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Guinevere
Variously portrayed in literature, she is called the daughter of King Leodegrance (Lleudd-Ogrfan) of Cameliard by Malory, the daughter of King Ogrfan Gawr (the Giant) of Castell y Cnwclas (Knucklas Castle) by Welsh Tradition, the daughter of King Garlin of Galore by Germanic tradition, the daughter of a Roman noble by Geoffrey of Monmouth and wife of King Arthur by everyone. Her name is spelled differently depending on where you look. It can be either the traditional Guinevere, or Guenevere, or Guenievre, or Guenhumare or Ginevra. In Welsh, she is Gwenhwyfar; in Cornish, Jenefer.

In all cases, she is surpassingly beautiful and desirable, if morally lax from the time of the Vulgate Cycle (13th century) onward. She is either forced into or conceives and engineers an extra-marital relationship with Lancelot and is either condemned, according to law, or forgiven outright for her sins. She either was a willing accomplice to Mordred's treachery against Arthur, as suggested in Wace and Layamon, or was forced into it against her will as stated in John Hardyng's "Chronicle" (1457). Early mentions of Guinevere, in the Triads of the Island of Britain, give tantalising glimpses of her original relationship with Mordred: he is shown forcing his way into Arthur's Court, dragging the Queen from her throne and striking her, but the reasons why are unknown. The incident may have been related to quarrels between Guinevere and her sister, Mordred's wife, Gwenhwyfach, which are said to have been the eventual cause of the Battle of Camlann. Nevertheless the image of a romantic  heroine lives on.

Guinevere is frequently abducted in Romance, sometimes by King Melwas of Somerset, sometimes by Mordred and sometimes by the marauding tribes from the north. She meets her end sometimes in a convent at Amesbury or Caerleon and sometimes she dies at the vengeful hand of Lancelot. Scottish stories, recorded by Boece, indicate she died as a prisoner of Mordred's followers at Barry Hill in Strathmore. She was buried at Meigle where her memorial can still be seen. Despite this, her bones either were or were not found by the monks of Glastonbury when they discovered the grave of Arthur in 1191, depending upon which version of the burial cross inscription you read.

Giraldus Cambrensis says the cross claimed Guinevere as Arthur's "second wife". This appears to echo the story of the False Guinevere of French Romance: an identical half-sister of the Queen fathered on the same night who persuaded Arthur that she was his true wife. For two and a half years, the King was separated from the real Guinevere until the deception was uncovered. There is also an ancient Triad of the Island of Britain which records Arthur's "Three Chief Queens": Gwenhwyfar daughter of Cywryd, Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwythyr ap Greidiol and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Ogrfan Gawr. This may further indicate the confusion over the lady's parentage as already alluded to. Alternatively, the three Guineveres could show a common Triple-Goddess motif at the root of many later Celtic characters.

Whatever Guinevere was or was not, she has been a useful tool in the hands of the romancers throughout the centuries and has greatly enhanced the legends of King Arthur.

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