L a n c e l o t & G u i n e v e r e
As she fled fast thro’ sun and shade, the happy winds upon her play’d, blowing the ringlet from the braid. She look’d so lovely, as she sway’d, the rein with dainty finger-tips. A man had given all other bliss, and all his worldly worth for this, to waste his whole heart in one kiss upon her perfect lips.
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Merlin: You know, it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in the tunnels of Andor with an idiot prince, and about to be shredded by giant subterranean rodents that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.
So I don’t normally post but I came across this painting called ‘The Accolade’ by Edmund Blair-Leighton while researching for my essay on gender identity and Malory and I found it really beautiful and fascinating. It’s of Queen Guinevere knighting Lancelot. Knights were usually knighted by their King, but Lancelot deliberately avoids receiving the sword from Arthur because he intends for Guinevere to give him the honour instead. Not only does this highlight his overwhelming love (he says himself that he loved her ‘oute of measure’) and respect for her, but it also acts as a pledge of his loyalty and service to her, and thus he would serve as the Queen’s knight as opposed to the King’s. The Queen becomes Lancelot’s lord and master, subverting all our expectations about gender and power in the medieval court.
Then Sir Launcelot cried out, “And I, Lady, is there naught in thy thoughts for me?” She said, “Yea, Launcelot, there is great friendship and love for thee, but not that sort of love. So get thee back to Joyous Gard and there take thee to wife some fair and gentle lady of that place. [ … ] Sir Launcelot said, “Lady, I can never wed any woman in this world but thee.” And the Queen said, “Ah, Launcelot, that is a pity.”
Howard Pyle | The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur
The first people to sit at the Round Table in equality with the blond-haired blue-eyed royal hero were a young man from another kingdom who stood in danger of persecution for who he was, a black servant woman, a black man, a tall ginger, a bookish old doctor, a guy more brawn than brain, an Irish drunk and a Spaniard. God bless BBC Merlin.