'Once Upon A Time' Is Tackling Guinevere, Lancelot, & Arthur's Legendary Love Triangle
The return of Lancelot in Camelot on Once Upon A Time Season 5 is shaking things up not only because we thought the knight had been killed by Cora several seasons and curses ago, but because he made the bold accusation that King Arthur is evil. If that's so, I need to know everything about his relationship with Arthur's wife, Guinevere. What happened between Lancelot and Guinevere, in the King Arthur legends? According to the official ABC press release for the upcoming episode "The Broken Kingdom," a flashback will show how "Guinevere senses that Arthur is losing his way, consumed by his obsession with making Excalibur whole, so she sets out with Lancelot on her own quest into the heart of darkness." Before that happens in Sunday's episode, let's look at how this tragic romance came to be.
Surely you have a favorite portrayal of Sir Lancelot, whether it's Monty Python And The Holy Grail, Merlin, King Arthur, or Avalon High. These stories have been retold for centuries and the love triangle of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere is one of the major themes in all versions of the Camelot legends and stories. Not only is the reader always meant to favor Team Lancelot over Team Arthur, but Guinevere is simultaneously written as a damsel-in-distress and as an equal to her husband with agency of her own. For medieval literature, it's kind of fascinating.
The first instance of the romance is "Lancelot, Knight of the Cart," in which Lancelot rescues the abducted Guinevere by riding a dwarf's cart and passing various tests. Apparently Guinevere is abducted a lot, but never in any real danger. Medieval men are weird. They share a night together and he defends her honor in the morning, which seems hypocritical if you ask me. There's also a bit where Guinevere asks Lancelot to lose a tournament to prove his love but then changes her mind, because losing sucks. Yes, A Knight's Tale totally stole this. However, as soon as Guinevere returns to Camelot, she and Lancelot have to awkwardly embrace as if none of this ever happened.
In another tale, Lancelot en Prose, Lancelot fell for Guinevere at court — and while the Queen was aware that this knight had a crush on her, the relationship wasn't consummated for a while. Their affair started out with a kiss and caused the destruction of Camelot, basically. They broke the kingdom. How did it end up like this?! Basically, this bro King Galehaut figured out what was going on and suggested that Guinevere kiss Lancelot because that would be, like, a nice thing to do. Thus, the most famous affair was born. Arthur's army later turns against Lancelot out of revenge, and it all comes tumbling down. Finally, in one last interesting tale that was written by Sir Thomas Malory, the lovers are caught. Lancelot hurts his hand and gets blood on her sheets. This also happened in the Dwarf Cart story, but he got away with it that time. This story ends with Guinevere nearly being burned at the stake and Lancelot leaving to become a monk.
As you may have noticed, none of these legends ever focus on the love or even partnership between Guinevere and Arthur. The King was smitten at first sight and described her as not only fair but "valiant," which I think is pretty cool, but we never really get her point of view. It seemed like a marriage of convenience. Merlin even warns Arthur that marrying her would be a bad idea. In fact, some of the legends even have Queen Guinevere conspiring against Arthur. Scandalous! Once Upon A Time is sure to put their spin on this tale. I found it interesting that Charming on Once Upon A Time referred to the story of Arthur and Guinevere as one of the greatest love stories of all time that "clearly had a happy ending," when it's definitely the other way around in the legends.