Guinevere
Overview
 
Guinevere ˈɡwɪnɨvɪər was the legendary queen consort
Queen consort
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

 of King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

. In tales and folklore, she was said to have had a love affair with Arthur's chief knight Sir Lancelot
Lancelot
Sir Lancelot du Lac is one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. He is the most trusted of King Arthur's knights and plays a part in many of Arthur's victories...

. This story first appears in Chrétien de Troyes
Chrétien de Troyes
Chrétien de Troyes was a French poet and trouvère who flourished in the late 12th century. Perhaps he named himself Christian of Troyes in contrast to the illustrious Rashi, also of Troyes...

' Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart is an Old French poem by Chrétien de Troyes. Chrétien probably composed the work at the same time as or slightly before writing Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, which refers to the action in Lancelot a number of times...

, and reappears as a common motif in numerous cyclical Arthurian literature, starting with the Lancelot-Grail
Lancelot-Grail
The Lancelot–Grail, also known as the Prose Lancelot, the Vulgate Cycle, or the Pseudo-Map Cycle, is a major source of Arthurian legend written in French. It is a series of five prose volumes that tell the story of the quest for the Holy Grail and the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere...

 Cycle of the early 13th century and carrying through the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Thomas Malory
Thomas Malory
Sir Thomas Malory was an English writer, the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur. The antiquary John Leland as well as John Bale believed him to be Welsh, but most modern scholars, beginning with G. L...

's Le Morte d'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur is a compilation by Sir Thomas Malory of Romance tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table...

. Guinevere's and Lancelot's alleged betrayal of Arthur was often considered as having led to the downfall of the kingdom.
The Welsh
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

 form Gwenhwyfar, which seems to be cognate with the Irish name Findabair
Findabair
In Irish mythology, Findabair or Finnabair , whose name likely means "White Phantom" and is etymologically related to Gwenhwyfar, the Welsh original of Guinevere, was the daughter of Ailill and Medb of Connacht....

, can be translated as The White Enchantress, or alternately The White Fay/Ghost, from Proto-Celtic
Proto-Celtic language
The Proto-Celtic language, also called Common Celtic, is the reconstructed ancestor language of all the known Celtic languages. Its lexis can be confidently reconstructed on the basis of the comparative method of historical linguistics...

 *Uindo- "white, fair, holy" + *seibarV (V=vowel) "magic" (cf.
Encyclopedia
Guinevere ˈɡwɪnɨvɪər was the legendary queen consort
Queen consort
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

 of King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

. In tales and folklore, she was said to have had a love affair with Arthur's chief knight Sir Lancelot
Lancelot
Sir Lancelot du Lac is one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. He is the most trusted of King Arthur's knights and plays a part in many of Arthur's victories...

. This story first appears in Chrétien de Troyes
Chrétien de Troyes
Chrétien de Troyes was a French poet and trouvère who flourished in the late 12th century. Perhaps he named himself Christian of Troyes in contrast to the illustrious Rashi, also of Troyes...

' Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart is an Old French poem by Chrétien de Troyes. Chrétien probably composed the work at the same time as or slightly before writing Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, which refers to the action in Lancelot a number of times...

, and reappears as a common motif in numerous cyclical Arthurian literature, starting with the Lancelot-Grail
Lancelot-Grail
The Lancelot–Grail, also known as the Prose Lancelot, the Vulgate Cycle, or the Pseudo-Map Cycle, is a major source of Arthurian legend written in French. It is a series of five prose volumes that tell the story of the quest for the Holy Grail and the romance of Lancelot and Guinevere...

 Cycle of the early 13th century and carrying through the Post-Vulgate Cycle and Thomas Malory
Thomas Malory
Sir Thomas Malory was an English writer, the author or compiler of Le Morte d'Arthur. The antiquary John Leland as well as John Bale believed him to be Welsh, but most modern scholars, beginning with G. L...

's Le Morte d'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur
Le Morte d'Arthur is a compilation by Sir Thomas Malory of Romance tales about the legendary King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the Knights of the Round Table...

. Guinevere's and Lancelot's alleged betrayal of Arthur was often considered as having led to the downfall of the kingdom.

