink by a lady who tried her best to seduce him, but he always politely refused her advances. One day she said, “Sir Lancelot, you will never escape this prison without my help and Queen Guinevere is due to be burnt at the stake unless you defeat Meliagrance. All I ask for is a single kiss, and for that you would let Queen Guinevere burn? Grant one kiss and I will bring your armour, weapons, and a horse and set you free to do as you please.”
“If that is truly all you ask I will grant it,” said Sir Lancelot, and he kissed her. As promised, she brought him his armour and weapons. Opening the door of his prison she led him to the stables, offering him the pick of the horses. Lancelot chose a white charger and bade the stable hands saddle the horse while he donned his armour for battle. Mounting his steed he turned to thank the lady, and fully armed with spear, shield, and sword, rode to Westminster and his deadly rendezvous with Sir Meliagrance.
Image by Newell Convers Wyeth, Public Domain Source
Trial by Combat
On the appointed day Guinevere was brought to the field of Westminster and tied to the stake ready to be burnt. Meliagrance, confident in his belief that Sir Lancelot would not arrive, rode up and down calling on King Arthur to bring forth the Queen’s champion, demanding to know where Sir Lancelot du Lac was. At last, Sir Lavaine spoke up, saying to Arthur, “I ask permission to stand in for Sir Lancelot and do battle for the honour of our Queen unless a better knight shall come?”
“I thank you, Sir Lavaine, I give my permission and know you will do your best!” said Arthur.
Sir Lavaine put on his armour, armed himself, mounted his horse, and rode to the opposite end of the field ready for his encounter with Sir Meliagrance. Then, to everyone’s surprise, there appeared a knight riding like thunder on a white charger. King Arthur shouted “Wait!” and the knight rode up to up to him, and to his relief Arthur saw it was Sir Lancelot. Standing before the King, Lancelot told of the treachery of Meliagrance and his imprisonment, leaving Arthur and his knights full of disgust. Sir Lavaine then left the field saying, “A better knight has come.”
Meliagrance and Sir Lancelot rode to opposite ends of the field and when the signal was given rode at each other like thunder. Lancelot’s spear knocked his opponent off his horse, but he leaped to the ground so that he would have no advantage over his foe. Then, with shield and sword in hand and Sir Meliagrance likewise, they attacked one another fiercely. Both struck each other many times, but at last Sir Lancelot caught Sir Meliagrance such a crushing blow to his helmet that he fell to the ground. Meliagrance cried out, “I yield to you, Sir Lancelot du Lac! Spare my life, for as you are a Knight of the Round Table you are required to spare those who have yielded as overcome!”
Sir Lancelot was at a loss what to do. Sir Meliagrance was right and he should spare him, but he had wanted to wreak revenge on him for his treatment of the Queen and also himself. Lancelot looked towards Guinevere, who slightly nodded and looked at him in a way that clearly showed she wanted her accuser dead. Lancelot then told Meliagrance to get up and resume the battle to the bitter end. However, Meliagrance refused, “I will not stand until you accept I have yielded and I will give you huge rewards for sparing me!”
Sir Lancelot said, “I will fight you without my helmet leaving my head bare. I will take off the armour from the left side of my body and I shall have my left hand bound behind my back and I will fight in this manner.”
Meliagrance turned to King Arthur saying, “Sire, listen and take heed of what he says for I will fight him under these conditions!”
“Sir Lancelot, are you sure on this? Will you abide by the conditions you yourself have set?” asked the King.
“That I do, for I never go back on my word,” replied Lancelot.
Then he removed his armour in the way he said and had his left hand tied behind his back. With only a sword in his right hand, he prepared to battle with Meliagrance who still wore his full armour and carried his shield and sword.
Meliagrance, thinking he would be easy prey, rushed at him swinging his sword high, but Lancelot deftly stepped aside and dealt such a powerful blow to his head that it split his helmet asunder and killed him outright. Sir Lancelot had proven the innocence of Guinevere of the charge made by Meliagrance and decided by Arthur’s own laws, but their own adulterous liaison remained a secret from the King. Nevertheless, Arthur was overjoyed his wife had been proved innocent of the charges and ordered her to be freed from the stake and they both embraced Sir Lancelot.
