Within two centuries the legend of King Arthur and his knights had spread all over Europe and even into parts of Asia. Love could not exist in marriages back then.
The Legend of King Arthur starts with Uther Pendragon and his confidant, Merlin. Merlin is the son of the devil and a sorcerer. Uther develops a very strong passion for Ygraine, the wife of the Duke of Gorlois. With the help of Merlin??™s magic, Uther makes love to Ygraine and thus Arthur is born. Arthur is the only one capable of pulling the sword from the stone. He is then crowned king.
Arthur wishes to marry Guinevere. Since Merlin can see in the future he warns Arthur of Guinevere not being faithful and falling in love with his noblest knight, Sir Lancelot. King Arthur pays no attention to his warning and is determined to make Guinevere his wife. Guinevere??™s father, Leodegrance was delighted to hear the news; so as a gift he made the Round Table for Arthur and his knights. After coming to the round table King Arthur gives his knights an oath to never commit murder, robbery, any evil thing, always grant mercy to those who ask, and to help ladies in distress. All the knights promise to obey this oath, but one stood out above all the others, Sir Lancelot.
The story of King Arthur changes with each generation, but Sir Lancelot has been the most famous of Arthur??™s knights. Lancelot was born to King Ban of Banoic and Helen. When Lancelot was a baby his father was losing a war against the king of the Waste Lands. Ban died of sorrow when his castle was captured. After his death, Helen mourned and neglected Lancelot. Seeing that Lancelot was being uncared for, Niniane, Lady of the Lake to Lancelot and vanished with him into the Lake. Niniane raised him and was responsible for his education, giving him lessons on courtly love and manner. Though Lancelot had all the mannerisms of a prince and a knight, Niniane never revealed his true identity. Lancelot was ignorant of his parents and his background.
Though Niniane knew that Lancelot would some day leave her she couldn??™t help but being upset because she loved him like her own son. When the time came for Lancelot to leave, she prepared him for travel to King Arthur??™s court. Everyone in King Arthur??™s court was curious of the his arrival, including his best knights and Queen Guinevere. The flawless beauty of Guinevere immediately captivated Lancelot and he instantly fell in love with the queen.
Courtly Love is a medieval code of behavior that idealized the love of a knight and a noblewoman that was usually married and it set how they should act toward each other. The courtly love relationship typically was not between a husband and wife; it was an idealized sort of relationship that could not exist within the context of real life medieval marriages. In the Middle Ages, marriages between the noble were not based on love; they were arranged and based on practical reasons. The courtly love relationship is modeled on the feudal relationship between a knight and his king. The knight serves his courtly lady with the same obedience and loyalty which he owes his king. The knight??™s love for his lady inspires him to do great deeds, in order to be worthy of her love or to win her favor. Knights were typically younger brothers without land of their own who became members of the household of the feudal lords whom they served. One reason why the lady in the courtly love relationship is typically older, married and of higher social status than the knight may be because she is the wife of a feudal lord, who might naturally become the focus of the young, unmarried knights desire.
There are rules and guidelines to courtly love. Some of these rules are even useful today.
1. Thou shalt avoid avarice like the deadly pestilence and shalt embrace its opposite.
A relationship based on money will not last like a relationship based on love. This was true with medieval marriages; since they were arranged, more people had love affairs.
2. Thou shalt keep thyself chaste for the sake of her whom thou lovest.
3. Thou shalt not knowingly strive to break up a correct love affair that someone else is engaged in.
A person should never interfere with another persons relationship. A love affair should be between the two lovers and none else.
4.Thou shalt not choose for thy love anyone whom a natural sense of shame forbids thee to marry.
If a person is in a relationship that they know is wrong then it will probably not last.
5.Be mindful completely to avoid falsehood.
6. Thou shalt not have many who know of thy love affairs.
A relationship should remain between the two lovers only.
7. Being obedient in all things to the commands of ladies, thou shalt ever strive to ally thyself to the service of Love.
8. In giving and receiving love??™s solaces let modesty be ever present.
9. Thou shalt speak no evil.
10. Thou shalt not be a revealer of love affairs.
11. Thou shalt be in all things polite and courteous.
A person should always treat there opposite with all the respect they deserve. This rule should be used today in all relationships.
12. In practicing the solaces of love thou shalt not exceed the desires of thy lover.
There is also an art to courtly love.
