King Arthur & the Matter of Britain
History & Archaeology ·
Welsh Bards ·
Tristan & Iseult ·
Elaine of Astolat
is the daughter of Leodegrance, the wife of Arthur, and the lover
of his first, best knight. Many tales are told of
Guenevere, but the two key episodes in the tradition are
Guenevere's abduction by Melwas (or Meleagant or Melyagaunce), and her
betrayal of her marriage vows - in the early Welsh tradition, by
marrying Medraut (Mordred) after he seizes the throne, and in
the French chivalric romances and their successors, by becoming the
lover of Lancelot.
The details of Guenevere's story are very fluid; for a summary of her
role in the early material, see the entry under
at the Encyclopedia of the Celts. New URL.
Guinevere Home Page traces the Queen's story from the early Celtic
texts to Marion Zimmer Bradley; it's part of The
Quest, a scholarly Arthurian site at the University of Idaho.
Additional commentary is available at the Camelot Project's pages on
Guenevere and Melwas
The story of Guenevere's kidnapping by Melwas, King of
the Summer Country ("in aestiva regione")
, is related in the twelfth century Vita Gildae (Life of
Gildas) by Caradoc of Llancarfan. "Melwas, King of
Somerset, abducted Arthur's wife 'Guennuvar,'
and kept her at Glastonbury when Gildas was there. Arthur
came to rescue her with troops from Devon and Cornwall,
but the watery terrain hampered his movements. Gildas and
the abbot mediated, the kings made peace, and the lady
was restored." [Geoffrey Ashe, entry for "Gildas" in
The Arthurian Encyclopedia, Garland Press, 1986.]
This tale is the oldest version of
the abduction of Guenevere (in later tales, she is rescued
by Lancelot) and the earliest association of Arthur with
the Abbey at Glastonbury.
Guenevere and Lancelot
The chivalric romance between Guenevere the Queen and Lancelot first
appears in Chrétien de Troyes's Le Chevalier de la
Charrette (The Knight of the Cart), or Lancelot,
a romance written at
the behest of Marie Countess of Champagne c. 1180.
The Charrette Project
is "a complex, scholarly, multi-media
electronic archive containing a medieval manuscript tradition--that
of" Le Chevalier de la
Charrette. It is developed
and maintained by the Department of Romance Languages, Princeton
University, and includes background
information, the text in Old
French, and a modern
Chrétien's text in English is available as
or the Knight of the Cart, based on the 1914
translation by W.W. Comfort (1914), with a synopsis and the complete
text; it's at Celtic
edition of the same text is at the Online Medieval and Classical Library at
Guenevere and Medraut
Brigantia, Cartimandua and Gwenhwyfar
by Michelle Ziegler explores the striking similarities between the fall of
Brigantia to the Romans in the first century and the fall of
Arthur's realm, and the origins and early development of Gwenhwyfar and her relationship with Arthur and Medraut.
At The Heroic Age.
The Poetic Tradition
of Guenevere", by William Morris, at the Camelot Project's
Guinevere page. "Morris is
the first to give the Queen her own voice, thus beginning a tradition
that is continued in Sara Teasdale's poem
Her Fireside' ... and many contemporary novels."
Notes on the Illustrations ·
5 July 2004