Name

The Welsh
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

 form Gwenhwyfar, which seems to be cognate with the Irish name Findabair
Findabair
In Irish mythology, Findabair or Finnabair , whose name likely means "White Phantom" and is etymologically related to Gwenhwyfar, the Welsh original of Guinevere, was the daughter of Ailill and Medb of Connacht....

, can be translated as The White Enchantress, or alternately The White Fay/Ghost, from Proto-Celtic
Proto-Celtic language
The Proto-Celtic language, also called Common Celtic, is the reconstructed ancestor language of all the known Celtic languages. Its lexis can be confidently reconstructed on the basis of the comparative method of historical linguistics...

 *Uindo- "white, fair, holy" + *seibarV (V=vowel) "magic" (cf. Old Irish síabar "magic"). Some have suggested that the name may derive from "Gwenhwy-fawr" or Gwenhwy the Great, contrasting the character to "Gwenhwy-fach" or Gwenhwy the less; Gwenhwyfach
Gwenhwyfach
Gwenhwyfach, also spelled Gwenhwyvach or Gwenhwyach, is a sister of Gwenhwyfar in early Welsh Arthurian legend. Most of the tradition surrounding her has been lost; she is mentioned only in two of the Welsh Triads and in the Mabinogion tale Culhwch and Olwen...

 appears in Welsh literature as a sister of Gwenhwyfar, but Welsh scholars Melville Richards and Rachel Bromwich
Rachel Bromwich
Rachel Bromwich was a British scholar. Her focus was on medieval Welsh literature, and was Emeritus Reader in Celtic Languages and Literature at the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at Cambridge until her death...

, both dismiss this etymology (with Richards suggesting that Gwenhwyfach was a back-formation derived from an incorrect interpretation of Gwenwhy-far as Gwenhwy-fawr). Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth was a cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur...

 renders her name Guanhumara in Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 (though there are many spelling variations to be found in the various manuscripts of his Historia Regum Britanniae
Historia Regum Britanniae
The Historia Regum Britanniae is a pseudohistorical account of British history, written c. 1136 by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It chronicles the lives of the kings of the Britons in a chronological narrative spanning a time of two thousand years, beginning with the Trojans founding the British nation...

). The name is spelled Guennuuar in Caradoc's Vita Gildae
Gildas
Gildas was a 6th-century British cleric. He is one of the best-documented figures of the Christian church in the British Isles during this period. His renowned learning and literary style earned him the designation Gildas Sapiens...

. Gerald of Wales calls her Wenneuereia. In the 15th century Middle Cornish play Bewnans Ke
Bewnans Ke
Bewnans Ke is a Middle Cornish play on the life of Saint Kea or Ke, who was venerated in Cornwall, Brittany, and elsewhere. It was written around 1500, but survives only in an incomplete manuscript from the second half of the 16th century. The play was entirely unknown until 2000, when it was...

, she is called Gwynnever. The name in Modern English
Modern English
Modern English is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, completed in roughly 1550.Despite some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern...

 is spelled Jennifer
Jennifer (given name)
Jennifer is a female given name; it became a common first name for females in English-speaking countries during the 20th century. The name Jennifer is a Cornish variant of Guinevere, meaning The White Fay or White Ghost...

, from the Cornish
Cornish language
Cornish is a Brythonic Celtic language and a recognised minority language of the United Kingdom. Along with Welsh and Breton, it is directly descended from the ancient British language spoken throughout much of Britain before the English language came to dominate...

.

Guinevere's character

In one of the Welsh Triads
Welsh Triads
The Welsh Triads are a group of related texts in medieval manuscripts which preserve fragments of Welsh folklore, mythology and traditional history in groups of three. The triad is a rhetorical form whereby objects are grouped together in threes, with a heading indicating the point of likeness...

 (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 56), there were three Gwenhwyfar's who were married to King Arthur; the first was 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), there is only one Gwenhwyfar mentioned, the daughter of Gogfran Gawr. In two other Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 53, 84), mention is made of Gwenhwyfar's contention with her sister Gwenhwyfach, which was believed to be the cause of the Battle of Camlann
Battle of Camlann
The Battle of Camlann is best known as the final battle of King Arthur, where he either died in battle, or was fatally wounded fighting his enemy Mordred.-Historicity:...

