I turned and saw a young woman who stood head and shoulders above the
crowd and who carried a bold defiant look on her face. If you can
master me, that look seemed to say, then you can master whatever
else this wicked world might bring. I can see her now, standing amidst
her deerhounds that had the same thin, lean bodies, and the same long
nose and the same huntress eyes as their mistress. Green eyes, she had,
with a kind of cruelty deep inside them. It was not a soft face, any
more than her body was soft. She was a woman of strong lines and high
bones, and that made for a good face and a handsome one, but hard,
so hard. What made her beautiful was her hair and her carriage, for
she stood as straight as a spear, and her hair fell around her like a
cascade of tumbling red tangles. That red hair softened her looks,
while her laughter snared men like salmon caught in basket traps.
There have been many more beautiful women, and thousands who were
better, but since the world was weaned I doubt there have been many
so unforgettable as Guinevere, eldest daughter of Leodegan, the
exiled King of Henis Wyren.
And it would have been better, Merlin always said, had she been
drowned at birth.
Bernard Cornwell, The Winter King
James Collier, 'Queen Guenver's A-maying'
Then appeared a most unusual sight: sixteen beautiful dark-haired
maidens, arrayed all in white, each holding a white dove in her hands
and walking barefoot towards the altar.
Upon reaching the place where Arthur stood, the maidens halted and
turned to face one another. No sooner had they done this than
approached three tall battlechiefs dressed all in green and black.
Each held a naked sword upright at arms' length, and each walked backwards.
Turning neither right nore left, these men took their places beside the
dove maidens. Thereupon the twelve warriors brought their spears down
upon the stones with a sharp, resounding crack. At once appeared another
maid, this one more beautiful than all the others, carrying a
new-burnished spear in one hand and a dove in the other.
'It is Gwenhwyvar,' Bedwyr said. 'She has come to honour Arthur, I think.'
'Honour him!' sneered Myrddin. 'She has come to claim him!'
Gwenhwyvar halted before Arthur and bent low, laying the spear cross-wise
at his feet. She straightened and placed the white dove in Arthur's hands.
Then she reached out a bold hand and took from the High King the Sword of
Britain, which she grasped by the blade, wrapping her long fingers around
the bright steel. And, raising Caliburnus to her lips, she kissed the
crosspiece of the hilt and then cradled the naked blade to her breast.
It was so swiftly done. No-one suspected what had taken place - except
Myrddin, who knew well what the swords and doves signified; and Arthur,
who knew in his heart that he had found the one woman in all the world
his full equal in courage, and above all others worthy of his love.
In this was was Arthur made High King of all Britain. And in this way
was Arthur wed.
Stephen Lawhead, Arthur, Book III of the Pendragon Cycle.
'Oh Lancelot,' she sang as she stitched at the shield-crown.
come back soon. Come back with your crooked smile, or with your own way of
walking which shows whether you are angry or puzzled - come back to tell
me it does not matter whether love is a sin or not. Come back to say that
it is enough that I should be Jenny and you should be Lance, whatever may
happen to anybody.'
The startling thing was that he came. Sraight from Elaine, straight from
her robbery, Lancelot came like an arrow to the heart of love. He had slept
with Guenever already in deceit, already had been cheated of his tenfold
might. He was a lie now, in God's eyes as he saw them, so he felt that he
might as well be a lie in earnest. No more to be the best knight in the
world, no more to work miracles against magic, no more to have
compensation for ugliness and emptiness in his soul, the young man sped
to his sweetheart for consolation. There was the clatter of his iron-shod
horse on the cobbles, which made the Queen drop her needle-work to see
whether it was Arthur back from his hunting - the ring of his chain-mail
against the stone - and then, before she was quite certain of what had
happened, Guenever was laughing or weeping, unfaithful to her husband,
as she had always known she would be.
T.H. White, The Once and Future King
William Morris poem: 'The Defence of Guenever'
back to the Maidens' Tower
King Arthur, the stuff of future memory
Page of Arthurian links