Lancelot and Guinevere - A King Arthur story
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Lancelot and Guinevere

lady in bed with people standing around her
Guinevere sends her ring to Lancelot

Guinevere first appears in written stories about 1325 AD in the Welsh story Culhwch ac Olwen, as Arthur's queen. In later medieval stories, she's the daughter of King Leodegrance, and she marries Arthur when they are both still very young. Arthur needs sons to inherit his throne, but Guinevere does not have any children. This makes her and Arthur very unhappy.

medieval man and woman sitting holding hands
Lancelot and Guinevere, ca. 1320 AD, France
(now in the British Library)

Later on, when Lancelot arrives at Arthur's castle, he and Guinevere instantly fall in love with each other. Soon they are fooling around behind Arthur's back.

Finally Arthur's nephews Mordred and Agravain tell Arthur about Lancelot and Guinevere, and Lancelot flees for his life. Arthur captures Guinevere and orders her to burn at the stake (compare the older Parthian story of Vis and Ramin). At the last minute, Lancelot rides in on his horse and saves Guinevere, but he kills the knights Gaheris and Gareth.

King Arthur has to go to France to fight Lancelot and the Roman Emperor, and he leaves Mordred in charge. But Mordred makes himself king, and makes Guinevere marry him. Arthur comes back to save his kingdom and Guinevere. After the battle between Arthur and Mordred, Guinevere and Lancelot meet one last time, and then Guinevere enters a convent and stays there for the rest of her life.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

Bibliography and further reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table:

Tristan and Isolde
Knights of the Round Table
Arthur and Mordred
Arthur and Morgaine
More medieval literature
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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