. In the Welsh Romance Culhwch ac Olwen, she is mentioned along side of her sister Gwenhwyfach
Gwenhwyfach
Gwenhwyfach, also spelled Gwenhwyvach or Gwenhwyach, is a sister of Gwenhwyfar in early Welsh Arthurian legend. Most of the tradition surrounding her has been lost; she is mentioned only in two of the Welsh Triads and in the Mabinogion tale Culhwch and Olwen...

. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae
Historia Regum Britanniae
The Historia Regum Britanniae is a pseudohistorical account of British history, written c. 1136 by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It chronicles the lives of the kings of the Britons in a chronological narrative spanning a time of two thousand years, beginning with the Trojans founding the British nation...

, she is one of the great beauties of Britain, descended from a noble Roman family and educated under duke Cador
Cador
Cador was a legendary Duke of Cornwall, known chiefly through Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudo-historical History of the Kings of Britain and previous manuscript sources such as Vita Sanctus Carantoci circa 1100 from Cotton Vespasian xiv...

 of Cornwall. There was once a popular folk rhyme known in Wales concerning Gwenhwyfar:
Gwenhwyfar ferch Ogrfan Gawr
Drwg yn fechabm gwaeth yn fawr.
Gwenhwyfar, daughter of Ogrfan Gawr
Bad when little, worse when great.


In non-Welsh medieval Romance, she is the daughter of King Leodegrance
Leodegrance
King Leodegrance is the father of Queen Guinevere in Arthurian legend. His kingdom of Carmelide is sometimes identified with a location somewhere in the southwest of England, but may be located in Breton Cornouaille near the town of Carhaix, which is the Carhaise of L'Histoire de Merlin King...

, and is betrothed to Arthur early in his career, while he is garnering support. When Lancelot arrives later, she is instantly smitten, and they soon consummate the adultery that will bring about Arthur's fall. However, Arthur is not aware of their relationship or adultery for quite a while, until at a feast when he realizes that neither Lancelot nor Guinevere is there. Their affair is exposed by two of King Lot
King Lot
Lot or Loth is the eponymous king of Lothian in the Arthurian legend. He is best known as the father of Sir Gawain. Such a ruler evidently first appeared in hagiographical material concerning Saint Kentigern , which feature a Leudonus, king of Leudonia, a Latin name for Lothian...

's sons, Agravain
Agravain
Sir Agravain or Sir Agravaine is a nephew of King Arthur and a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian legend. He is the second son of King Lot of Orkney and Lothian and Morgause , full brother to Gawain, Gaheris and Gareth. His half-brother and most frequent associate in the Post-Vulgate Cycle is...

 and Mordred
Mordred
Mordred or Modred is a character in the Arthurian legend, known as a notorious traitor who fought King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann, where he was killed and Arthur fatally wounded. Tradition varies on his relationship to Arthur, but he is best known today as Arthur's illegitimate son by his...

, and Lancelot flees for his life while Arthur reluctantly sentences his queen to burn at the stake
Execution by burning
Death by burning is death brought about by combustion. As a form of capital punishment, burning has a long history as a method in crimes such as treason, heresy, and witchcraft....

. Knowing Lancelot and his family will try to stop the execution, Arthur sends many of his knights to defend the pyre, though Gawain
Gawain
Gawain is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table who appears very early in the Arthurian legend's development. He is one of a select number of Round Table members to be referred to as the greatest knight, most notably in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight...

 refuses to participate. Lancelot arrives and rescues the queen, and in the course of the battle Gawain's brothers Gaheris
Gaheris
Gaheris is a figure of Arthurian legend, a knight of the Round Table, and a son of Morgause and King Lot of Orkney and Lothian. His brothers are Gawain, Agravaine, Gareth and Mordred, a half-brother. His mother is a daughter of Gorlois and Igraine, and a sister of Elaine and Morgan le Fay...