1. Marriage is no real excuse for not loving.
2. He who is not jealous cannot love.
3. No one can be bound by a double love.
4. It is well known that love is always increasing o decreasing.
5. That which a lover takes against the will of his beloved had no relish.
6. Boys do not love until they reach the age of maturity.
7. When one lover dies, a widowhood of two years is required of the survivor.
8. No one should be deprived of love without the very best of reasons.
9. No one can love unless he is propelled by the persuasion of love.
10. Love is always a stranger in the home of avarice.
11. It is not proper to love any woman whom one would be ashamed to seek to marry.
12. A true lover does not desire to embrace in love anyone except his beloved.
13. When made public love rarely endures.
14. The easy attainment of love makes it of little value: difficulty of attainment makes it prized.
15. Every lover regularly turns pale in the presence of his beloved.
16. When a lover suddenly catches sight of his beloved his heart palpitates.
17. A new love puts an old one to flight.
18. Good character alone makes any man worthy of love.
19. If love diminishes, it quickly fails and rarely revives.
20. A man in love is always apprehensive.
21. Real jealousy always increases the feeling of love.
22. Jealousy increases when one suspects his beloved.
23. He whom the thought of love vexes eats and sleeps very little.
24. Every act of a lover ends in the thought of his beloved.
25. A true lover considers nothing good except what he thinks will please is beloved.
26. Love can deny nothing to love.
27. A lover can never have enough of solaces of his beloved.
28. A slight presumption causes a love to suspect he beloved.
29. A man who is vexed by too much passion usually does not love.
30. A true lover is constantly and without intermission possessed by the thought of his beloved.
31. Nothing forbids one woman being loved by two men or one man by two women.
Edward III once said to his son, the Black Prince:
???Love ladies and maidens/And serve and honor then in thought, word, and deed/From ladies comes prowess, honors and dignities/For we hardly ever see a valiant man who does not or has not loved.???
Lancelot and Guinevere were said to have fallen in love at first sight and that it was their love that lead to the downfall of King Arthur and the Round Table. Time and time again Lancelot saved Guinevere, but her most famous rescue was when Lancelot had to cross the sword bridge.
Meleagant seized Queen Guinevere and took her to the Kingdom of Gorre. When Sir Lancelot heard of the news he vigorously pursued Meleagant to the borders of his kingdom. However, to enter the land of Gorre, he had to cross a bridge made from a sword, with the blade facing upward. He did not hesitate to cross the razor sharp bridge and on the other side waiting for him were two leopards. Once Lancelot defeated the leopards his challenge was to defeat Meleagant. The two begin dueling it out; when Lancelot is about to win, the match is called off. Afterwards, the queen acts as though Lancelot has failed her. With a heavy heart, Lancelot starts his journey home when he is attacked my Meleagant??™s men. Although he is alive, Guinevere hears rumors of Lancelot??™s death and becomes distraught. When Lancelot turns up, the queen is ecstatic and they enjoy a wonderful night together.
In Chaucer and the French Tradition, Chaucer says, ???To cross over on a sword blade into a land whence no stranger have ever returned?for the love of a Lady?is an act of gratuitous valor no one can quibble about??? (pg. 15).
Another example of courtly love in King Arthur is between Sir Gareth and Lady Lyonesse. A damsel called Linet once went to Camelot in search of a champion to save her sister, Lady Lyonesse, from Castle Perilous and the Knight of the Red Lands. King Arthur chose an eager kitchen knave, Gareth of Orkney, to rescue Lady Lyonesse. When they arrived at Castle Perilous, they forty knights who had undertaken this quest hanging from the trees. Sir Gareth sounded a horn and the Red Knight came out to fight his challenger. They fought for a better part of the day in the view of everyone in the castle. Sir Gareth finally overpowered the Red Knight, knocking him to the ground, but sparing his life. The Red Knight promised to withdraw his forces and swear allegiance to King Arthur. Sir Gareth and Lady Lyonesse fell madly in love and promised to wed.
One more example is Tristan and Iseult. In this story Tristan wins Iseult for his uncle, but before they could wed, they both drink a wine potion and fall in love. However, Iseult still marries Tristan??™s uncle, and Tristan marries a women from Brittany. Tristan hears that Iseult is dead, therefore he dies from a broken heart, and he is followed by the grief stricken Iseult.
Marriages were not based on love, that??™s why there was courtly love; but was a real way to love or an easy way out