Guenevere - Background
Gainor, Gainovere, Ganora, Gaynor, Gaynore, Genever, Genievre, Genoyre, Ginevra, Ginover, Gonnore, Guanhumara, Guendoloena, Gueneour, Gueneuora, Guenevera, Guenevere, Guenhumara, Guenievre, Guenivere, Guenloie, Guenore, Guinevere, Guenoivre, Guineure, Guinievre, Gunnore, Gveneoure, Gvenour, Gwendoloena, Gwenhumare, Gwenhwfar, Gwenhwyfar, Gwenhwyvar, Gwennor, Gwenore, Gwinore, Gyennevre, Jenover, Ntzenebra, Vanora, Vanour, Velivera, Wander, Wanore, Waynor, Wenneveria, Zenevra, Zenibra, Zinevra
Guenevere's heritage varies according to different legends. According to Malory, Guinevere (in Welsh, Gwenhwyvar which means 'White Phantom') was the daughter of Leodegrance, King of Cameliard (in Welsh tradition, her father is called Gogrvan or Ocvran, while in Diu Crône he is called King Garlin of Galore). Geoffrey of Monmouth says she was a noble Roman descent and the ward of Duke Cador.
Wife of King Arthur. Her adultery with Sir Lancelot causes the downfall of the Fellowship of the Round Table. Two major themes follow Guinevere throughout the development of the Arthurian legend: her infidelity, and her abductions. In many texts, these themes are intertwined, with her rescuer becoming her lover. Chrétien de Troyes, in his Lancelot (C. 1180), is the first to mention her affair with Lancelot, which may have been invented by Marie de Champagne, Chrétien’s patroness. The acceptance of Andreas the Chaplain’s De Amour - which glorified adultery - in Marie’s court may explain Chrétien’s ability to portray Guinevere as both a noble queen and an unfaithful wife. On the other hand, Celtic queens were free to take lovers at their pleasure, and the affair may therefore have a Celtic origin, with the element of tragedy inserted by authors of different sensibilities.
Though her most famous affair is with Lancelot, Guinevere’s earliest lover, as we’ve seen, seems to have been Mordred, with whom she is a willing consipirator in the chronicles. In Marie de France’s Lanval (c. 1170) as well, she is said to have a number of lovers, and she propositions Sir Lanval. In several romances, she fails a variety of chastity tests, suggesting affairs with any number of other knights. In the romance of Yder (c. 1225–50), her infatuation with Yder and his subsequent marriage to a woman named Guenloie (a variation of Guinevere) may indicate an earlier tradition in which Guinevere and Yder were lovers. There is allusion to this tradition in the Folie Tristan of Berne (c. 1190). According to the Vulgate Merlin (c. 1230), she apparently had a dalliance with a knight named Gosengos before her marriage to Arthur.
She was condemned to death by Arthur but rescued by Lancelot and ended her days in nunnery.
In Thelwall's play The Fairy of the Lake (1801), it is suggested she is the daughter of Vortigern. In some stories, she had a sister named Gwenhwyvach, and a French legend tells of an identical half-sister called Guenevere the False (Genievre), who took her place for a while. In yet another tale, she had a brother called Gotegrin. Wace makes her Mordred's sister.
In Geoffrey she is of Roman stock, and while Arthur was fighting the Roman war, Mordred abducted her and made himself king. In the later version of the Arthurian story she was the lover of Lancelot. Their intrigue discovered, Lancelot fled and Guenevere was duly sentenced to burning. Lancelot rescued her and war followed between him and Arthur. While Arthur was away, Mordred rebelled. Arthur returned to do battle with him and received his final wound. Guenevere took the veil. However, there are different tales of her end. B. Saklatvala has suggested she was really a Saxon named Winifred, and J. Markale has an opinion that Kay and Gawaine were originally amongst her lovers. Welsh tradition stated that Arthur was married, not to one, but to three Guineveres.
Although she is generally described as childless, a number of authors give her a son named Loholt, whose murder in Perlesvaus leads to her own death. It is also said Loholt was to be the son of Arthur and Lionors (Lyzianor). In Wolfram’s Parzival, she and Arthur have a son named Ilinot who also dies a premature death, and in the Alliterative Morte Arthure, she is the mother of Mordred’s two sons.
The English ballad King Arthur and King Cornwall says that she had a daughter by the king of Cornwall. In the Livre d’Arts, she raises the illegitimate daughter of Sagramore and Senehaut. In Tennyson, she tries to raise an infant girl called Nestling that Arthur and Lancelot found in an eagle’s nest, but the child dies.
Queen Guenevere's Family and Relations
See above under "Guenevere's Children".
Agravain | The Legend of King Arthur
Arthur’s Grave | The Legend of King Arthur
Avalon | The Legend of King Arthur
Dolorous Tower | The Legend of King Arthur
Guenloie | The Legend of King Arthur
Lancelot | The Legend of King Arthur
Meleagaunce | The Legend of King Arthur
Melwas | The Legend of King Arthur
Mordred | The Legend of King Arthur
Queen’s Knights | The Legend of King Arthur
Wadling Lake | The Legend of King Arthur
- Background of Guenevere / Guinevere
- Becoming a Queen
- The Invading Kings
- The Flower Bride
- Lancelot and Guenevere
- The Poisoned Apple
- The False Guenevere
- Abduction Stories
- Guenevere's Sentence
- The Abbess Queen
- The Character