 and Gareth
Gareth
Sir Gareth was a Knight of the Round Table in Arthurian Legend. He was the youngest son of Lot and of Morgause, King Arthur's half-sister, thus making him Arthur's nephew, as well as brother to Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, and half brother of Mordred...

 are killed, sending Gawain into a rage so great that he pressures Arthur into war with Lancelot. When Arthur goes to France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 to fight Lancelot, he leaves Guinevere in the care of Mordred, who plots to marry the queen himself and take Arthur's throne. In some versions Guinevere assents to Mordred's proposal, but in others, she hides in the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 and then takes refuge in a convent
Convent
A convent is either a community of priests, religious brothers, religious sisters, or nuns, or the building used by the community, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Anglican Communion...

. Hearing of the treachery, Arthur returns to Britain and slays Mordred at Camlann, but his wounds are so severe that he is taken to the isle of Avalon
Avalon
Avalon is a legendary island featured in the Arthurian legend. It first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's 1136 pseudohistorical account Historia Regum Britanniae as the place where King Arthur's sword Excalibur was forged and later where Arthur was...

. Guinevere meets Lancelot one last time, then returns to the convent where she spends the remainder of her life.

Guinevere is childless in most stories, two exceptions being the Perlesvaus
Perlesvaus
Perlesvaus, also called Li Hauz Livres du Graal , is an Old French Arthurian romance dating to the first decade of the 13th century...

and the Alliterative Morte Arthure
Alliterative Morte Arthure
The Alliterative Morte Arthure is a 4346-line Middle English alliterative poem, retelling the latter part of the legend of King Arthur. It is preserved in a single copy, in the early fifteenth-century Lincoln Thornton Manuscript.-History:...

. In the former, the character Loholt is apparently her son; he appears as Arthur's illegitimate son in other works. In the latter, Guinevere willingly becomes Mordred
Mordred
Mordred or Modred is a character in the Arthurian legend, known as a notorious traitor who fought King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann, where he was killed and Arthur fatally wounded. Tradition varies on his relationship to Arthur, but he is best known today as Arthur's illegitimate son by his...

's consort and bears him two sons, though all of this is implied rather than stated in the text. There are mentions of Arthur's sons in the Welsh Triads
Welsh Triads
The Welsh Triads are a group of related texts in medieval manuscripts which preserve fragments of Welsh folklore, mythology and traditional history in groups of three. The triad is a rhetorical form whereby objects are grouped together in threes, with a heading indicating the point of likeness...

, though their exact parentage isn't clear. Other family relations are equally obscure; a half-sister and a brother play the antagonists in the Lancelot-Grail and the German romance Diu Crône
Diu Crône
Diu Crône is a Middle High German Arthurian poem of about 30,000 lines, dating from around the 1220s and attributed to Heinrich von dem Türlin...

respectively, but neither character is mentioned elsewhere. Welsh tradition remembers the queen's sister Gwenhyvach and records the enmity between them. While later literature almost always names Leodegrance as Guinevere's father, her mother is usually unmentioned, though she is sometimes said to be dead. Such is the case in the Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 romance The Awntyrs off Arthure
The Awntyrs off Arthure
The Awntyrs off Arthure at the Terne Wathelyne is an Arthurian romance of 702 lines written in Middle English alliterative verse. Despite its title, it centres on the deeds of Sir Gawain...

(The Adventures of Arthur), in which the ghost of Guinevere's mother appears to her daughter and Gawain
Gawain
Gawain is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table who appears very early in the Arthurian legend's development. He is one of a select number of Round Table members to be referred to as the greatest knight, most notably in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight...

 in Inglewood Forest
Inglewood Forest
Inglewood Forest is the name now given on maps to a large tract of mainly arable and dairy farm land with a few small woodland areas between Carlisle and Penrith in the English non-metropolitan county of Cumbria or ancient county of Cumberland....

. Other works name cousins of note, though these do not usually appear in more than one place.

Guinevere has been portrayed as everything from a weak and opportunistic traitor to a fatally flawed but noble and virtuous gentlewoman. In Chrétien's Yvain, the Knight of the Lion
Yvain, the Knight of the Lion
Yvain, the Knight with the Lion is a romance by Chrétien de Troyes. It was probably written in the 1170s simultaneously with Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, and includes several references to the action in that poem...