Goddess of Sovereignty
Many devotees of the Arthurian see Guinevere as representing a Celtic or earlier goddess of sovereignty, disguised and hidden over time by various storytellers to become the unfaithful and promiscuous wife of King Arthur. Not everyone subscribes to this view, and there is no shortage of other ideas of how Celtic and earlier influences became embedded in these stories.
The role of the goddess of sovereignty was to ensure the fertility of the land and was the personification of the land looking after its best interests. To fulfil her task she needed a suitable male consort who was virile, strong, and dynamic, who would be the king and sovereign of the land but never own it. He was replaceable as and when the need arose, such as when he grew old, was too sick, or was injured, or failed for any reason to fulfil his role. It was through the goddess of sovereignty that kingship of the land was bestowed on the most suitable candidate available.
There is a hint from Malory that Guinevere may have set up her own abduction, perhaps as some kind of test as she deliberately leaves her own company of guards, the Queen’s Knights, behind to rely on ten lightly armed knights without their armour. It may be that Arthur, for all his greatness, was ageing and with age lost his former vitality and potency. Therefore, a younger, more dynamic replacement was needed to ensure the fertility of the land. It was Lancelot she sent for to rescue her and not her husband.
In this story,Guinevere has been abducted and rescued, then accused of a crime and in danger of being burnt for adultery and treason. Lancelot has proven to be the strongest and most potent of her suitors, which is exactly what a goddess of sovereignty needs. As the personification of a goddess of sovereignty, her relationships with more than one powerful male should not be seen as sexual promiscuity or immoral behaviour but purely the human representative of the goddess fulfilling her role and purpose.
If seen in this light, Guinevere then becomes someone who is striving to fulfil her divine role as representing the goddess of sovereignty. Her relationship with Lancelot is not out of sexual promiscuity, but as a necessity to fulfil her role in the best interests of the land. The problem for her is that as a woman she does love Lancelot and she does love Arthur, and there lies the divine tragedy for she is destined to lose both in the end.
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A New Era
1539 - present
Immediately following the Dissolution, the abbey was stripped of its valuables and the land was awarded to the Duke of Somerset. Ornate stone and hardcore alike were taken for use in new buildings and roads in the town. The Abbot&rsquos Kitchen escaped the dismantling &ndash perhaps because it proved useful intermittently over the centuries. The ruins drew the attention of antiquarians of the 17th and 18th centuries, and William Stukeley&rsquos sketches, although drawing on earlier sources not just his eye, prove to be amongst the most famous of the post-Dissolution abbey.
The site changed hands over the years, and in 1825 was acquired by new owner John Fry Reeves who had Abbey House constructed with a view over the ruins. The last family to live in the house were the locally well-known and prosperous Austin family at the turn of the 20th century. When the house and grounds went to auction in 1907 there was considerable speculation about who would acquire it. The abbey was purchased by Ernest Jardine who then passed it to the Church of England when the necessary funds were raised.
The abbey was opened to the public and extensive restoration work began, as well as the beginnings of archaeological digs that would continue sporadically throughout the century.
The abbey is now operated by a registered charity, and continues to welcome visitors from the world over.
1547 - 1553
The abbey site is granted to Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. A colony of refugee Flemish weavers is settled on the site
1825 &ndash 1830
Site acquired by John Fry Reeves. Abbey House built
1896 &ndash 1906
Site inhabited by the Austin family
Glastonbury Abbey purchased on behalf of the Church of England
Abbey site opened to the public. Conservation begins under W. D. Caroe. Excavations by Frederick Bligh Bond
1951 &ndash 1979
Excavations of Ralegh Radford and Wedlake
The Glastonbury Abbey Estate charity is formed
The charity in its current form is registered
Management of Abbey House returns to the abbey charity