, she is praised for her intelligence, friendliness, and gentility, while in Marie de France
Marie de France
Marie de France was a medieval poet who was probably born in France and lived in England during the late 12th century. She lived and wrote at an undisclosed court, but was almost certainly at least known about at the royal court of King Henry II of England...

's Lanval
Lanval
"Lanval" is one of the Lais of Marie de France. Written in Anglo-Norman, it tells the story of a knight at King Arthur's court who is overlooked by the king, wooed by a fairy lady, given all manner of gifts by her, and subsequently refuses the advances of Queen Guinevere...

(and Thomas Chestre
Thomas Chestre
Thomas Chestre was the author of a 14th century Middle English romance Sir Launfal, a verse romance of 1045 lines based ultimately on Marie de France's Breton lay Lanval...

's Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 version, Sir Launfal
Sir Launfal
Sir Launfal is a 1045-line Middle English romance or Breton lay written by Thomas Chestre dating from the late-14th century. It is based primarily on the 538-line Middle English poem Sir Landevale, which in turn was based on Marie de France's lai Lanval, written in a form of French understood in...

), she is a vindictive adulteress, disliked by the protagonist and all well-bred knights. The early chronicles tend to portray her inauspiciously or hardly at all, while later authors used her good and bad qualities to construct a deeper character who plays a larger role. The works of Chrétien were some of the first to elaborate on the character Guinevere beyond simply the wife of Arthur. This is likely due to his audience at the time, the court of Marie de Champagne
Marie de Champagne
Marie of France , Countess of Champagne was the elder daughter of Louis VII of France and his first wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine.- Family :Marie's younger sister was Alix of France....

, which was composed of courtly ladies who played highly social roles.

Abduction of Guinevere

The earliest mention of Guinevere is in the Welsh tale Culhwch ac Olwen, where she appears as Arthur's queen, but little more is said about her. Caradoc of Llancarfan
Caradoc of Llancarfan
Caradoc of Llancarfan was a Welsh cleric and author who was associated with Llancarfan in Wales during the 12th century. He is generally accepted to be the author of a Life of Gildas and of a Life of Saint Cadog in Latin....

, who wrote his Life of Gildas
Gildas
Gildas was a 6th-century British cleric. He is one of the best-documented figures of the Christian church in the British Isles during this period. His renowned learning and literary style earned him the designation Gildas Sapiens...

before 1136, recounts how she was kidnapped by Melwas, king of the "Summer Country" (Aestiva Regio, perhaps meaning Somerset
Somerset
The ceremonial and non-metropolitan county of Somerset in South West England borders Bristol and Gloucestershire to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east, and Devon to the south-west. It is partly bounded to the north and west by the Bristol Channel and the estuary of the...

), and held prisoner at his stronghold at Glastonbury
Glastonbury
Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England, situated at a dry point on the low lying Somerset Levels, south of Bristol. The town, which is in the Mendip district, had a population of 8,784 in the 2001 census...

. The story states that Arthur spent a year searching for her, found her, and had assembled an army to storm Melwas' fort when Saint Gildas
Gildas
Gildas was a 6th-century British cleric. He is one of the best-documented figures of the Christian church in the British Isles during this period. His renowned learning and literary style earned him the designation Gildas Sapiens...

 negotiated a peaceful resolution and reunited husband and wife. This is the earliest written account of Guinevere's abduction, one of the earliest and most common episodes in Arthurian legend. A seemingly related account appears carved into the archivolt of Modena Cathedral in Modena
Modena
Modena is a city and comune on the south side of the Po Valley, in the Province of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy....

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, which probably predates Caradoc's telling. Here, "Artus de Bretania" and Isdernus approach a tower in which "Mardoc" is holding "Winlogee", while on the other side Carrado (probably Carados) fights Galvagin (Gawain
Gawain
Gawain is King Arthur's nephew and a Knight of the Round Table who appears very early in the Arthurian legend's development. He is one of a select number of Round Table members to be referred to as the greatest knight, most notably in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight...

) while the knights Galvariun and Che (Kay
Sir Kay
In Arthurian legend, Sir Kay is Sir Ector's son and King Arthur's foster brother and later seneschal, as well as one of the first Knights of the Round Table. In later literature he is known for his acid tongue and bullying, boorish behavior, but in earlier accounts he was one of Arthur's premier...

) approach. "Isdernus" is most certainly some incarnation of Yder, a Celtic hero whose name appears in Culhwch and Olwen, and who was Guinevere's lover in a nearly-forgotten tradition mentioned in Beroul
Béroul
Béroul was a Norman poet of the 12th century. He wrote Tristan, a Norman language version of the legend of Tristan and Iseult of which a certain number of fragments have been preserved; it is the earliest representation of the so-called "vulgar" version of the legend...

's Tristan
Tristan
Tristan is one of the main characters of the Tristan and Iseult story, a Cornish hero and one of the Knights of the Round Table featuring in the Matter of Britain...

and reflected in the later Roman de Yder. The Welsh
Literature of Wales (Welsh language)
After literature written in the classical languages literature in the Welsh language is the oldest surviving literature in Europe. The Welsh literary tradition stretches from the 6th century to the twenty-first. Its fortunes have fluctuated over the centuries, in line with those of the Welsh...

 poet Dafydd ap Gwilym
Dafydd ap Gwilym
Dafydd ap Gwilym , is regarded as one of the leading Welsh poets and amongst the great poets of Europe in the Middle Ages. Dafydd ap Gwilym (c. 1315/1320 – c. 1350/1370), is regarded as one of the leading Welsh poets and amongst the great poets of Europe in the Middle Ages. Dafydd ap Gwilym...

 alludes to Guinevere's abduction in two of his poems, and the medievalist Roger Sherman Loomis
Roger Sherman Loomis
Roger Sherman Loomis was an American scholar and one of the foremost authorities on medieval and Arthurian literature.-Biography:...

 suggested that this tale shows that "she had inherited the role of a Celtic Persephone
Persephone
In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....

".

Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth
Geoffrey of Monmouth was a cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur...

 tells a different version of Guinevere's abduction, adding that she was descended from a noble Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 family and was the ward of Cador, Duke of Cornwall. Arthur leaves her in the care of his nephew, Mordred
Mordred
Mordred or Modred is a character in the Arthurian legend, known as a notorious traitor who fought King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann, where he was killed and Arthur fatally wounded. Tradition varies on his relationship to Arthur, but he is best known today as Arthur's illegitimate son by his...

 while he crosses over to Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 to go to war with the (fictitious) Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 Procurator
Procurator (Roman)
A procurator was the title of various officials of the Roman Empire, posts mostly filled by equites . A procurator Augusti was the governor of the smaller imperial provinces...

 Lucius Hiberius. While he is absent, Guinevere is seduced by Mordred and marries him, upon which Mordred declares himself king and takes Arthur's throne; consequently, Arthur returns to Britain and fights Mordred at the fatal Battle of Camlann
Battle of Camlann
The Battle of Camlann is best known as the final battle of King Arthur, where he either died in battle, or was fatally wounded fighting his enemy Mordred.-Historicity:...

.

Chrétien de Troyes
Chrétien de Troyes
Chrétien de Troyes was a French poet and trouvère who flourished in the late 12th century. Perhaps he named himself Christian of Troyes in contrast to the illustrious Rashi, also of Troyes...

 tells yet another version of Guinevere's abduction, this time by Meleagant (whose name is possibly derived from Melwas) in Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart is an Old French poem by Chrétien de Troyes. Chrétien probably composed the work at the same time as or slightly before writing Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, which refers to the action in Lancelot a number of times...

. The abduction sequence is largely a reworking of that recorded in Caradoc's work, but here the queen's rescuer is not Arthur (or Yder) but Lancelot
Lancelot
Sir Lancelot du Lac is one of the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian legend. He is the most trusted of King Arthur's knights and plays a part in many of Arthur's victories...

, whose adultery with the queen is dealt with for the first time in this poem. It has been suggested that Chrétien invented their affair to supply Guinevere with a courtly extramarital lover. Mordred could not be used, as his reputation was beyond saving, and Yder had been forgotten entirely.

In the German tale Diu Crône
Diu Crône
Diu Crône is a Middle High German Arthurian poem of about 30,000 lines, dating from around the 1220s and attributed to Heinrich von dem Türlin...

, Guinevere's brother Gotegrim kidnaps her and intends to kill her for refusing to marry Gasozein, who claims to be her rightful husband. In Ulrich von Zatzikhoven
Ulrich von Zatzikhoven
Ulrich von Zatzikhoven was the author of the Middle High German Arthurian romance Lanzelet.Ulrich's name and his place of origin are only known definitively from the work itself...

's Lanzelet
Lanzelet
Lanzelet is a medieval romance written by Ulrich von Zatzikhoven after 1194. It is the first treatment of the Lancelot tradition in German, and contains the earliest known account of the hero's childhood with the Lady of the Lake in any language. The poem consists of about 9,400 lines arranged in...

, Valerin, King of the Tangled Wood, claims the right to marry her and carries her off to his castle in a struggle for power that reminds scholars of her prescient connections to the fertility and sovereignty of Britain. Arthur's company save her, but Valerin kidnaps her again and places her in a magical sleep inside another castle surrounded by snakes, where only the powerful sorcerer
Magician (fantasy)
A magician, mage, sorcerer, sorceress, wizard, enchanter, enchantress, thaumaturge or a person known under one of many other possible terms is someone who uses or practices magic that derives from supernatural or occult sources...

 Malduc can rescue her. All of these similar tales of abduction by another suitor – and this allegory includes Lancelot, who whisks her away when she is condemned to burn at the stake for their adultery – are demonstrative of a recurring Hades-snatches-Persephone theme, positing that Guinevere is like the otherworld
Otherworld
Otherworld, or the Celtic Otherworld, is a concept in Celtic mythology that refers to the home of the deities or spirits, or a realm of the dead.Otherworld may also refer to:In film and television:...

 bride Étaín
Étaín
Étaín is a figure of Irish mythology, best known as the heroine of Tochmarc Étaíne , one of the oldest and richest stories of the Mythological Cycle. She also figures in the Middle Irish Togail Bruidne Dá Derga . T. F...

, who Midir
Midir
In the Mythological Cycle of early Irish literature, Midir or Midhir was a son of the Dagda of the Tuatha Dé Danann. After the Tuatha Dé were defeated by the Milesians, he lived in the sidh of Brí Léith...

, king of the Underworld
Underworld
The Underworld is a region which is thought to be under the surface of the earth in some religions and in mythologies. It could be a place where the souls of the recently departed go, and in some traditions it is identified with Hell or the realm of death...

, carries off from her earthly life after she has forgotten her past.

A version of the abduction of Guinevere is associated with Meigle
Meigle
Meigle is a village in Strathmore, Scotland. It lies in the council area of Perth and Kinross in the Coupar Angus and Meigle ward. The nearest town is Forfar in neighbouring Angus. Other smaller settlements nearby are Balkeerie, Kirkinch and Kinloch. Meigle is accessed from the north and south...

 in Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, known for its carved Pictish stelae
Pictish stones
Pictish stones are monumental stelae found in Scotland, mostly north of the Clyde-Forth line. These stones are the most visible remaining evidence of the Picts and are thought to date from the 6th to 9th centuries, a period during which the Picts became Christianized...

. One of the stones, now in the Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum
Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum
The Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum is a permanent exhibition of 27 carved Pictish stones in the centre of the village of Meigle in eastern Scotland. It lies on the A94 road running from Coupar Angus to Forfar. The museum occupies the former parish school, built 1844. The collection of stones...

, is said to depict Vanora, the local name for Guinevere. She was said to have been abducted by King Mordred. When she was eventually returned to Arthur, he had her condemned to death for infidelity and ordered that she be torn to pieces by wild beasts, an event said to be depicted on Meigle Stone 2. This stone was one of two that originally stood near a mound that is identified as Vanora's grave.

External links

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